Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is a subspecialty of Psychiatry that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of developmental, behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders of childhood and adolescence. This children suffer poor school performance, frequent physical complaints, sexually act out amongst other behaviors. This subspecialty is comprised mostly of psychiatrists, neurologists, and internists who underwent extra years of training in Child and Adolescent psychiatry.
The conditions that are addressed in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry include the following:
- Autism and Developmental disorders - Disorders in social behavior such as the spectrum of autism is managed by child psychiatrists. In this spectrum of disorders, children experience difficulties in socializing and in communicating. This is often associated with learning disorders and cognitive delay.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - ADHD is a common psychiatric condition among children wherein they cannot sustain prolonged attention to any particular task. This is often associated with hyperactivity or the inability to control one’s behavior. Children with ADHD keeps on moving and playing around and are difficult to engage in prolonged activities. This often leads to poor academic performance and learning disabilities.
- Psychosis - Children and adolescents are not exempt from developing psychosis. Childhood schizophrenia affects individuals below 18 years old and presents with symptoms of hallucinations and delusions which can impair the ability of the individual to interact socially with other children.
- Mood disorders - The diagnosis of mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorders, is increasingly becoming common among adolescents. The rate of childhood suicide has been increasing over the years. Teenagers, especially those who experience abuse, bereavement, bullying, or trauma, are especially prone to developing this condition.
- Anxiety disorders - Children and adolescents can also suffer from anxiety disorders. These disorders include panic attacks, phobias (or intense fear of a particular subject), and obsessive compulsive disorder.
- Eating disorders - With the standard of beauty introduced by media these days, children are becoming more and more encouraged to engage in unhealthy dieting practices. In the desire to stay slim, some children develop anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Children with anorexia nervosa refuse to eat because they feel that they are fat when in reality, they are not; children with bulimia nervosa induces vomiting after eating because the of the fear of getting fat.
- Addiction - Substance abuse is also becoming common among adolescents. Children and adolescents now have more access to these illegal drugs than before. These children become trapped in the dependence to these addictive substances which results in their difficulties in school and in socializing with other people.
- Gender identity issues
Treatment usually involves one of more of the following elements:
- Education: understanding the child’s difficulties
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): particularly useful for children with anxiety and mood problems.
- Medication: this may be offered in cases persistently severe mood disorders such as depression or ADHD.
- Parenting Support: giving the parents more confidence and strategies to deal with their child’s behavior.
- Supportive Therapy: Play, art and music can be used as a therapeutic release and make it easier for the child to communicate.
- Behavioral Interventions: helping a child to change a specific behavior
- Other methods include educational support, Motivational Interviewing, Dynamic Psychotherapy and Brief Solution Focused Therapy