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Parenting a Child Who Has a Mental Illness

Understanding Different Types of Mental Illnesses

By Oluseyi SogaoluPublished 3 months ago 10 min read

A mental illness is a condition that affects a person's thoughts, emotions, behavior, and overall mental health. Mental illnesses can range from mild to severe and can impact a person's ability to function in their daily life. Mental illnesses can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and life experiences.

Treatment options for mental illnesses may include medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and support groups. Mental illnesses can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it is important to seek help from a mental health provider. Mental illnesses are real and treatable conditions.

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it is important to seek professional help from a mental health provider. With proper treatment and support, people with mental illnesses can lead fulfilling and productive lives.

Different Types of Mental Illnesses

There are many different types of mental illnesses, each with their own unique symptoms and treatment options. Here are some examples of common mental illnesses:


Depression is a mood disorder that can cause persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Symptoms may include changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders characterized by excessive worry, fear, or nervousness. Symptoms may include panic attacks, social anxiety, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by episodes of mania and depression. During a manic episode, a person may experience elevated mood, increased energy, and impulsive behavior. During a depressive episode, a person may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities.


Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, and disorganized behavior. People with schizophrenia may have difficulty distinguishing between reality and their own thoughts and perceptions.

Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are serious mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits and behaviors. People with eating disorders may have an intense fear of gaining weight and may engage in behaviors such as restrictive eating or bingeing and purging.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and feelings of fear, anxiety, and detachment.

Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Symptoms may include difficulty organizing tasks, forgetfulness, and fidgeting.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a disorder characterized by intrusive, unwanted thoughts or obsessions, and repetitive behaviors or compulsions that are performed to alleviate anxiety caused by the obsessions.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are a group of mental illnesses characterized by long-standing patterns of unhealthy and inflexible thinking, feeling, and behavior. Examples include borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders are mental illnesses that involve the recurrent use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences. Symptoms may include cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and a loss of control over use.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. Symptoms may include difficulty with social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and a limited range of interests.

Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are a group of disorders characterized by a disconnection from reality or a sense of detachment from oneself. Examples include dissociative identity disorder and depersonalization/derealization disorder.

Causes of Mental Illness in Children

The causes of mental illness in children are complex and can be influenced by a variety of factors.

Here are some possible causes of mental illness in children:

  • Genetics: Like many medical conditions, mental illnesses can have a genetic component. Children who have a family history of mental illness may be more likely to develop a mental illness themselves.
  • Environmental factors: Environmental factors such as exposure to toxins, trauma, neglect, abuse, or chronic stress can increase the risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Brain development: The development of the brain in children can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and experiences. Changes in brain development can impact the risk of developing a mental illness.

Physical health: Physical health conditions or illnesses can sometimes contribute to the development of mental illness. For example, chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma can increase stress and impact mental health.

Substance use: Substance use, including alcohol and drugs, can also contribute to the development of mental illness in children.

  • Life experiences: Traumatic or stressful experiences, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a natural disaster, can increase the risk of mental illness in children. Additionally, difficult or adverse life events can also exacerbate symptoms of an existing mental illness.
  • Developmental disorders: Children with developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability, may be more vulnerable to developing mental illness due to the impact these conditions can have on social and emotional development.
  • Social and cultural factors: Social and cultural factors, such as poverty, discrimination, or exposure to violence, can contribute to the development of mental illness in children. These factors can impact a child's sense of security, self-esteem, and overall mental health.
  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during puberty can contribute to the onset of mental illness in some children. This is particularly true for girls, who are more likely to develop mental illness during adolescence due to hormonal changes.

Family dynamics: Family dynamics, such as a lack of support, parental stress, or unhealthy communication patterns, can impact a child's mental health. Additionally, a history of abuse or neglect in the family can increase the risk of mental illness in children.

Parenting a Child who Has A Mental Illness

Parenting a child who has a mental illness can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. As a parent, you may experience a range of emotions such as guilt, sadness, frustration, and helplessness. However, it is important to understand that you are not alone and that there are resources and support available to help you and your child.

