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Recognising the signs of a mental disorder in children

The first years of life are a critical period for the development of good mental health. It is important to recognise problems as soon as they appear and to intervene early.

Signs and symptoms

Parents can detect changes in the mood and behaviour of their children that can potentially be signs of a mental disorder. As a parent, pay attention to the following changes in your child’s behaviour:

  • Difficulty sleeping, or the opposite, sleeping all the time
  • Loss of appetite, or the opposite, eating a lot and uncontrollably
  • Low energy
  • Complaints about nausea, stomach aches or headaches
  • Constant mood swings, or anger that appears excessive
  • Constant worrying
  • Academic performance that is lower than usual
  • Seeming to have difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of family and friends
  • Lost of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Hitting or intimidating others, or voluntarily trying to inflict self-injury
  • An obsession with losing weight, or the opposite, neglecting his appearance

What to do

If your child shows some of the above signs and symptoms, do not worry and continue to observe them. Perhaps they are experiencing a problem that will last a few days only and do not necessarily have a mental illness. Stay attentive, listen to them without prejudice and assure them that you are there to help.

If you see that the changes in your child’s mood and behaviour persist or that they are becoming more intense, an assessment by a professional could be necessary.

Help and resources

Information and support resources

Resources are available for parents and children who wish to receive help or more information about mental illness in children:

You may also go to Mental Illness page to find all available mental health resources.

Resources for care and services

To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom your child feels comfortable, contact one of the following resources:

Last update: October 29, 2018


Information on the website in no way replaces the opinion of a health professional. If you have questions concerning your health status, consult a professional.


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