IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Mental disorders can be seen in preschoolers

Pre-school children can show early signs of a mental disorder which can be diagnosed and treated to prevent problems later in life, a leading psychologist said.
/ Source: Reuters

Pre-school children can show early signs of a mental disorder which can be diagnosed and treated to prevent problems later in life, a leading psychologist said on Monday.

Children as young as 2 or 3 years may suffer from depression, anxiety, disruptive behaviour and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“A lot of substantial psychiatric problems are actually starting and are identifiable much earlier than we ever thought,” said Adrian Angold of Duke University in North Carolina.

“Early-onset depression is thought to begin in the teenage years but in fact it is turning out to be as early as we can begin to measure it. We ought to be thinking much more about who are the children who already have these disorders.”

In a study of 307 pre-school children based on interviews with parents in the United States, Angold found that about 17 percent met standard criteria for having a mental disorder.

“About one in 10 have symptoms that meet criteria for a disorder plus also have some significant impairment to leading a normal life,” said Angold, who presented the research at a meeting of the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

Some will grow out of it
Early signs of problems include hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating, aggressiveness, disruptiveness, difficulty playing with other children and social and separation anxiety.

“We are talking about patterns of behaviour,” said Angold. “What is striking about this is that it suggests that the rate (of disorders) in these much younger children, aged 2-5, are not very different from what they will be in children of 9 or 14.”

He admitted that some children will grow out of the problems but added that others would benefit from treatment such as behavioural therapy, psychotherapy and medication.

The diagnosis of a disorder in young children is based mainly on information from parents and teachers. Angold said there is little medical evidence for treating anxiety and depression in young children but youngsters with disturbed behavioural problems could benefit from treatment.

“There is good evidence that if you intervene relatively early on with parent-training programmes it could be very helpful,” he added.

“These are kids who deserve to be taken notice of by the mental health system. The vast majority of them have not been identified and receive no treatment.”