Symptoms of Mental Illness in Children

Isolation, sudden mood swings, having difficulties at school. These are some of the symptoms of mental illness in children. In this article we'll tell you everything you need to know to prevent this before it gets out of control.
Symptoms of Mental Illness in Children

Last update: 06 November, 2019

Identifying mental illness in children can be difficult for parents or other people around them. Children often don’t have the ability to adequately express what’s happening to them physically. And when it comes to a psychological level it’s even more complicated.

That’s why the parents’ role is so important. They can keep check on their children during their first years of life and learn to identify any symptoms that may be the start of a possible mental illness. Here are some of the symptoms of mental illness in children that may be useful to help you identify them early on.

Symptoms of mental illness in children

Changes in mood and behavior

Sudden and long-term mood changes can be a symptom of mental illness in children. We must be aware that children can go from laughter to tears in a matter of minutes. This is quite normal. However, if they don’t occur for any obvious reason at any given moment, then it could mean there’s something going on psychologically.

In addition to mood changes, behavioral changes can also occur. In the same way that moods can change, behavioral changes can also be very abrupt. The children can even become violent, and totally driven by anger and rage.


Another symptom of mental illness in children is self-harm. This may be the clearest symptom that the child is really having problems. Self-harm is when the child tends to hit objects or cut or burn themselves on purpose.

Sometimes, these self-injuries can also lead to thoughts of suicide in the child. It’s very important that, as soon as any of these symptoms are detected, you take the child to a specialist to be able to reduce these occurrences as quickly as possible.

Symptoms of Mental Illness in Children

Difficulties at school

This is a more difficult symptom to link to mental illness. This is because many children have difficulties in school for all sorts of reasons. However, you do need to be very aware of potential problems at school. This is especially the case if there are changes in your child’s behavior or school results.

Problems with mental health could be the case if your child has trouble concentrating or is very easily distracted. You should go and speak to the teachers first, as they’re the ones who see your child first hand at school.

Another type of symptom linked to the previous two is passivity. Passivity is when the child has no motivation to do certain essential things, and this can generate depressive thinking.

Isolation can also be a sign of mental illness in children

Another of the symptoms of mental illness in children is isolation. If we observe our children in different places where they meet with other children, and we see they aren’t relating to them, then this could be the sign of an autistic disorder.

This is also something that can be monitored at school by the teachers, and they can observe how your children relate to their classmates. Keep in mind, however, that many children often like to play on their own.

So, asking for your children’s school to help observe them, along with other expert intervention, will help you to know if they have an autistic disorder.

Symptoms of Mental Illness in Children

Eating disorders

This symptom is currently very widespread among adolescents. There are more and more cases of young people with bulimia, anorexia, or obesity. These disorders are clearly all linked to eating. They can either binge on food and then bring it up, or just eat out of control.

These disorders are usually linked to social pressure. Society dictates that we should have a perfect image, and, if we don’t, then society can often reject us. The results of this are often serious disorders that can badly affect an adolescent’s health.

Finally, it’s very important to emphasize that, even though parents and teachers can often identify some type of disorder in children’s psychology, they should never start any treatment without consulting a medical specialist. If any of these symptoms of mental illness are detected in children over a period of time, then you must go and see a professional.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.