Important notice: the information in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from a psychiatric illness, please consult a healthcare professional immediately.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Even so, less than half of people battling depression riposte their symptoms with mental health services.
A staggering 3 in 4 lifetime cases of mental illness begin between the ages of 14 and 24, with suicide being the third leading cause of death in modern youth.
Today, we’ll discuss the early indicators of psychiatric illness and preventative measures.
A family history of illness
We adopt more than just dashing good looks from our parents. Both physical and mental diseases are passed down as well. That’s not to say a child is certain to have any disorder if one or both parents are carriers, but they’re consequently disposed.
Charting your family’s history of mental illness for future reference is a smart plan. If a common theme such as depression or anxiety is present, it would be reasonable to watch out for relevant symptoms in your children.
Early behaviours and coping strategies
A child’s personality and inclination towards certain coping strategies are strong predictors for future illness. The child who can’t keep focus may later develop problems with delaying gratification and is then disposed to risk-taking behaviours.
Children with potentially unhealthy behaviours or coping strategies won’t necessarily develop illness as adults. It’s just a prediction towards certain disorders if the proper conditions are met.
A very orderly child, for example, when under immense stress, can develop obsessive-compulsive disorder (O.C.D.). Likewise, this child’s twin, who was never subject to such stress may never developed the disorder.
Similar examples of common coping strategies in children and their relevant dispositions are below:
- Perfectionism disposes for low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (O.C.P.D.).
- Excessive daydreaming disposes for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
- An inability to focus disposes for risk-taking behaviours and addiction.
- Rigid behaviours and narrow interests dispose for generalised anxiety disorder (G.A.D.) and O.C.D.
Paradoxically, these behaviours both predict and are indicative of psychiatric illnesses. So, if your child is displaying any of the above behaviors please consult a healthcare professional.
Environmental factors can cause illness
Earlier we discussed how proper conditions have to be met for a psychiatric disorder to express itself. Illness can usually only occur when the individual is genetically disposed, displays indicative behaviours, and is under sufficient stress.
Stressors include divorce, academic or work pressures, physical or emotional abuse, drug use, sleep deprivation, social maladjustment, or hormonal imbalances.
Traumatic events uniquely cause unpredictable psychiatric illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D.), anti-social personality disorder (A.S.P.D.), depression, psychosis, agoraphobia, misc. phobias, and O.C.D.
You can’t prevent a genetic predisposition to illness, but there are many opportunities to reduce other environmental and behavioural causes. This starts with identifying stressors and unhealthy coping strategies so your child can work towards eliminating stress and finding healthy ways to cope.
Regular visits to a mental health specialist are valuable for everyone, especially teens and young adults who haven’t developed healthy coping strategies yet. Making sure they’re eating healthy foods, sleeping well, and have a social support system is invaluable for preventing psychiatric illness.
This article was kindly written and contributed by Alex Schaffer.