What are the symptoms of mental illness in children?

Lisa SchumacherArticles

What are the symptoms of mental illness in children?


Symptoms of mental illness in children may vary depending on the specific mental illness and the child. However, some general signs of mental illness are:

  • Changes in school performance, such as poor grades despite good efforts
  • Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defying authority, skipping school, stealing or damaging property
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Long-lasting negative moods, often accompanied by poor appetite and thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Loss of interest in friends and activities they usually enjoy
  • Significant increase in time spent alone
  • Excessive worrying or anxiety
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares or night terrors
  • Persistent disobedience or aggressive behavior
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Hearing voices or seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)

Symptom list from WebMd. 

The Child Mind Institute has put out a Symptom Checker that can help you if you are worried about your child. It is not a substitute for an evaluation by a mental health professional, but can give you some ideas about possible diagnoses and resources. Access the Child Mind Institute Symptom Checker.