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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Health    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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Summary

Is it hard for your child to sit still? Does your child act without thinking first? Does your child start but not finish things? If so, your child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Nearly everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, but ADHD lasts more than 6 months and causes problems in school, at home and in social situations.

ADHD is more common in boys than girls.

The main features of ADHD are

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

No one knows exactly what causes ADHD. It sometimes runs in families, so genetics may be a factor. There may also be environmental factors.

A complete evaluation by a trained professional is the only way to know for sure if your child has ADHD. Treatment may include medicine to control symptoms, therapy, or both. Structure at home and at school is important. Parent training may also help.

Teen Development

Also called: Adolescent development

Summary

As a teenager, you go through many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. The biggest change is puberty, the process of becoming sexually mature. It usually happens between ages 10 and 14 for girls and ages 12 and 16 for boys. As your body changes, you may have questions about sexual health.

During this time, you start to develop your own unique personality and opinions. Some changes that you might notice include

  • Increased independence from your parents
  • More concerns about body image and clothes
  • More influence from peers
  • Greater ability to sense right and wrong

All of these changes can sometimes seem overwhelming. Some sadness or moodiness can be normal. But feeling very sad, hopeless, or worthless could be warning signs of a mental health problem. If you need help, talk to your parents, school counselor, or health care provider.

Phobias

Summary

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.

There are many specific phobias. Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places, and claustrophobia is a fear of closed-in places. If you become anxious and extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations, you could have a social phobia. Other common phobias involve tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, animals and blood.

People with phobias try to avoid what they are afraid of. If they cannot, they may experience

Phobias usually start in children or teens, and continue into adulthood. The causes of specific phobias are not known, but they sometimes run in families.

Treatment helps most people with phobias. Options include medicines, therapy or both.

Alzheimer's Disease

Summary

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia among older people. Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities.

AD begins slowly. It first involves the parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. People with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know. A related problem, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), causes more memory problems than normal for people of the same age. Many, but not all, people with MCI will develop AD.

In AD, over time, symptoms get worse. People may not recognize family members. They may have trouble speaking, reading or writing. They may forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair. Later on, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, they need total care. This can cause great stress for family members who must care for them.

AD usually begins after age 60. The risk goes up as you get older. Your risk is also higher if a family member has had the disease.

No treatment can stop the disease. However, some drugs may help keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time.

Memory

Summary

Every day, you have different experiences and you learn new things. Your brain cannot store all of that information, so it has to decide what is worth remembering. Memory is the process of storing and then remembering this information. There are different types of memory. Short-term memory stores information for a few seconds or minutes. Long-term memory stores it for a longer period of time.

Memory doesn't always work perfectly. As you grow older, it may take longer to remember things.

It's normal to forget things once in awhile. We've all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. If you are a senior who forget things more often than others your age, you may have mild cognitive impairment. Forgetting how to use your phone or find your way home may be signs of a more serious problem, such as

If you're worried about your forgetfulness, see your health care provider.

Eating Disorders

Also called: Anorexia nervosa, Binge eating, Bulimia

Summary

Eating disorders are serious behavior problems. They can include severe overeating or not consuming enough food to stay healthy. They also involve extreme concern about your shape or weight.

Types of eating disorders include

  • Anorexia nervosa, in which you become too thin, but you don't eat enough because you think you are fat
  • Bulimia nervosa, which involves periods of overeating followed by purging, sometimes through self-induced vomiting or using laxatives
  • Binge-eating, which is out-of-control eating

Women are more likely than men to have eating disorders. They usually start in the teenage years and often occur along with depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

Eating disorders can lead to heart and kidney problems and even death. Getting help early is important. Treatment involves monitoring, talk therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medicines.

Antidepressants

Also called: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, Tricyclic antidepressants

Summary

Antidepressants are medicines that treat depression. Your doctor can prescribe them for you. They work to balance some of the natural chemicals in our brains. It may take several weeks for them to help. There are several types of antidepressants. You and your doctor may have to try a few before finding what works best for you.

