How Do You Know If Your Child Needs To See a Psychologist?

As a parent, you know your child is sure to run into some rough patches and behavioral problems as they go through different stages in their lives.  Just like adults, children often struggle to manage their emotions and can experience dips in their mental health. Major life changes, like divorce or a death in the family, can also be difficult for children to cope with.

It can be overwhelming if your child is struggling with a serious mental health issue. You may not know at what point it would be helpful to get a psychologist involved. Choosing to seek out mental health care for your child is a very personal decision. In some situations, you may decide to wait it out and provide as much support as you can. However, if your child is displaying dangerous behaviors you are concerned about, they may benefit from seeing a psychologist right away.

Looking for a friendly therapist to meet with your child? Schedule an appointment today.

What Are the Signs of Mental Health Issues in Children?

Just like a physical health problem requires treatment from a qualified physician, a mental health concern is often best addressed by a behavioral health professional. If you believe your child is living with a mental illness, take them to see a psychologist early on. With treatment, they can learn to better navigate their current mental health situation and have a more positive outlook in adulthood. 

Common Types of Mental Illnesses in Children

Children are susceptible to many of the same mental health disorders that adults may experience. While come conditions, like schizophrenia, may be more likely to have on onset of adolescence or early adulthood, children as young as two years old can be diagnosed with a mental, developmental, or behavioral disorder. These can include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders and panic attacks
  • ADHD
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD
  • Conduct disorders
  • Schizophrenia

Signs of Mental Illness in Children

Parents are not expected to be experts in diagnosing their child’s mental illness. A mental health professional, like a psychologist, will be the most effective at determining if your child has a mental health condition. However, there are certain signs to look out for.

  • Withdrawal from friends and families: You may notice your child starting to spend increasing time alone. They may also show little interest in social events or avoid interacting with others.
  • Drop in performance in school and other activities: Your child’s grades may suddenly drop, or they may begin to perform poorly in a sport they love or other activity.
  • Change in eating habits: Your child may have a poor or increased appetite. They may also show major concern over gaining weight.
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities: Your child may no longer find enjoyment or want to participate in activities they used to love.
  • Persistent fatigue: Your child may struggle to get a decent night’s sleep or feel tired no matter how much rest they get. They may have difficulties getting out of the bed in the morning, experience frequent nightmares, or say they feel generally unwell.
  • Defiant and risky behavior: You may notice an increase in deviant behavior, such as sneaking out, skipping classes, and arguing with authority. Your child may also display impulsive or risky behaviors, like stealing, experimenting with drugs, or trespassing.
  • Emotional outbursts: Children may display frequent tantrums, bursts of anger, or uncontrollable crying. It is possible these outbursts lead to violent behaviors, either self-inflicted or directed toward others.
  • Extreme anxiety: Children may be very fearful of certain activities, movie characters, etc., making it difficult for them to carry out everyday tasks. They may also generally worry over things, like homework or relationships.
  • Hyperactivity and difficulties concentrating: You may notice your child has difficulties focusing on and completing tasks. They may also have high energy levels and struggle with sitting still and listening. 
  • Hallucinations: While many children have active imaginations, your child may express seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  • Depressed mood: Your child may act generally deflated or sad for an extended period of time. They may also express thoughts of death.

How Can a Psychologist Help?

If your child is showing one or more of the signs listed above, a psychologist can help better evaluate their mental health and make an official diagnosis. Dana group is here to help you and your child every step of the way by offering a variety of services.

Psychological Testing

At Dana Group, we offer psychological testing and use a variety of assessments to better understand your child’s mental health situation. This can include an interview with your child and a neuropsychological evaluation, which may include a series of tasks, surveys, and other tests to get a full picture of your child’s developmental skills (like language development, memory, and concentration) and emotional health.

Children’s Therapy

Our psychologists take the time to meet with your child on a regular basis, get to know them, and talk through what they’re feeling. We believe in a child-led approach to children’s therapy, which means we allow the child to direct the session and customize our approach based on their comfort and needs.

For younger children, therapy often includes a combination of both talk and play. Your child’s psychologist will take time to build a relationship with them, helping increase trust and making the experience more positive.

Family Therapy

A family therapy session may just include you and your child or your entire family. This type of therapy is more geared toward how you and other family members interact with your child. You may learn tips on how to better support or interact with your child during times of difficulty. These sessions are also designed to strengthen your ties as a family and address any barriers to a healthy relationship.

Can a Psychologist Prescribe Medicine?

After a psychologist gets to know your child and is able to better evaluate their mental health, they may suggest medicine in addition to talk therapy to help treat a mental illness. Dana Group offers extensive and convenient medication management services, with a team of prescribers at our Needham, Norwell, and Hanover locations.

However, your child’s psychologist will not be the one to prescribe the medication. Rather, a psychiatrist, who is a medical doctor, will need to write the prescription. Our large team of clinicians include highly qualified therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists who can work together as needed to get your child the treatment they need.

And our services don’t end there. We will continue to evaluate whether the medication we prescribe is benefiting your child’s mental health and make changes if necessary to better address their evolving needs.

Start a Conversation With Your Child

Seeing a psychologist can be a daunting experience for your child. However, most parents have the best results by being transparent with their child and explaining how therapy can help. Children understandably may have reservations going into their first appointment, like being embarrassed to get help or feeling afraid to talk with a stranger. Allow your child time to express their feelings and involve them in the process of choosing a therapist they feel comfortable with.

Ready to make an appointment for your child? Contact us to get started.