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Common Mental Health Problems that Children and Adolescents Encounter

Please note: The following information is not intended to be used to diagnose a child or adolescent’s mental health condition. This is provided as a resource of information. Any clinical assessment of needs or diagnosis must be done by a qualified clinician.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders that develop in children. Children with ADHD have impaired functioning in multiple settings, including home, school, and in relationships with peers. If untreated, the disorder can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a natural reaction to stressful situations and it can help us cope with a tense situation. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder. The five basic types of anxiety disorders are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder).

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)/Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs)

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), also known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs), cause severe and pervasive impairment in thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. These disorders are usually first diagnosed in early childhood and range from a severe form, called autistic disorder, through pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), to a much milder form, Asperger syndrome. They also include two rare disorders, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

Specialized Inpatient Care for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum

Our sister facility, Streamwood Behavioral Healthcare System, provides highly specialized inpatient care for children and adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum. Streamwood’s Children’s Center has a 10-bed program dedicated to children ages 4–11 years old, and an 8-bed program dedicated to adolescents ages 12–17 years old, diagnosed within the autism spectrum.

For more information about the autism program, call 630-837-9000 or visit Streamwood Behavioral Healthcare System’s website.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a serious medical illness that causes shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe.


Depression within children and adolescents is common. The outward symptoms of depression are not always easily recognizable. The depressed child may refuse to go to school, pretend to be sick, cling to a parent or worry that the parent may die. Older children may be experiencing school problems, a “negative” attitude and irritability. It can be difficult to determine whether a child is just going through a temporary “phase” or is suffering from depression.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed


Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. The rates of youth suicide are alarming.

Youth Suicide Facts

  • Suicide ranks as the THIRD leading cause of death for ages 15-24 and FOURTH for ages 10–14.
  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for our college-aged youth, as well as for ages 15 to 19 in many states.
  • NHSDA Report/SAMHSA (U.S. Dept. of Health) – In 2000, over 1 million youth attempted suicide in the U.S. That equates to over 2,700 attempts each day in our nation by youth ages 12 to 17.
  • Each week in our nation, we lose approximately 100+ young people to suicide.
  • Even though white males make up the majority of completed suicides, from 1980–1995, suicide among black youth ages 10-14 increased 233 percent and in black youth ages 15-19 suicide rates increased 126 percent. For black youth in the southern region of the nation, there was an increase of 214 percent.
  • In the past forty years, youth suicide rates have almost tripled. Between 1980 and 1996, suicide rates for ages 10 to 14 increased by over 100 percent.
  • More teenagers and young adults have died of suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.
  • According to the NMHA, four out of five people who attempt suicide have given clear warnings.

Note: If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, get help immediately.

Help is Only a Call Away

If your child is in need of behavioral health treatment, Chicago Children’s Center for Behavioral Health, may be able to help. Call 312-491-5055 for a no-cost assessment any time, day or night.