Childhood Onset of Some Mental Health Conditions

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doll-1551633_1280Childhood is usually a time of our lives that we enjoy looking back on. However, there are people whose childhood is also a time when some mental health issues start manifesting themselves. As a parent, you’d want to pay close attention to the first possible signs. Why? Firstly, because your child deserves a childhood to look back at with joy and, secondly, because some of them might be chronic and become life-long conditions. This article will give you a short glimpse into what kind of conditions are found in early years, what easy-to-spot symptoms to keep an eye out for and what actions to consider if you notice them.

  1. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – although it is normal for kids to have a short attention spam, be energetic or get impulsive about certain things, a child that displays any, some or all of these behaviours in a consistent manner might have a form of ADHD. Undiagnosed and untreated, it can affect a person’s present and future life, from school performance to relationships and general wellbeing.

  2. Autism – those on the autistic spectrum are usually diagnosed by age 3. However, mild forms of autism can go undiagnosed for a very long time, placing the child or the teenager in a position where their interaction with others is affected, as well as their interests and their behaviour in social situations.

  3. Anxiety disorders – anxiety is healthy as long as it helps a human being adapt to the environment and be aware of possible dangers. However, there are forms of maladaptive anxiety, making young people develop certain disorders with long-term effects on their life. Some of the most common manifestations are obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. People with anxiety symptoms will not be able to attend to their daily activities or will require greater effort. Children going through difficult life events, like bullying, parents’ divorce, accidents, etc. can develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can affect them long enough after the event occurred, sometimes even for life.

  4. Eating disorders are usually more common in teenagers, but currently the age of onset is rapidly decreasing to younger and younger ages. Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are two of the most well-known eating disorders. They can have a serious impact on one’s mental and physical health, often seen as potentially life-scaring and life-threatening conditions.

  5. Mood disorders. Mood swings are normal in children and adolescents, but recurrent and intense feelings of sadness or over-excitement can be a sign of a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Changes that should concern you

Behaviour – with every day, your child learns something new and behaves a bit differently to yesterday. However, there are situations when such changes don’t help them adapt to the environment and even make their life harder. Start ask yourself if everything is ok if you spot signs of aggressiveness and challenging behaviour, an expressed desire to hurt themselves or others, withdrawal, social isolation or crying for no apparent reason and more than once a day (in adolescents).

Mood and feelings – intense feelings that disrupt a child’s activity, sleep and/or schedule can be a sign that they are developing a mood disorder, especially if they last for more than a couple of weeks.

Concentration problems – not being able to pay attention to activities considered specific for their age group (e.g., school subjects, play or other enjoyable activities) or even having a problem sitting still can be major warning signs that the child might develop ADHD.

Physical changes – young people’s bodies change a lot through the years, but there are situations when some individuals might lose or gain a lot of weight in a short time span, while changing their eating habits as well. Their discourse might be very much focussed on body issues, which should make a parent consider an undiagnosed eating disorder.

Substance abuse and physical harm – Because for children and teenagers in general can find it difficult to cope with their emotions, developing a mental condition might push them into using other means of expressing themselves. Alcohol, drugs, self-harm or even delinquent behaviours can be more than signs of young rebelliousness – they can be signs of a serious mental health condition that might enter their life and never leave, if undiagnosed.

If you think your child acts unusually, doesn’t feel themselves anymore and you find them difficult to cope with, try looking for help. There is always a way to resolve things or make them better. Medication and/or therapy, as well as love for and understanding of your child can protect them from the long-life pain and isolation that may come with undiagnosed/misdiagnosed mental health conditions. Should you require psychotherapeutic support or counselling for your child or yourself as a parent, please feel free to contact us. Making a move early can help you and your child embrace who they are, look for the best solutions and start enjoying life again.

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Old wounds and new relationships

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just-the-two-of-us-1240146-1599x908Falling in love and entering a relationship are some of the most beautiful experiences a human being can have. However, forming a couple can be a bumpy road once the waves of dopamine and serotonin begin to settle…

For some people a committed relationship is a reason to experience stability, security and long-term happiness while for others the reality is far from that. To this second category it all feels like a movie they’ve seen before – great start, bad ending! One of the reasons why many people fail to develop a healthy attachment to someone else and build a lasting relationship is the chain of personal relationships they went through, a chain that can go as far back as early childhood.

In an ideal world, every baby would have a good enough parent to offer them all the love, care and security they need. Later on, people would find partners that understand, support and love them for what they are. In an ideal world people could still make relationship mistakes, but also learn from them in order to make better choices in the future. However, we live in a world far from the ideal where some of us never find that special one. Why? Because previous relationships can shape our understanding of and behaviour in current ones. Here’s a short intro into the dynamic of past and present relationships:

Parental relationships and old wounds

We start learning about relationships as soon as we are born. The way parents/tutors/carers attend to our needs, as well as the attention and the time they pay to us are extremely important in our development as relational beings. When we are babies everything that comes (or doesn’t come) from our parental figures matters. For example, a parent who is physically or emotionally absent can foster unpleasant emotions in their child, from making them feel anxious or insecure to feeling unworthy, unloved and abandoned. Although the child might be too young to consciously label their emotional experiences, they often end up developing a pattern of relationships that will be repeated in other significant human interactions, such as in a romantic couple. Old relationships model the future ones. Hence, they may look for partners who never treat them as a priority, who make them feel worthless and unimportant. Sometimes the person can experience such feelings even if their partner is present and loving, the reason being that they developed a certain pattern based on their primal relationship with their parents. The only model of relationship they know is a faulty one and they will try to repeat it every single time, even if they know and dread the outcome.

It’s important to note that old wounds, like the ones from early childhood, can impact us for a very long time. Without the right understanding and support, they can deprive us of the opportunity to enter and experience authentic happiness in a couple relationship.

Previous couple experiences

In Western societies, most of people don’t end up marrying their first love and living happily ever after. Usually, they have more than one love relationship and learn about the romantic couple as they go. On their way they can face betrayal, absences, cheating, miscommunication and even abuse. Such events have the potential to make them more suspicious when meeting new partners and can seriously affect the interactions with them. For example, someone can feel so hurt by being cheated on that they will start suspecting all men/women to be cheaters. On top of the trust issue they developed, they might unconsciously try to punish the current partner for something the previous one did. Unresolved business comes with us into new relationships and it has the potential to make everyone unhappy.

A mix of causes

Sometimes, a mix of primal and more recent wounds can make us pursue the wrong people or end up in the wrong relationships. Let’s say someone had the experience of an abusive parent. In many cases, this might unconsciously determine them to feel attracted only to people who could easily fit the shoes of the abuser they have known since infancy. In such cases, it is no surprise that after they leave an abusive relationship they start a very similar one. There are also cases when they don’t necessary enter a relationship with an abuser, but they might unconsciously try to provoke their partners to be abusive because they learned that in a love relationship – such as parent-child – violence is an acceptable form of expression between two people who love each other.

There are many other ways in which we are affected by previous experiences and it is a long journey to understanding what a happy, healthy relationship is. The process includes unlearning and re-learning thoughts, feelings and behaviours as well as healing past wounds that stop us from being authentic and romantically happy. Therapy can help identify maladaptive relational patterns, understand their roots and their impact in one’s life, make peace with the past, move on and get ready for a healthy relationship.

If you feel like you need support with all or any of these aspects, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Love is a blessing and we believe everyone deserves to find love and be happy with the ones they love.

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