Antidepressants may cause mild side effects that usually do not last long. These may include headache, nausea, sleep problems, restlessness, and sexual problems. Tell your doctor if you have any side effects. You should also let your doctor know if you take any other medicines, vitamins, or herbal supplements.

It is important to keep taking your medicines, even if you feel better. Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your doctor. You often need to stop antidepressants gradually.

Personality Disorders

Summary

Personality disorders are a group of mental illnesses. They involve long-term patterns of thoughts and behaviors that are unhealthy and inflexible. The behaviors cause serious problems with relationships and work. People with personality disorders have trouble dealing with everyday stresses and problems. They often have stormy relationships with other people.

The cause of personality disorders is unknown. However, genes and childhood experiences may play a role.

The symptoms of each personality disorder are different. They can mild or severe. People with personality disorders may have trouble realizing that they have a problem. To them, their thoughts are normal, and they often blame others for their problems. They may try to get help because of their problems with relationships and work. Treatment usually includes talk therapy and sometimes medicine.

Anxiety

Summary

Fear and anxiety are part of life. You may feel anxious before you take a test or walk down a dark street. This kind of anxiety is useful - it can make you more alert or careful. It usually ends soon after you are out of the situation that caused it. These people have anxiety disorders. Types include Panic disorder Obsessive-compulsive disorder Post-traumatic stress disorder Phobias * Generalized anxiety disorder

Treatment can involve medicines, therapy or both.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Also called: ASD, Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD)

Summary

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person's life. It affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. It includes what used to be known as Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders.

It is called a "spectrum" disorder because people with ASD can have a range of symptoms. People with ASD might have problems talking with you, or they might not look you in the eye when you talk to them. They may also have restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. They may spend a lot of time putting things in order, or they may say the same sentence again and again. They may often seem to be in their "own world."

At well-child checkups, the health care provider should check your child's development. If there are signs of ASD, your child will have a comprehensive evaluation. It may include a team of specialists, doing various tests and evaluations to make a diagnosis.

The causes of ASD are not known. Research suggests that both genes and environment play important roles.

There is currently no one standard treatment for ASD. There are many ways to increase your child's ability to grow and learn new skills. Starting them early can lead to better results. Treatments include behavior and communication therapies, skills training, and medicines to control symptoms.

Postpartum Depression

Also called: Post-pregnancy depression

Summary

Many women have the baby blues after childbirth. If you have the baby blues, you may have mood swings, feel sad, anxious or overwhelmed, have crying spells, lose your appetite, or have trouble sleeping. The baby blues most often go away within a few days or a week. The symptoms are not severe and do not need treatment.

The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe. You may also feel hopeless and worthless, and lose interest in the baby. You may have thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby. Very rarely, new mothers develop something even more serious. They may have hallucinations or try to hurt themselves or the baby. They need to get treatment right away, often in the hospital.

Postpartum depression can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth. The cause is not known. Hormonal and physical changes after birth and the stress of caring for a new baby may play a role. Women who have had depression are at higher risk.

If you think you have postpartum depression, tell your healthcare provider. Medicines, including antidepressants and talk therapy can help you get well.

Bereavement

Also called: Grief

Summary

Bereavement is the period of grief and mourning after a death. When you grieve, it's part of the normal process of reacting to a loss. You may experience grief as a mental, physical, social or emotional reaction. Mental reactions can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair. Physical reactions can include sleeping problems, changes in appetite, physical problems or illness.

How long bereavement lasts can depend on how close you were to the person who died, if the person's death was expected and other factors. Friends, family and faith may be sources of support. Grief counseling or grief therapy is also helpful to some people.

Bipolar Disorder

Also called: Manic-depressive illness

Summary

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. People who have it go through unusual mood changes. They go from very happy, "up," and active to very sad and hopeless, "down," and inactive, and then back again. They often have normal moods in between. The up feeling is called mania. The down feeling is depression.

The causes of bipolar disorder aren't always clear. It runs in families. Abnormal brain structure and function may also play a role.

Bipolar disorder often starts in a person's late teen or early adult years. But children and adults can have bipolar disorder too. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.

