Is my child's mental health suffering? 5 warning signs to look out for
We all want the best for our children and sometimes it can be hard to tell if they're struggling with their mental health.
If they are struggling, it's important to get them the help they need, but also recognise that they may feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about what's going on.
The good news is, there are signs to look out for so you know when to seek professional advice.
1. They're not sleeping or eating
If your child is not sleeping or eating, it could be a sign that they are suffering from a mental health condition.
Depression in particular can cause changes to appetite causing the sufferer to gain, or lose weight. This can lead to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa. It’s estimated that around 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder.
Depression can contribute towards other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and orthorexia nervosa (an obsession with healthy food), with eating disorders developing as a means of coping or self-medicating mental health issues like anxiety or depression, in an attempt to gain control.
2. They're isolating themselves
Isolation is a common symptom of depression and anxiety and it can be difficult to recognise. Your child may be isolating themselves in an obvious way i.e. away from you or other family members, but without telling you why.
They may also lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, and not engage with others as much as they used to. This isolation will be less obvious if they’re isolating themselves from friends or activities outside of the home.
3. They're experiencing low mood
If your child has a low mood or is more negative than they usually are, this can be a sign of depression.
It's important to remember that sadness is a normal emotion and everyone feels sad from time to time.
Depression is different from normal feelings of sadness; it's low mood for an extended period of time which interferes with daily activities such as schoolwork or socialising with friends.
Symptoms of low mood include:
- feeling down
- feelings of hopelessness
- increased irritability
4. They're acting out, but can't explain why.
If your child is acting out, it could be a sign they are struggling with their mental health. Acting out can include anything from getting into fights, to self-harm or drug misuse.
The best way to tell if your child is struggling with their mental health is by asking them directly and listening carefully for red flags like "I don't know what's wrong" or "I just feel like I'm falling apart."
Acting out (beyond the typical realm of typical teenage behaviour) is not normal behaviour for children and is often a symptom of something deeper going on, needing attention before they begin to struggle even more.
5. They have changed their appearance and behaviour.
If your child has changed their appearance and behaviour, it could be a sign that they are struggling with mental health issues.
Here are some ways to tell:
- They may be dressing differently than usual. They could be wearing clothing that is more or less revealing than they would normally wear. One typical sign of trying to hide an eating disorder is to wear baggy clothing.
- They may be acting differently than usual, for example, by being more outgoing or withdrawn than normal. They may spend more time alone and less time with friends/family as well as express a lack of interest in activities such as sports teams or clubs at school (or even online).
If you notice any changes in your child's appearance or behaviour over the course of several weeks then this could indicate something bigger going on beneath the surface – many people who suffer from depression often feel isolated within themselves so won't necessarily show symptoms externally.
Seek help and support
If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their mental health, talk to them and seek help from a professional.
Mental health issues are common and can be treated but often do require specialist help to overcome. It is important to remember to take time with your child when talking to them as they may be feeling vulnerable and may not want to talk to you.
If this is the case, try to encourage them to open up to someone else they trust, such as a relative or teacher and seek help from a professional.
To find out more about Place 2 Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week, visit https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/
Schoen Clinic specialists are here to help
Schoen Clinic Newbridge
Schoen Clinic Newbridge offers highly specialised inpatient treatment for children and young people (8-18 years) and a specialised outpatient service for young people (12-25 years) experiencing eating disorders and their associated problems.
Welcoming NHS and private patients.
Schoen Clinic Chelsea
Schoen Clinic Chelsea is a leading London outpatient clinic in the heart of Chelsea.
Offering a specialised day treatment programme for children and young people (11-17 years) with eating disorders, as well as fast one-to-one Consultant appointments for young people (6-17 years) and adults (18+).
Welcoming privately insured and self-funding patients.