Mental Health Disorders Under 5 Years Old

Children might be anxious or depressed

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) We usually think mental health disorders are adult problems, but children under 5 years old may also suffer emotional issues. Children often do not receive treated because of the assumption their minds are not complex enough to develop mental problems, or they will grow out of a 'phase'.

However, according to a study by Ed Tronick, Ph.D., from the University of Massachusetts, and Marjorie Beeghly, Ph.D., from Wayne State University, children respond to the emotions and intentions of others because they have their own set of basic feelings.

dailyRx Insight: Keep your eyes open for signs that your child might be anxious or depressed.

Children develop meaning about themselves and their relation to the world through other people and objects, Tronick and Beeghly said. But when making sense of themselves, it can be hard for children to understand themselves in the context of relationships with others. Some children may conclude that they are helpless and hopeless, and become depressed or withdrawn. External factors may cause other children to fear the world, leading to symptoms of anxiety.

Because there are very few doctors who treat early childhood mental health problems, it can be hard for children to receive the care they need. In addition, it would be very difficult to pay for treatments, even if an early childhood psychiatrist could be found, as children under three years of age are generally not covered by insurance.

According to findings in an article by Joy D. Osofsky, Ph.D., from Louisiana State University, and Alicia F. Lieberman, Ph.D., from the University of California - San Francisco, mental health problems among infants are magnified by the fact that children under the age of five experience the highest rates of abuse, causing long-term mental, physical, and pediatric health problems.

In order to address the mental health problems of our youngest children, the researchers involved in the series of articles recommend expanding early mental health screening for infants and toddlers, and training professionals in mental health, pediatrics, education, and other related fields to recognize warning signs.

The articles are published in the February 2011 issue of American Psychologist.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 16, 2011
Last Updated:
March 19, 2011