If you think you may have it, tell your health care provider. A medical checkup can rule out other illnesses that might cause your mood changes.

If not treated, bipolar disorder can lead to damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. However, there are effective treatments to control symptoms: medicine and talk therapy. A combination usually works best.

Cancer--Living with Cancer

Summary

Cancer is common. Half of all men and a third of women will get a diagnosis of cancer in their lifetime. Many people with cancer do survive.

For most people with cancer, living with the disease is the biggest challenge they have ever faced. It can change your routines, roles and relationships. It can cause money and work problems. The treatment can change the way you feel and look. Learning more about ways you can help yourself may ease some of your concerns. Support from others is important.

All cancer survivors should have follow-up care. Knowing what to expect after cancer treatment can help you and your family make plans, lifestyle changes, and important decisions.

Child Behavior Disorders

Also called: Conduct disorders

Summary

All kids misbehave some times. And some may have temporary behavior problems due to stress. For example, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in the family may cause a child to act out. Behavior disorders are more serious. They involve a pattern of hostile, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors for more than 6 months. The behavior is also not appropriate for the child's age.

Warning signs can include

  • Harming or threatening themselves, other people or pets
  • Damaging or destroying property
  • Lying or stealing
  • Not doing well in school, skipping school
  • Early smoking, drinking or drug use
  • Early sexual activity
  • Frequent tantrums and arguments
  • Consistent hostility toward authority figures

If you see signs of a problem, ask for help. Poor choices can become habits. Kids who have behavior problems are at higher risk for school failure, mental health problems, and even suicide. Classes or family therapy may help parents learn to set and enforce limits. Talk therapy and behavior therapy for your child can also help.

Child Mental Health

Summary

It's important to recognize and treat mental illnesses in children early on. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a regular part of your child's behavior. This makes it more difficult to treat.

But it's not always easy to know when your child has a serious problem. Everyday stresses can cause changes in your child's behavior. For example, getting a new brother or sister or going to a new school may cause a child to temporarily act out. Warning signs that it might be a more serious problem include

  • Problems in more than one setting (at school, at home, with peers)
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Social withdrawal or fear of things he or she did not used to be not afraid of
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bedwetting
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging or suddenly getting hurt often
  • Repeated thoughts of death

To diagnose mental health problems, the doctor or mental health specialist looks at your child's signs and symptoms, medical history, and family history. Treatments include medicines and talk therapy.

Coping with Chronic Illness

Summary

Having a long-term, or chronic, illness can disrupt your life in many ways. You may often be tired and in pain. Your illness might affect your appearance or your physical abilities and independence. You may not be able to work, causing financial problems. For children, chronic illnesses can be frightening, because they may not understand why this is happening to them.

These changes can cause stress, anxiety, and anger. If they do, it is important to seek help. A trained counselor can help you develop strategies to regain a feeling of control. Support groups might help, too. You will find that you are not alone, and you may learn some new tips on how to cope.

You may be able to manage your illness better if learn more about it. It is important to evaluate the information that you find, to make sure that it is reliable. It is also important to find a health care provider that you can trust.

Compulsive Gambling

Also called: Gambling addiction

Summary

Many people enjoy gambling, whether it's betting on a horse or playing poker on the Internet. Most people who gamble don't have a problem, but some lose control of their gambling. Signs of problem gambling include

  • Always thinking about gambling
  • Lying about gambling
  • Spending work or family time gambling
  • Feeling bad after you gamble, but not quitting
  • Gambling with money you need for other things

If you have concerns about your gambling, ask for help. Your health care provider can work with you to find the treatment that's best for you.

Coping with Disasters

Summary

No matter how well you have prepared, you might feel dazed or numb after going through a disaster. You may also feel sad, helpless, or anxious. In spite of the tragedy, you might just feel happy to be alive.

It is not unusual to have bad memories or dreams. You may avoid places or people that remind you of the disaster. You might have trouble sleeping, eating, or paying attention. Many people have short tempers and get angry easily. These are all normal reactions to stress.

Sometimes the stress can be too much to handle alone. Some people have long-term problems after a disaster, including

If your emotional reactions are getting in the way of your relationships, work, or other important activities, talk to a counselor or your doctor. Treatments are available.

