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Should I Be Concerned?

As parents we all strive to do the best for our children and provide them with what they need to have healthy, happy and successful lives. Parenting is a very difficult and demanding job. We don’t always know when to address an issue and when to back off.

The areas that we deal with at Alta Behavioral Healthcare are varied and often complex. However, most of what we deal with are feelings and emotions that we all experience in our everyday life. We all have experienced anger, worry and fear. But when these emotions begin to disturb the lives of our children — due to their frequency and/or severity, causing problems at school or work, difficulty sleeping, physical symptoms or frequent stress — it may be time to consult a mental health professional.

Unusual changes in behavioral patterns — such as a drop in grades, widespread changes in friendships, changes in sleeping and eating patterns and isolation or frequent calls from school about your child’s behavior — are some “red flags” that may signal a need to look further. The areas that present them most frequently for treatment are the following:

Opposition/Defiance

It’s not unusual for children at times to become argumentative or challenge authority. In fact, if done respectfully it can be healthy to teach children how to express their ideas, stand up for themselves and learn some measure of independence. However, if this is done in a disrespectful manner, places them in dangerous situations, causes them loss of friends, results in problems with the law or is accompanied by violence, it’s time for intervention.

Inattentiveness

There may be a variety of reasons your child is having trouble paying attention — including lack of sleep, anxiety, boredom, sadness, or difficulty with hearing or eyesight. If, however, the difficulty persists and they’re having problems in several areas such as school, at home and even at play, you may want to look further. Children with attention problems have difficulty following directions, often need instructions repeated, start but do not finish things, are easily distracted or seem to be daydreaming a lot. They may also have problems with fidgetiness, difficulty sitting still, interrupting others and acting impulsively — which could indicate hyperactivity. Children who exhibit these behaviors may get labeled as lazy, troublemakers or not too bright. They may not be any of these things; they are just not attending well. If you suspect that your child’s problems are more than just a temporary lack of attention, we can help.

Anxiety

Worry can be a difficult thing to live with. It can contribute to physical problems, including lack of sleep; problems with appetite; and even physical pain. It can interfere with concentration, make us fearful and avoidant of situations, and cause us to miss out on some of life’s pleasures. Anxiety has a purpose; it is to make us think about situations that may present a danger to us. However, it can get out of control and lead to emotional paralysis and an inability to move or grow. As adults, we sometimes minimize what our children see as worrisome, because we may feel their worries are inconsequential. We need to keep in mind that to them, the worry is very real and difficult to live with. They may seem angry or avoidant, when in fact they may be just anxious.

Depression

We have all experienced sadness. It is painful and can be overwhelming, robbing us of joy and energy. At its extreme, it can make us feel hopeless, or even make us lose the will to live. Depression can cause changes in behavior — such as withdrawal, changes in sleep or eating patterns, changes in social functioning by pulling back from friends and family, or a change in friends. These are red flags. Talk about being better off dead, or a general lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy is also cause for concern. Most often, depression is situational and temporary, often associated with a particular situation. However, if it persists or you are concerned about your child, please contact us.

Trauma

There are many forms of trauma. Trauma can occur because of different types of abuse, witnessing a traumatic event, sudden loss of a loved one, or even exposure to a dangerous situation. It’s important to realize that not all people react to situations in the same way. What is traumatic to one person may not be to the next. Classic signs of trauma may include irritability, hyper-alertness, over-sensitivity, disturbance in sleep patterns, nightmares, or mentally reliving the event. At Alta Behavioral Healthcare, we have therapists who are specially trained and certified to deal with trauma. If you think your child is having a difficult time dealing with an event in his or her life, please contact us.

Socially Underdeveloped

We have all experienced the feeling of being uncomfortable or awkward in some social situations. There are, however, children who experience these feelings chronically. They range from the shy individual to those who fall into the Autism category. Chronically shy children normally do not initially make contact with others, and may feel uncomfortable when in small groups of even two or three people. They often lack self-confidence and may not have the social exposure or skills to negotiate relationships. They may avoid contact with others altogether. They may not read social cues that many of us take for granted, such as facial expression, body language or sarcasm. There is a tendency to take things literally, and they may not understand humor and misinterpret jokes. As a result, they may be viewed as odd by others and avoided. People who are socially isolated are more likely to be the target of harassment or bullying. At Alta Behavioral Healthcare, our therapists are trained to deal with social phobias and autism. If you think your child is having particular problems in this area, please contact us. We can help.