child & adolescentbehavioral health illnesses

common symptoms

If you're not sure what the problem might be, click here to review our list of common symptoms to see if any of them sound like you or your loved one.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

A chronic behavioral disorder of childhood onset (by age seven). It is characterized by behavior that is hyperactive, impulsive and/or inattentive. ADHD affects children, adolescents, and adults.

ADHD is most likely is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. There also appears to be a genetic factor since ADHD can run in families.

Risk factors for ADHD are:

  • Male sex
  • Parent or sibling with ADHD


A state of apprehension, tension, and uneasiness in response to a perceived threat. It is considered normal, when it is temporary during a stressful or uncertain situation. Prolonged, intense, or inappropriate periods of anxiety may indicate an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety may result from many factors including:

  • Appropriate response under stressful circumstances
  • Drugs that affect the nervous system, such as caffeine or antidepressants
  • Brain chemistry imbalances
  • Personality traits
Risk factors include:
  • Sex: female
  • Family member with anxiety disorders
  • Stressful life events
  • Ineffective coping strategies
  • History of physical or psychological trauma

bipolar disorder

A brain disorder that causes extreme swings in mood, energy, and ability to function. The mood changes of bipolar disorder are different from normal ups and downs. They can hurt relationships and cause poor job or school performance.

Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Specific genes may play a role, but it is not caused by one single gene. Many different genes probably act together. Life factors may also play a role.

Risk factors include:

  • Family members with bipolar disorder
  • Acute or chronic stress


A mental illness characterized by feelings of profound sadness and lack of interest in enjoyable activities. It may cause a wide range of symptoms, both physical and emotional. Depression is not the same as a blue mood. It can last for weeks, months, or years. People with depression rarely recover without treatment.

Causes may be mental, physical, or environmental, including:

  • Stressful life events (usually in combination with one or more of the following causes)
  • Chronic stress
  • Low self-esteem
  • Imbalances in brain chemicals and hormones
  • Lack of control over circumstances (helplessness and hopelessness)
  • Negative thought patterns and beliefs
  • Chronic pain
  • Heart disease and heart surgery
Risk factors include:
  • Chronic physical or mental illness
  • Previous episode of depression
  • Major life changes or stressful life events
  • Little or no social support
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of personal control over circumstances
  • Family history of depression (parent or sibling)
  • Feelings of helplessness

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An anxiety disorder of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that make no sense. These obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are extremely difficult to overcome. If severe and untreated, OCD can destroy the ability to function at work, at school, or at home.

OCD is believed to develop from neurobiological, environmental and psychological factors. An imbalance of the brain chemical serotonin probably plays a significant role in the development of OCD.

OCD is associated with other neurological disorders, including:

  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Trichotillomania – the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, eyebrows or other body hair
  • Body dysmorphic disorder – imaginary or exaggerated defects in appearance
  • Eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa
  • Hypochondriasis – unfounded fear of having a serious disease
  • Substance abuse
Risk factors include:

  • Age: Late adolescence, early adulthood
  • Family members with a history of OCDM
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Personality disorder
  • Attention-deficit disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Those with this disorder show negative, angry, and defiant behaviors much more often than most people of the same age.

Like other psychiatric disorders, ODD results from a combination of genetic, family, and social factors. Children with ODD may inherit chemical imbalances in the brain that predispose them to the disorder.

Risk factors include:

  • Sex: Male
  • Age: Childhood and teen years
  • A parent with a mood, conduct, attention deficit, or substance abuse disorder
  • Marital conflict
  • Child abuse
  • Inconsistent parental attention
  • Low socioeconomic status

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Anxiety that develops after a traumatic event that has caused physical danger. PTSD has also been called shell shock or battle fatigue.

PTSD is triggered by exposure to a traumatic event such as situations in which a person feels intense fear, helplessness or horror. PTSD has been reported in people who experienced:

  • War
  • Rape
  • Physical assault
  • Earthquakes
  • Fire
  • Sexual abuse
  • Motor vehicle accidents
Risk factors include:

Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD are more likely to occur if the person has:

  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • A history of being physically abused
  • Poor coping skills
  • Lack of social supportExisting ongoing stress
  • A social environment that produces shame, guilt, stigmatization, or self-hatred