Self-Harm

Summary

What is Self Harm?

Self-harm, or self-injury, is when a person hurts his or her own body on purpose. The injuries may be minor, but sometimes they can be severe. They may leave permanent scars or cause serious health problems. Some examples are

  • Cutting yourself (such as using a razor blade, knife, or other sharp object to cut your skin)
  • Punching yourself or punching things (like a wall)
  • Burning yourself with cigarettes, matches, or candles
  • Pulling out your hair
  • Poking objects through body openings
  • Breaking your bones or bruising yourself

Self-harm is not a mental disorder. It is a behavior - an unhealthy way to cope with strong feelings. However, some of the people who harm themselves do have a mental disorder.

People who harm themselves are usually not trying to kill themselves. But they are at higher risk of attempting suicide if they do not get help.

Why do people harm themselves?

There are different reasons why people harm themselves. Often, they have trouble coping and dealing with their feelings. They harm themselves to try to

  • Make themselves feel something, when they feel empty or numb inside
  • Block upsetting memories
  • Show that they need help
  • Release strong feelings that overwhelm them, such as anger, loneliness, or hopelessness
  • Punish themselves
  • Feel a sense of control

Who is at risk for self-harm?

There are people of all ages who harm themselves, but it usually starts in the teen or early adult years. Self-harm is more common in people who

What are the signs of self-harm?

Signs that someone may be hurting themselves include

  • Having frequent cuts, bruises, or scars
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants even in hot weather
  • Making excuses about injuries
  • Having sharp objects around for no clear reason

How can I help someone who self-harms?

If someone you know is self-harming, it is important not to be judgmental. Let that person know that you want to help. If the person is a child or teenager, ask him or her to talk to a trusted adult. If he or she won't do that, talk to a trusted adult yourself. If the person who is self-harming is an adult, suggest mental health counseling.

What the treatments are for self-harm?

There are no medicines to treat self-harming behaviors. But there are medicines to treat any mental disorders that the person may have, such as anxiety and depression. Treating the mental disorder may weaken the urge to self-harm.

Mental health counseling or therapy can also help by teaching the person

  • Problem-solving skills
  • New ways to cope with strong emotions
  • Better relationship skills
  • Ways to strengthen self-esteem

If the problem is severe, the person may need more intensive treatment in a psychiatric hospital or a mental health day program.

Mood Disorders

Summary

Most people feel sad or irritable from time to time. They may say they're in a bad mood. A mood disorder is different. It affects a person's everyday emotional state. Nearly one in ten people aged 18 and older have mood disorders. These include depression and bipolar disorder (also called manic depression).

Mood disorders can increase a person's risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. Treatments include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. With treatment, most people with mood disorders can lead productive lives.

Delirium

Summary

Delirium is a condition that features rapidly changing mental states. It causes confusion and changes in behavior. Besides falling in and out of consciousness, there may be problems with

  • Attention and awareness
  • Thinking and memory
  • Emotion
  • Muscle control
  • Sleeping and waking

Causes of delirium include medications, poisoning, serious illnesses or infections, and severe pain. It can also be part of some mental illnesses or dementia.

Delirium and dementia have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to tell them apart. They can also occur together. Delirium starts suddenly and can cause hallucinations. The symptoms may get better or worse, and can last for hours or weeks. On the other hand, dementia develops slowly and does not cause hallucinations. The symptoms are stable, and may last for months or years.

Delirium tremens is a serious type of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It usually happens to people who stop drinking after years of alcohol abuse.

People with delirium often, though not always, make a full recovery after their underlying illness is treated.

Dementia

Also called: Senility

Summary

Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms caused by disorders that affect the brain. It is not a specific disease. People with dementia may not be able to think well enough to do normal activities, such as getting dressed or eating. They may lose their ability to solve problems or control their emotions. Their personalities may change. They may become agitated or see things that are not there.

Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia. However, memory loss by itself does not mean you have dementia. People with dementia have serious problems with two or more brain functions, such as memory and language. Although dementia is common in very elderly people, it is not part of normal aging.

