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A child’s mental health influences their overall health and well-being. Mental disorders in children are typically described as a drastic change in the way a child learns or handles emotions, making it difficult to get through the day. A recent study by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) shows that the number of children diagnosed with anxiety or depression grew by nearly 30% between 2016 and 2020. Pediatric mental health care is becoming increasingly important as these figures rise yearly.

Here are some frequently asked questions about pediatric psychiatry:

What Is Pediatric Psychiatry?

Pediatric psychiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with diagnosing and treating children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Pediatric psychiatrists are specialists who have completed specialized training in psychiatry and can provide comprehensive care for children with mental health disorders.

The role of a pediatric psychiatrist is to assess, diagnose, and treat children with psychiatric disorders. To do this, they communicate effectively with children and adults (parents, caregivers). They are familiar with various treatment modalities (psychotherapy, medication management) and understand child development well.

How Old Is a Pediatric Patient?

“Pediatric” in a medical sense refers to any patient under the age of 18. Mental health disorders often start making themselves known in the early teen years, but children and teens of all ages can show signs of stress or trauma that a pediatric psychiatrist can treat.

Due to their young age, pediatric patients may be more challenging to treat than adults. This is because children are still growing and developing, and their bodies may respond differently to medication or treatment. Additionally, children may have difficulty understanding and cooperating with medical procedures.

What Can a Child Psychiatrist Diagnose?

Child psychiatrists use various methods to assess and diagnose mental illness in children, including interviews with the child and their parents or caregivers, psychological testing and observing the child’s behavior.

They use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to help them make accurate diagnoses. The DSM is a guidebook that contains criteria for diagnosing all psychiatric disorders.

They Diagnose and Treat Depression

 According to the DSM-5, symptoms of depression include feeling sad or hopeless most of the time for at least two weeks. Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed, having difficulty sleeping, and feeling tired all the time are among the most common symptoms.

They Help Fight Anxiety and Post-traumatic Disorders 

An anxiety disorder diagnosis may include interviewing the child, their parents, teachers, daycare providers, or others as appropriate. The psychiatrist considers pertinent medical history information, such as birth trauma, delivery method complications, and chronic physical illnesses. The physician will also rule out any potential substance abuse issues, which can sometimes present themselves with similar symptoms.

Does My Child Need an Evaluation/Assessment?

As a parent, you are the expert on your child. You know them better than anyone else. You are also in the best position to notice when something is not quite right. If you have concerns about your child’s mental health or well-being, it is essential to seek help from a professional who can assess and diagnose any underlying conditions.

You might seek an evaluation for your child from a pediatric psychiatrist for many reasons. Some common causes include:

  • Your child is experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.
  • Your child is having difficulty in school or with social interactions.
  • Your child has experienced a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one or abuse.
  • You are concerned about your child’s substance use.

Can My Child’s Pediatrician Prescribe Antidepressants?

This is an excellent question that many parents have, but there’s no clear answer as it depends on the physician. While pediatricians are not mental health experts, they are often the first line of defense regarding kids’ mental health. If your child is displaying signs of depression, your pediatrician may be able to prescribe antidepressants. However, a pediatric psychiatrist can complete a more thorough assessment of your child’s mental health. If your child’s pediatrician brings up concerns, you can ask them for a referral to a pediatric psychiatrist. And remember, medication is not always the best or only option for treating mental health disorders.

Sometimes therapy and other lifestyle changes can be just as effective, if not more so. If your child’s pediatrician prescribes antidepressants, closely monitor your child’s symptoms and side effects.

Pristine Mental Health specializes in psychiatric care for children and adolescents. Our experienced psychiatrists are experts in diagnosing and treating mental disorders in young people. We offer a wide range of services to help your child fight mental illness and live the life they deserve. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your family.