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5 signs a child might be struggling with their mental health

Jun 8, 2022 | Blog, Expert Insights

Balancing life’s many demands can be stressful for anyone, including children. Unexpected transitions at home like a parent losing a job, grieving a loved one or dealing with health issues can challenge even the strongest person. How can you tell when a child is simply having a tough day or dealing with something more serious? Keep an eye out for these five common warning signs.

1. They are withdrawn or socially isolated.

Are they spending more time in their bedroom alone? Are they no longer hanging out with friends or attending social events? Withdrawing or self-isolating might be a sign that a child is struggling with their mental health. Withdrawal can also look like limited conversation at the dinner table, less emotive expression when talking about their day or flattened body language. These signs might indicate that a child is feeling depressed, overwhelmed by anxiety, or that a significant/traumatic event occurred.

2. You notice changes in their appearance.

Have you noticed a marked change in their appearance? Less interest in following daily hygiene routines – such as showering, brushing teeth or changing clothes – can indicate depressed feelings or debilitating anxiety. When a child is struggling with a depressive or anxious episode it can feel overwhelming to engage in basic and regular self-care. These tasks might seem small, but they can feel large and overwhelming to someone who is struggling with their mental health.

3. They have lost interest in hobbies or things they previously enjoyed.

Diminished interest can look like no longer wanting to participate in a sport or activity that a child has always loved and enjoyed. It could also be a loss of interest in family traditions such as going out for Sunday breakfast followed by church. Sometimes it even presents as difficulties getting up and going to school when historically these places have been a neutral or positive space. No longer finding enjoyment in hobbies or interests can be a sign a child is struggling with low mood and feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.

4.You notice changes in mood: elated, euphoric, impulsive or risky behavior

Changes in mood can be highs or lows. Often the highs are overlooked because a child may seem “happier” than their typical self, which we tend to correlate with positive behavior. If a child has more days in a week where they are seeming elated or euphoric without probable cause this could be a sign of a manic episode. Mania can also look like impulsive or risky behaviors such as relapsing on substances, or risky physical or sexual behaviors. Manic episodes can pose a lot of risk and as a result, it’s important to pay attention to these signs and get help.

5. They are disorganized, forgetful and have poor concentration

There are many reasons a child may seem distracted, more fatigued than usual, forgetful or disorganized. Anxiety and depression are common mental health diagnoses that can cause a child to present in this way. It might show up in their presence at home or their engagement with school. This might look like tasks going unmet or seeming distracted in conversations. If they are also making delusional statements, seem paranoid or disorganized in their communication with you it also could be signaling the beginning of a psychotic episode.

If you think your child may be struggling with their mental health it is important to get help as soon as possible. You can contact a mental health professional in your area or text HOME to the national crisis text line at 741741.