Are We Under Or Over Diagnosing Psychological Issues In Children
Psychological issues in children encompasses a huge spectrum of problems faced today like emotions, thinking, maladaptive behaviours, poor attention, hyperactivity etc. Increasing awareness of self at a younger age (compared to previous generations) often leads to also a sense of inadequacy and not being able to achieve expectations (set by self and not the parents). Comparison with peers and people around us further adds to the insecurity. Having an exposure to large information at a young age through social media and other means before we are able to develop mechanisms to filter and protect our consciousness also is an interesting phenomenon in today’s times. From a diagnostic perspective it is often challenging to differentiate between age appropriate behaviours versus psychological issues.
Another important factor is the inability to experience and subsequently express distress. Children today are very impressionable and speed of absorption of information is growing faster with each generation. However, the physical capabilities of the growing brain to cope with the unintended effects of information explosion is not at par, as a result the experience of anxiety, low mood, negative thoughts, poor frustration tolerance is on a high. Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders are also being detected more often. Hence the perennial question of whether these disorders were previously undiagnosed or are now being over diagnosed becomes relevant.
In psychology and psychiatry practice its being observed that the increased rate of diagnosis is being matched with the dispensing of medications and there is good tolerance by our young brains as well. Neurochemical needs of Serotonin, Dopamine and associated molecules cannot be just explained by environmental and psychological basis.
In India mental health specialists need to focus on mental health needs of children separate from adults and most importantly focus on ruling out disorders than trying to rule in environmental and psychological issues as a diagnosis. Often, as a practitioner it is observed that there is a continuous need to remain updated with the topics of interests among the young population as we can’t be misdiagnosing the underlying environmental factors. There is no specific invasive test where a needle can be put in the brain to assess the biological origins of psychological issues thus it is important for us to look at both the biological as well as the psychological factors, when diagnosing children.