Many different diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and stroke. Drugs are available to treat some of these diseases. While these drugs cannot cure dementia or repair brain damage, they may improve symptoms or slow down the disease.

Depression

Also called: Clinical depression, Dysthymic disorder, Major depressive disorder, Unipolar depression

Summary

Depression is a serious medical illness. It's more than just a feeling of being sad or "blue" for a few days. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include

  • Feeling sad or "empty"
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
  • Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is a disorder of the brain. There are a variety of causes, including genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression can happen at any age, but it often begins in teens and young adults. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants, talk therapy, or both.

Teen Depression

Summary

What is depression in teens?

Teen depression is a serious medical illness. It's more than just a feeling of being sad or "blue" for a few days. It is an intense feeling of sadness, hopelessness, and anger or frustration that lasts much longer.

These feelings make it hard for you to function normally and do your usual activities. You may also have trouble focusing and have no motivation or energy. Depression can make you feel like it is hard to enjoy life or even get through the day.

What causes depression in teens?

Many factors may play a role in depression, including

Genetics - Depression can run in families.
Brain biology and chemistry.
Hormones - Hormone changes can contribute to depression.
Stressful childhood events - Such as trauma, the death of a loved one, bullying, and abuse.

Which teens are at risk of depression?

Depression can happen at any age, but often begins in the teens or early adulthood. Certain teens are at higher risk of depression, such as those who

  • Have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse
  • Have other diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease
  • Have family members with mental illness
  • Have a dysfunctional family/family conflict
  • Have problems with friends or other kids at school
  • Have learning problems or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Have had trauma in childhood
  • Have low self-esteem, a pessimistic outlook, or poor coping skills
  • Are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, especially when their families are not supportive

What are the symptoms of depression in teens?

If you have depression, you have one or more of these symptoms most of the time:

  • Sadness
  • Feeling of emptiness
  • Hopelessness
  • Being angry, irritable, or frustrated, even at minor things

You also may also have other symptoms, such as

  • No longer caring about things you used to enjoy
  • Changes in weight - losing weight when you are not dieting or gaining weight from eating too much
  • Changes in sleep - having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping much more than usual
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Feeling very tired or not having energy
  • Feeling worthless or very guilty
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering information, or making decisions
  • Thinking about dying or suicide

How is depression in teens diagnosed?

If you think you might be depressed, tell someone that you trust, such as your

  • Parents or guardian
  • Teacher or counselor
  • Doctor

The next step is to see your doctor for a checkup. Your doctor can first make sure that you do not have another health problem that is causing your depression. To do this, you may have a physical exam and lab tests.

If you don't have another health problem, you will get a psychological evaluation. Your doctor may do it, or you may be referred to a mental health professional to get one. You may be asked about things such as

  • Your thoughts and feelings
  • How you are doing at school
  • Any changes in your eating, sleeping, or energy level
  • Whether you are suicidal
  • Whether you use alcohol or drugs

How is depression in teens treated?

Effective treatments for depression in teens include talk therapy, or a combination of talk therapy and medicines:

Talk therapy

Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy or counseling, can help you understand and manage your moods and feelings. It involves going to see a therapist, such as a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, or counselor.

You can talk out your emotions to someone who understands and supports you. You can also learn how to stop thinking negatively and start to look at the positives in life. This will help you build confidence and feel better about yourself.

There are many different types of talk therapy. Certain types have been shown to help teens deal with depression, including

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Which helps you to identify and change negative and unhelpful thoughts. It also helps you build coping skills and change behavioral patterns.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Which focuses on improving your relationships. It helps you understand and work through troubled relationships that may contribute to your depression. IPT may help you change behaviors that are causing problems. You also explore major issues that may add to your depression, such as grief or life changes.

Medicines

In some cases, your doctor will suggest medicines along with talk therapy. There are a few antidepressants that have been widely studied and proven to help teens. If you are taking medicine for depression, it is important to see your doctor regularly.

