Childhood Disorders

Matthew is a six-year-old boy who never sits still during class. He seems to get out of his seat every five minutes and squirms and fidgets when he is sitting down. He seems to always be bouncing off the walls. He has difficulty concentrating on his work and is easily distracted. Matthew also constantly calls out and interrupts the teacher and other students. He is always talking, and other students think he is annoying. His behavior is a continual source of stress for his teacher. When he is at home, Matthew is like a completely different boy. He listens to his parents and does what he is told. He helps out with chores around the house and sits quietly while watching television with his brother and sister. His parents wonder why Matthew is acting out at school and if he has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

To many parents, this situation is very familiar. Is Matthew’s behavior due to difficulties with the teacher or being in a classroom? Is it due to peer relationships? Or is Matthew displaying symptoms of a psychological disorder?

Mental health professionals have identified a number of psychological disorders in which individuals first display symptoms during childhood. These disorders are very common, with approximately 1 in 5 children meeting criteria for a diagnosis. Children often display symptoms of more than one disorder. Although many children with these disorders do well in school, have a number of friends, enjoy life, and become successful adults, others encounter additional problems during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Below are some of the most common disorders usually first diagnosed during childhood.

  • Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders(ASD)
  • Asperger Syndrome

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is acommon childhood disorder, affecting as much as 16% of children. ODD occurs more often in boys than in girls before puberty, although it occurs as frequently in boys and girls during adolescence. Symptoms are usually first displayed between the ages of four and eight. Children with ADHD often develop ODD. Below are some signs of ODD:

  • Negative, hostile, and defiant behavior
  • Often losing temper
  • Consistently arguing with adults
  • Actively defying or refusing to obey requests or rules
  • Intentionally annoying people
  • Blaming others for mistakes or bad behavior
  • Being irritable and easily annoyed by others
  • Usually feeling angry or resentful
  • Being spiteful or cruel

Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder (CD) affects as much as 10% of children and occurs more in males than in females. Children diagnosed with ODD are four times more likely than those without ODD to develop CD. Those diagnosed with CD are also more likely to develop Antisocial Personality Disorder later in life. Symptoms of CD are usually displayed around age ten but can also be earlier. Symptoms of CD are the following:

  • Repetitive and persistent behavior that violates the rights of others, societal norms, or age-expected rules
  • Aggression to people and animals
    • Bullying, threatening, or intimidating others
    • Starting physical fights
    • Using a weapon that causes severe physical harm to others
    • Physical cruelty to people or animals
    • Mugging, armed robbery, extortion, or purse snatching
    • Forcing a person to engage in sexual activity
  • Destruction of property
    • Deliberating setting fire with the intention of causing damage
    • Deliberating destroying someone’s property
  • Deceitfulness or theft
    • Breaking into a person’s house or car
    • Lying or conning others to get things or favors or to avoid responsibilities
    • Stealing without being aggressive
  • Serious rule violations
    • Stays out late at night before the age of thirteen despite parents’ rules
    • Has run away from home during the night at least twice
    • Often skips school

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