The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes childhood mental disorder is any disorder that begins during childhood and negatively impacts how a child learns, behaves, or handles emotions (Children’s Mental Health, 2015). The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 1 in 5 children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder at some point during their lifetime (Any Disorder Among Children, n.d.).  Among the most commonly diagnosed disorders for children between ages 8 and 15 years is attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  For foster children, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most common in children who have experienced sexual abuse, with its prevalence at 60% (Pecora et al, 2009).



















This figure shows the most common childhood mental disorders as reported by the CDC,



Likewise, the adverse childhood experience (ACE) study showed a large percentage of individuals experiencing multiple types of abuse, neglect, or maltreatment at varying times throughout their life, in addition to, experiencing other external adversities.  David Finkelhor and his colleagues at the University of New Haven coined the term “polyvictimization” to describe this phenomenon (Pierce-Robertson et al, 2013).  The ACE study discovered that participants who had one ACE were two thirds more likely to have 2 or more adverse experiences (ACES 101, n.d.)  Likewise, another longitudinal study examining psychosocial outcomes at 23-24 years revealed that young adults who experienced maltreatment and polyvictimization had long-term health problems, depression and anxiety, and exhibited anti-social behavior (Pierce-Robertson et al, 2013).  Research has also explored and confirmed the link between depression and suicidality. Suicidal behavior in men can be associated with severe depression or extreme independence (Caceda et al, 2014).


Eating Disorders

The most widely known eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.  These disorders cause severe distress to an individual’s daily diet and eating patterns.  People with anorexia nervosa perceive their body image to be heavier than their actual bodyweight.  Many people with anorexia are very thin, are hypersensitive about the amount and type of food they eat, and some may engage in extreme dieting and/or exercise (Eating Disorders, n.d.; Rizk et al, 2015).  Similarly, individuals with bulimia nervosa also engage in binge-eating, often with subsequent self-inflicted vomiting, extreme exercise, or dieting and fasting.  Unlike those with anorexia, individuals with bulimia are often seen as having a normal body weight or slightly overweight.  Both disorders involve a negative perception of one’s body image.  Binge-eating is also a compulsive behavior; however, it is not followed by vomiting or the use of laxatives.  Individuals who binge-eat are often overweight or obese.


A study conducted in Sweden found that about 1 in 6 emergency room patients between ages 14 and 20 positively screened for an eating disorder, with a high rate of suicidal behavior present among individuals with eating disorders (Welch et al, 2015).


Professionals working with children who are suspected of having an eating disorder, should help the child identify the following with a clinician specializing in eating disturbances (Hilbert et al, 2013):


  • Any abnormal eating behaviors

  • Loss of control over eating or fear of losing control over eating

  • Distorted body image


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, interventions for individuals with eating disorders include:


  • Individual/ group/ family psychotherapy (i.e. cognitive behavior therapy)

  • Medical care and monitoring

  • Nutritional counseling

  • Medications (i.e. antidepressants, mood stabilizers)




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