It is also important to know that it will take some time for you to get relief from antidepressants:

  • It can take 3 to 4 weeks until an antidepressant takes effect
  • You may have to try more than one antidepressant to find one that works for you
  • It can also take some time to find the right dose of an antidepressant

In some cases, teenagers may have an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants. This risk is higher in the first few weeks after starting the medicine and when the dose is changed. Make sure to tell your parents or guardian if you start feeling worse or have thoughts of hurting yourself.

You should not stop taking the antidepressants on your own. You need to work with your doctor to slowly and safely decrease the dose before you stop.

Programs for severe depression

Some teens who have severe depression or are at risk of hurting themselves may need more intensive treatment. They may go into a psychiatric hospital or do a day program. Both offer counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients. Day programs may be full-day or half-day, and they often last for several weeks.

Developmental Disabilities

Summary

Developmental disabilities are severe, long-term problems. They may be physical, such as blindness. They may affect mental ability, such as learning disabilities. Or the problem can be both physical and mental, such as Down syndrome. The problems are usually life-long, and can affect everyday living.

There are many causes of developmental disabilities, including

  • Genetic or chromosome abnormalities. These cause conditions such as Down syndrome and Rett syndrome.
  • Prenatal exposure to substances. For example, drinking alcohol when pregnant can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • Certain infections in pregnancy
  • Preterm birth

Often there is no cure, but treatment can help the symptoms. Treatments include physical, speech, and occupational therapy. Special education classes and psychological counseling can also help.

Dual Diagnosis

Summary

A person with dual diagnosis has both a mental disorder and an alcohol or drug problem. These conditions occur together frequently. In particular, alcohol and drug problems tend to occur with

Sometimes the mental problem occurs first. This can lead people to use alcohol or drugs that make them feel better temporarily. Sometimes the substance abuse occurs first. Over time, that can lead to emotional and mental problems.

Someone with a dual diagnosis must treat both conditions. For the treatment to be effective, the person needs to stop using alcohol or drugs. Treatments may include behavioral therapy, medicines, and support groups.

Learning Disabilities

Also called: Learning differences, Learning disorders

Summary

What is a learning disability?

Learning disabilities are conditions that affect the ability to learn. They can cause problems with

  • Understanding what people are saying
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing math
  • Paying attention

Often, children have more than one kind of learning disability. They may also have another condition, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can make learning even more of a challenge.

What causes learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities don't have anything to do with intelligence. They are caused by differences in the brain, and they affect the way the brain processes information. These differences are usually present at birth. But there are certain factors that can play a role in the development of a learning disability, including

  • Genetics
  • Environmental exposures (such as lead)
  • Problems during pregnancy (such as the mother's substance abuse)

How do I know if my child has a learning disability?

The earlier you can find and treat a learning disability, the better. Unfortunately, learning disabilities are usually not recognized until a child is in school. If you notice that your child is struggling, talk to your child's teacher or health care provider about an evaluation for a learning disability. The evaluation may include a medical exam, a discussion of family history, and intellectual and school performance testing.

What are the treatments for learning disabilities?

The most common treatment for learning disabilities is special education. A teacher or other learning specialist can help your child learn skills by building on strengths and finding ways to make up for weaknesses. Educators may try special teaching methods, make changes to the classroom, or use technologies that can assist your child's learning needs. Some children also get help from tutors or speech or language therapists.

A child with a learning disability may struggle with low self-esteem, frustration, and other problems. Mental health professionals can help your child understand these feelings, develop coping tools, and build healthy relationships.

If your child has another condition such as ADHD, he or she will need treatment for that condition as well.

Mental Health

Summary

What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

What are mental illnesses?

Mental illnesses are serious disorders which can affect your thinking, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting. They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day. But there are treatments. People with mental health problems can get better, and many of them recover completely.

Why is mental health important?

Mental health is important because it can help you to

  • Cope with the stresses of life
  • Be physically healthy
  • Have good relationships
  • Make meaningful contributions to your community
  • Work productively
  • Realize your full potential

How can I improve my mental health?

