Is your child experiencing depression or anxiety?
Are they having difficulties making friends, adjusting to school or behaving in ways that concern you?
There are many reasons for seeking an opinion from a professional psychologist. This may involve being provided with some reassurance and support for how well you are parenting or it may result in some new strategies. Our counsellors are qualified psychologists and have years of experience in child psychology. Our psychologists provide successful therapy and counselling for children in common areas such as anxiety and behavioural issues.
Grief and loss
Depression is more than just feeling sad or down. While it is normal to feel sad and depressed from time to time, a diagnosis of depression is made when the mood lasts for at least two or more weeks, and when the feelings impacts on a child’s social, emotional, and/or school functioning.
Identifying depression in children can sometimes be difficult, as children are often unable to explain how they are feeling, especially when they are depressed. Some of the outward behaviours that you might see in children with depression include:
- Uninterested in activities they would normally enjoy
- Frequent tiredness
- Dawdling, dragging self around
- Cranky, bad-tempered
- Feeling bad about self
- Lonely, avoids others
- Unhappy, seems down most of the time
While when adults are depressed feelings of sadness are often evident, in children irritability may be more obvious than sadness.
While fearful and anxious behavior is common in children, children may need help with their anxiety when:
- They feel more anxious than other children their age
- Anxiety gets in the way of them engaging in school or social activities
- The fears and worries seem out of proportion in relation to the issues they are concerned about
Generalised anxiety refers to when children have excessive and unrealistic worries about a wide range of issues. This may include worrying about bad things that might happen to them or their family, or instead excessively ruminating about things that have already happened.
Separation anxiety is a specific form of childhood anxiety that relates to fear and distress at being away from a parent and/or family. While fear of separation is considered developmentally appropriate for children under two years of age, it should reduce as children get older. Children who experience separation anxiety often worry that something bad is going to happen to a family member in their absence.
Phobias can develop mildly with children and are often easy to treat if responded to early on. They are a type of anxiety reaction, which consists of a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the child goes to great lengths in avoiding. The fear is disproportional to the actual danger posed. Common childhood phobias include a fear of the dark, monsters, spiders, snakes, heights, falling, and closed spaces.
Psychotherapy involving successive desensitisation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) allows the child to challenge their scary thoughts or beliefs by being mindful of their own feelings with the aim that they will realise their fear is irrational. The goal of counselling is make the cure fun by decreasing negative thinking, increasing problem solving, and to provide a functional coping outlook.
Grief and bereavement
Grief is a normal response to loss. It might be due to the death of a family member or a pet, a divorce or separation of the parents or change in schools or home situation. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief is likely to be. Every child experiences grief differently and displays different reactions and ways of coping.
Symptoms may include feeling sad, angry, anxious, inappropriate laughter, shocked, regretful, relieved, overwhelmed, isolated, irritable or numb.
Counselling and therapy provide support and focus on resolving and overcoming the reactions to the loss. Strategies for coping and developing resources to regain control are developed. These approaches will be matched with each child’s nature and specific need.
Obsessive–compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious condition where the child feels the need to check things repeatedly, have certain thoughts repeatedly, or feel they need to perform certain routines over and over again. They are unable to control either the thoughts or the activities.
Common compulsive activities or symptoms include hand washing, counting of things, and checking to see if a door is locked. Some people may have difficulty throwing things out. These activities occur to such a degree that the child’s daily life is negatively affected. Often they take up more than an hour a day. Most children know that these behaviours do not make sense.
Behaviour therapy, CBT, and psychotherapy have been found to be effective in treating this condition. The approach involves gradually learning to tolerate the anxiety associated with not performing the ritual behaviour.
Enuresis or bedwetting is normal young children and is involuntary. Most children develop some degree of bladder control by 4 years of age, but this can vary considerably and parents should discuss their expectations with their GP if they are worried.
Factors that affect the age at which wetting is considered a problem include the following:
- The child’s gender: bedwetting is more common in boys
- The child’s development and maturity
- The child’s overall physical and emotional health. Chronic illness and/or emotional stressors are linked to bedwetting
Bedwetting is a very treatable condition. Counselling and behaviour therapies have been developed to help these children stay dry all night. It is also common to help the parents help their own child manage this problem.