Here are some tips for parenting a child who has a mental illness:

Seek Professional Help

It is important to seek professional help if you suspect that your child has a mental illness. A mental health professional can assess your child and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Educate Yourself

Learn as much as you can about your child's mental illness. Understanding the symptoms, treatment options, and how it affects your child can help you provide the necessary support and care.

Communicate with Your Child

It is important to talk to your child about their mental illness in an age-appropriate way. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns and let them know that they are not alone.

Create a Support System

Build a support system for yourself and your child. This may include family members, friends, support groups, and mental health professionals.

Practice Self-care

Caring for a child with a mental illness can be emotionally and physically draining. It is important to take care of yourself by eating well, exercising, getting enough rest, and seeking help when needed.

Be Patient and Understanding

Children with mental illness may struggle with mood swings, behavioral issues, and other challenges. It is important to be patient and understanding and to avoid blaming your child for their behavior.

Advocate for Your Child

Advocate for your child's needs at school, in the community, and with healthcare professionals. Ensure that they receive the necessary accommodations and support to succeed.

Develop a Routine

Establishing a routine can be helpful for children with mental illness. Having a structured routine can provide a sense of predictability and stability, which can help reduce anxiety and stress.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Instead of focusing on negative behaviors, use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. Praise and reward your child when they exhibit positive behaviors or make progress towards their treatment goals.

Encourage Socialization

Encourage your child to participate in social activities, such as sports, clubs, or hobbies. Socialization can help your child build social skills, self-esteem, and a support system outside of the family.

Be Flexible

Mental illnesses can be unpredictable, and your child's needs may change over time. Be willing to adapt and adjust your parenting strategies as needed.

Foster Independence

Encourage your child to take responsibility for their own care and treatment as appropriate. This can help them build confidence and a sense of control over their life.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help your child learn to manage their emotions and reduce anxiety.

Stay Positive

Focus on your child's strengths and celebrate their successes, no matter how small. Remember to take time to enjoy the positive moments and experiences with your child.

How to Deal with Mental Illness in a Child

Dealing with mental illness in a child can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to support your child's mental health and well-being. Here are some strategies that may be helpful:

  • Seek professional help: If you suspect that your child is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it's important to seek professional help from a mental health provider. A mental health provider can provide an accurate diagnosis, develop a treatment plan, and provide ongoing support.
  • Educate yourself: Learn as much as you can about your child's diagnosis and treatment options. This can help you better understand your child's experiences and how to support their mental health.
  • Provide a supportive environment: Children with mental illness may benefit from a supportive and understanding environment. This may include providing opportunities for open communication, offering reassurance and empathy, and avoiding judgment or criticism.
  • Encourage self-care: Encourage your child to engage in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, spending time outdoors, and practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
  • Build a strong support network: Build a strong support network for your child by connecting with other parents, seeking support from mental health professionals, and engaging in community resources that may be available.
  • Be patient: Dealing with mental illness in a child can be a long and challenging process. Be patient with your child and with yourself, and remember that progress may not always be linear.
  • Advocate for your child: Advocate for your child's needs by working with mental health providers, school officials, and other professionals to ensure that your child receives appropriate support and accommodations.
  • Monitor medication and treatment: If your child is prescribed medication, it's important to monitor their medication usage and any side effects. It's also important to follow up with mental health providers regularly to assess the effectiveness of treatment and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Develop a routine: Children with mental illness may benefit from having a structured routine that includes regular sleep patterns, meals, and activities. A routine can help your child feel more secure and can also help manage symptoms.
  • Stay involved in your child's life: Stay involved in your child's life by attending school meetings, extracurricular activities, and other events. This can help you stay connected to your child and also provide opportunities to identify any challenges or issues that may be impacting their mental health.

The Bottom Line

Parenting a child who has a mental illness can be challenging, but it's important to remember that with the right support and treatment, many children can thrive. Seeking professional help, educating yourself about your child's diagnosis, providing a supportive environment, encouraging self-care, building a strong support network, monitoring medication and treatment, developing a routine, staying involved in your child's life, and advocating for your child's needs are all important steps that can help support your child's mental health and well-being.

Remember to prioritize your own self-care and celebrate your child's successes along the way. With patience, understanding, and ongoing support, you can help your child navigate the challenges of mental illness and live a happy and fulfilling life.


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