There are steps you can take to help you improve your mental health. They include

  • Staying positive
  • Being physically active
  • Connecting with others
  • Developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Developing coping skills
  • Meditating
  • Getting professional help if you need it

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Summary

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder. If you have OCD, you have frequent, upsetting thoughts called obsessions. To try to control the thoughts, you feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals or behaviors. These are called compulsions.

Examples of obsessions are a fear of germs or a fear of being hurt. Compulsions include washing your hands, counting, checking on things, or cleaning. With OCD, the thoughts and rituals cause distress and get in the way of your daily life.

Researchers think brain circuits may not work properly in people who have OCD. It tends to run in families. The symptoms often begin in children or teens. Treatments include therapy, medicines, or both. One type of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, is useful for treating OCD.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Summary

Some forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. However, some people have more memory problems than other people their age. This condition is called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. People with MCI can take care of themselves and do their normal activities.

MCI memory problems may include

  • Losing things often
  • Forgetting to go to events and appointments
  • Having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age

Memory problems can also have other causes, including certain medicines and diseases that affect the blood vessels that supply the brain. Some of the problems brought on by these conditions can be managed or reversed.

Your health care provider can do thinking, memory, and language tests to see if you have MCI. You may also need to see a specialist for more tests. Because MCI may be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, it's really important to see your health care provider every 6 to 12 months.

At this time, there is no proven drug treatment for MCI. Your health care provider can check to see if you have any changes in your memory or thinking skills over time.

Mental Disorders

Also called: Mental illness

Summary

What are mental disorders?

Mental disorders (or mental illnesses) are conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day.

What are some types of mental disorders?

There are many different types of mental disorders. Some common ones include

What causes mental disorders?

There is no single cause for mental illness. A number of factors can contribute to risk for mental illness, such as

  • Your genes and family history
  • Your life experiences, such as stress or a history of abuse, especially if they happen in childhood
  • Biological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain
  • A traumatic brain injury
  • A mother's exposure to viruses or toxic chemicals while pregnant
  • Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  • Having a serious medical condition like cancer
  • Having few friends, and feeling lonely or isolated

Mental disorders are not caused by character flaws. They have nothing to do with being lazy or weak.

How are mental disorders diagnosed?

The steps to getting a diagnosis include

  • A medical history
  • A physical exam and possibly lab tests, if your provider thinks that other medical conditions could be causing your symptoms
  • A psychological evaluation. You will answer questions about your thinking, feelings, and behaviors.

What are the treatments for mental disorders?

Treatment depends on which mental disorder you have and how serious it is. You and your provider will work on a treatment plan just for you. It usually involves some type of therapy. You may also take medicines. Some people also need social support and education on managing their condition.

In some cases, you may need more intensive treatment. You may need to go to a psychiatric hospital. This could be because your mental illness is severe. Or it could be because you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else. In the hospital, you will get counseling, group discussions, and activities with mental health professionals and other patients.

Teen Mental Health

Summary

Being a teenager is hard. You're under stress to be liked, do well in school, get along with your family, and make big decisions. You can't avoid most of these pressures, and worrying about them is normal. But feeling very sad, hopeless or worthless could be warning signs of a mental health problem.

Mental health problems are real, painful, and sometimes severe. You might need help if you have the signs mentioned above, or if you

  • Often feel very angry or very worried
  • Feel grief for a long time after a loss or death
  • Think your mind is controlled or out of control
  • Use alcohol or drugs
  • Exercise, diet and/or binge-eat obsessively
  • Hurt other people or destroy property
  • Do reckless things that could harm you or others
  • Feel depressed (sad and hopeless)

Mental health problems can be treated. To find help, talk to your parents, school counselor, or health care provider.

Panic Disorder

Summary

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger. You may feel as if you are losing control. You may also have physical symptoms, such as

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot or a cold chill
  • Tingly or numb hands

Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and without warning. You may live in fear of another attack and may avoid places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes.

