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Psychological Problems in Children and Adolescents

All children have problems at some point during childhood or adolescence. They might experience periods of anxiety or fearfulness, problems getting along with peers, parents or other adults, problems succeeding in school or problems with their daily functioning. For many children these problems are solved without significant intervention. Other children and families can greatly benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy to correctly assess the problem and work to resolve it. For these children, difficulties are severe enough to impact their academic, social, or emotional development. At LICCT, the parents are always very involved in the treatment of their child.  Children can suffer from the Mood Disorders. With children, however, irritability is often a key indicator of bad mood and diagnosing Bipolar Disorder is very difficult. Children can also suffer from any of the Anxiety Disorders discussed in the Anxiety Disorders Section. The following is a list of psychological problems in addition to Mood and Anxiety Disorders that are usually first seen in childhood or during adolescence that are often treated at LICCT. 

Separation Anxiety Disorder:   It is common for children ages eighteen months to 5 years to display crying, tantrums and fear upon separating from parents and other close family. This naturally occurring developmental stage usually does not persist past preschool age. Some children do experience excessive anxiety when having to separate from primary caretakers. These children often fear that something terrible will happen to them or their caretaker or that their caretaker will abandon them. Symptoms include: crying, pleading or clinging to caretakers, refusing to attend school, parties or other social events without parents, complaints of physical illness such as stomach aches or headaches when no illness is present, demand for caretaker to stay with child while falling asleep, and frequent visits to parents bedroom during night, and nightmares about bad things happening to parents and loved ones.

Selective Mutism:  Children who are anxious about social interactions may fear speaking in social contexts where they are not fully relaxed and comfortable. These children are fully capable of speaking but are inhibited by anxiety. They are able to speak in certain circumstances such as at home, away from home in the presence of a safety person, or only in a whisper. Many children with selective mutism also have social anxiety disorder.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):  Children with ADHD have difficulty following directions, organization, completing tasks, and functioning effectively at school or at home. These children often have difficulty making friends, completing their homework, and present constant behavioral and emotional challenges to parents and teachers. It is very hard for children with ADHD to delay gratification and they often say things or engage in behavior before thinking through their options (behave impulsively). Excessive activity level and frequent movement and fidgeting can interfere with the completion of activities.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder:  Put simply, a child who is over 3.5 years old and shows a consistent pattern of behavior typical of a child in his/her "terrible two’s" with most people, most of the time. This pattern of behaviors includes: often loses temper, argues with adults, refuses to comply with adult’s requests and rules, deliberately annoys others, blames others, is easily annoyed, seems angry and resentful and is spiteful or vindictive. Working closely with the child, parent, and other relevant authority figures (such as the teacher), the staff at LICCT are experts at developing cognitive and behavioral treatment plans based on a thorough individualized functional assessment of such problems. These plans involve positive supports, rewards, contracts, as well as techniques designed to increase the child’s ability to self monitor.

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