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Mental Health Conditions in Children

For most mental health conditions of childhood, therapy is recommended as the first course of treatment. Balance Psychiatric Services treats children ages 5 and older but does not provide therapy services so we may require a referral from a therapist or pediatrician prior to treatment initiation. We may also request information from teachers, other family members, or care providers in your child's life to fully understand your child's functioning in various environments. Each child is unique in their emotional and social development so although there are expected stages of development for childhood, not meeting these expectations does not necessarily mean that a child requires treatment with psychiatric medications.  A mental health condition may exist when a child is struggling socially, academically, or emotionally with adequate external supports. Our psychiatric nurse practitioners will evaluate your child's individual needs to determine the best course of treatment.


The conditions listed on this page are specific to childhood. Diagnoses that exist for children and adults such as ADHD are addressed separately. Diagnostic criteria is obtained from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed (DSM-V). It is important to note that similar symptoms may be present in multiple mental health disorders so presence of even all symptoms does not necessarily mean a child has that diagnosis. 

  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder- Presence of the following symptoms for at least one year

    • Severe temper outbursts (verbal or physical) at least 3 times per week

    • Reaction is out of proportion to a stressor or occurring without known stressor

    • Persistent irritable or angry mood most of the day, nearly every day and is observable by others

    • Symptoms create difficulty functioning in at least two settings (school, home, relationships)

    • The child is at least 6 years of age

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder- The child has experienced neglect or deprivation of basic emotional needs, repeated changes in primary caregivers, or a limited opportunity to form an attachment with a primary caregiver AND demonstrates:

    • A pattern of rarely seeking comfort when distressed and rarely responding to comfort when distressed

    • Minimal social and emotional responses to others

    • Limited expression of positive emotions

    • Episodes of unexplained sadness, irritability or fear that occur even during nonthreatening interactions with caregivers

    • The child is at least 9 months old and symptoms are present prior to 5 years old

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder-  A pattern of behavior lasting at least 6 months with at least four of the following:​

    • Often loses temper

    • Often touchy or easily annoyed

    • Often angry and resentful

    • Often argues with authority figures or adults

    • Often actively defies with or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules

    • Often deliberately annoys others

    • Often blames others for their mistakes or misbehavior

    • Has been spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past 6 months

Additional Resources:

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Medication  Guides

Facts for Families

 American Psychology Academy: Social Emotional Learning Collection

National Federation of Families

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

The Explosive Child by Ross Greene

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