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Understanding Mental Health Issues in Children and Adolescents

  • Post category:Disorders
  • Reading time:11 mins read

Mental health issues affect people of all ages. They follow a man almost from the beginning of life to the end. Various mental disorders are also common in the developmental stage.

Behavioral and Neurotic Disorders in Developmental Age

They are essentially similar to those in adulthood, only they are usually milder, they are not so deeply rooted in the patient’s personality, they have fewer symptoms, and they often manifest in specific clinical pictures that we do not encounter in adults. Mental disorders in children and adolescents can be classified into five categories:

  • Behavioral disorders
  • Neurotic disorders
  • Mental underdevelopment
  • Mental disorders during brain damage
  • Psychosis

Behavioral Disorders

These groups of mental disorders in the developmental stage are classified according to their frequency. Behavioral disorders, which are most common, are also called characteropathies, and later sometimes develop into what is called psychopathy, psychopathic personality, or psychopathic behavior in adulthood.

Characteristics of Behavioral Disorders

Behavioral disorders manifest in the unhealthy, distorted, unnatural, harmful to the child and his environment, and harmful attitude of the child toward his environment.

This is all in the behavior of a young person, which shows his negative attitude towards:

  • Educators in the family and outside
  • Brothers and comrades in school, play, and elsewhere
  • Work, study, and other useful activities
  • Positive social norms and useful rules of life in the community

The essence of any behavioral disorder is an insufficient sense of security and acceptance in a particular environment. The child reacts to such frustration of his basic psychological needs with a greater or lesser emotional aversion to the people around him.

Passive and Active Forms of Behavioral Disorders

It doesn’t accept them emotionally or only partially accepts them, so it isn’t sure how it feels about them. This encourages him to have an attitude of distrust, fear, and even hostility towards the environment.

Attitude usually manifests in one of two ways in the form of combative, maladaptive, or repulsive behavior:

  • in a predominantly passive, defensive manner
  • in a predominantly active, offensive manner

Both are a sign that the young person feels threatened in the environment in which he lives and frustrated in his quest for self-affirmation, for the full realization of his “I”.

Passive forms of disturbed behavior: timidity, withdrawal, depression, apathy, laziness, negligence, lack of independence, disorder, and the like. The most common active forms of repulsive attitude towards the environment are: intrusive behavior of the child, e.g., excessive chatter, boasting, overdoing it, etc .; then disobedience, defiance, fits of rage; further aggression, destructiveness, malice, and cruelty, then lying, stealing, running away from school and home, vagrancy, prostitution, and other sexual outbursts.

A special form is the behavior of the old child, which Gruenberg B. C.: “Parents and sex education; for parents of young children”, New York, 1932. calls the “anticipatory type” of the child’s behavior because the child “runs ahead” with his behavior, ahead of his age. Failure in school is a specific problem in the behavior of children and young people. It is an outward sign of a wide range of problems with how a young person’s body and mind work.

Neurotic Disorders

Neurotic disorders of developmental age are an external sign of deep and long-lasting emotional conflicts that take place in a young person. There is a conflict of opposite aspirations in it. Natural, insurmountable needs force a child to behave in a certain way, and certain negative traits of his personality do not allow him to do so. For example, a child would like to be emotionally close to a parent, but at the same time fears him, seeks recognition among his peers, and does not dare behave in a way that would impress them, etc. Sometimes a young man gets into neurotic conflict because he cannot or does not dare show more openly his repulsive attitude towards the environment, e.g., jealousy towards his brother, aggression towards his parents, and the like.

In all such cases, the young person tries to free himself from the internal conflict by pushing it into the unconscious spheres of his psyche. But repressed conflicts do not cease to work. They keep the child in a state of constant mental tension, which is then manifested by various forms of neurotic disorders. These are manifested by disorders of physical or mental functions.

Neuroses occur in various organ systems:

  • On the digestive system: lack of appetite, vomiting, constipation, and involuntary loose stools
  • On the respiratory system: stuttering, psychogenic beating, psychogenic dumbness, coughing, asthma, and effective cramps
  • On the urinary system: involuntary urination at night or during the day, frequent urges to urinate
  • On the genitals: neurotic masturbation e) on the skin: redness, hives
  • In the bloodstream: heart problems
  • On ​​the motor apparatus: tics, hysterical paralysis, finger sucking, nail biting, hair swallowing h) pain in various parts of the body – headache, abdominal pain, low back pain, etc
  • In the function of sleep: insomnia, night fear

This last neurosis makes the transition to neuroses in which various forms of pathological fear (phobias) predominate. In addition, various compulsive thoughts (obsessions) and compulsive actions (compulsions) and psychogenic disorders of certain mental functions occur in neuroses – attention deficit, memory weakness, rapid fatigue, drowsiness, increased sensitivity, irritability, psychomotor restlessness, and others.

Mental Underdevelopment

Mental underdevelopment is a consequence of congenital inferiority, i.e., incomplete development of the brain or occurs due to various anomalies in the structure of brain tissue and due to early diseases or injuries of the central nervous system. Insufficient development of intelligence is in the foreground of mental disorders. The child remains mentally retarded to varying degrees. In addition, at least to a lesser extent, there are delays in the development of other physical and mental functions – in growth, motor skills, sexual development and emotional life.

Mental Disorders during Brain Damage

Among the less common occurrences in the psychopathology of children and adolescents are mental disorders that are an expression of some brain diseases; these are primarily mental disorders in epilepsy, characterological changes in encephalitis, and psychological symptoms of tumors, degeneration, and other brain diseases. The consequences of these diseases manifest partly in disorders of intellectual functions, partly in behavioral disorders, and sometimes in the form of psychosis.


The rarest in childhood are the so-called real mental illnesses or psychoses. These are profound disorders in the young man’s relationship to the reality of life, so that it is very difficult or impossible to maintain any successful contact with the environment, with people, with real events, with work, and with other meaningful activities.

According to Bradley C.: “Early evidence of psychoses in children: With special reference to schizophrenia”, New York, 1947., childhood psychosis is divided into two groups:

  1. Psychosis due to general physical or local brain diseases
  2. Functional psychosis: a) schizophrenia b) manic-depressive psychosis

Psychosis of the first group is one of the organic diseases of the brain. Only the psychoses of the second group are considered child psychoses in the narrower sense of the word. They are chronic in nature and prone to recurrence. They are extremely rare in childhood. They only become more common during puberty and adolescence. From there, they continue into adulthood, where they develop into the full picture of the most common psychoses of mature people.

Combination of Mental Disorders

Some forms of mental disorders in developmental age are not sharply separated from each other. They can be combined with each other in various ways, and they can also occur one after the other. Thus, a child may suffer from two or more neuroses at the same time, or they may alternate. Both neuroses and mental retardation, as well as organic brain damage, are almost always accompanied by behavioral disorders as well. Such intertwining and alternation of mental disorders in children and adolescents is an expression of the fact that every mental illness affects the entire personality and does not attack only some of its functions in isolation.

Causes of Mental Health Impairments

The causes of all these mental health impairments in children and adolescents should be sought among the three groups of factors that affect the development of a young personality.

Those are:

  • Inherited brain structure, i.e., a natural mental disposition;
  • Acquired brain diseases
  • Life experiences based on how the environment treats the child, what it does with the child, and how the child and his environment act toward each other