Panic disorder is more common in women than men. It usually starts when people are young adults. Sometimes it starts when a person is under a lot of stress. Most people get better with treatment. Therapy can show you how to recognize and change your thinking patterns before they lead to panic. Medicines can also help.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Also called: PTSD

Summary

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real illness. You can get PTSD after living through or seeing a traumatic event, such as war, a hurricane, sexual assault, physical abuse, or a bad accident. PTSD makes you feel stressed and afraid after the danger is over. It affects your life and the people around you.

PTSD can cause problems like

  • Flashbacks, or feeling like the event is happening again
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares
  • Feeling alone
  • Angry outbursts
  • Feeling worried, guilty, or sad

PTSD starts at different times for different people. Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue. Other people develop new or more severe signs months or even years later. PTSD can happen to anyone, even children.

Treatment may include talk therapy, medicines, or both. Treatment might take 6 to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer.

Prader-Willi Syndrome

Also called: PWS

Summary

Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a rare genetic disorder. It causes poor muscle tone, low levels of sex hormones and a constant feeling of hunger. The part of the brain that controls feelings of fullness or hunger does not work properly in people with PWS. They overeat, leading to obesity.

Babies with PWS are usually floppy, with poor muscle tone, and have trouble sucking. Boys may have undescended testicles. Later, other signs appear. These include

There is no cure for PWS. Growth hormone, exercise, and dietary supervision can help build muscle mass and control weight. Other treatments may include sex hormones and behavior therapy. Most people with PWS will need specialized care and supervision throughout their lives.

Stress

Also called: Psychological stress

Summary

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Not all stress is bad. All animals have a stress response, and it can be life-saving. But chronic stress can cause both physical and mental harm.

There are at least three different types of stress:

  • Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family, and other daily responsibilities
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness
  • Traumatic stress, which happens when you are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. Examples include a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster. This type of stress can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Different people may feel stress in different ways. Some people experience digestive symptoms. Others may have headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger, and irritability. People under chronic stress get more frequent and severe viral infections, such as the flu or common cold. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, are less effective for them.

Some people cope with stress more effectively than others. It's important to know your limits when it comes to stress, so you can avoid more serious health effects.

Psychotic Disorders

Also called: Psychoses

Summary

Psychotic disorders are severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions. People with psychoses lose touch with reality. Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs, such as thinking that someone is plotting against you or that the TV is sending you secret messages. Hallucinations are false perceptions, such as hearing, seeing, or feeling something that is not there.

Schizophrenia is one type of psychotic disorder. People with bipolar disorder may also have psychotic symptoms. Other problems that can cause psychosis include alcohol and some drugs, brain tumors, brain infections, and stroke.

Treatment depends on the cause of the psychosis. It might involve drugs to control symptoms and talk therapy. Hospitalization is an option for serious cases where a person might be dangerous to himself or others.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Also called: SAD, Seasonal depression, Seasonal mood disorder

Summary

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. It usually starts in the late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer. Some people do have episodes of depression that start in the spring or summer, but that is a lot less common. Symptoms of SAD may include

  • Sadness
  • Gloomy outlook
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, and irritable
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

SAD is more common in women, young people, and those who live far from the equator. You are also more likely to have SAD if you or your family members have depression.

The exact causes of SAD are unknown. Researchers have found that people with SAD may have an imbalance of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects your mood. Their bodies also make too much melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, and not enough vitamin D.

The main treatment for SAD is light therapy. The idea behind light therapy is to replace the sunshine that you miss during the fall and winter months. You sit in front of a light therapy box every morning to get daily exposure to bright, artificial light. But some people with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medicines and talk therapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or combined with light therapy.

Schizophrenia

Summary

Schizophrenia is a serious brain illness. People who have it may hear voices that aren't there. They may think other people are trying to hurt them. Sometimes they don't make sense when they talk. The disorder makes it hard for them to keep a job or take care of themselves.

Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30. Men often develop symptoms at a younger age than women. People usually do not get schizophrenia after age 45. There are three types of symptoms:

  • Psychotic symptoms distort a person's thinking. These include hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there), delusions (beliefs that are not true), trouble organizing thoughts, and strange movements.
  • "Negative" symptoms make it difficult to show emotions and to function normally. A person may seem depressed and withdrawn.
  • Cognitive symptoms affect the thought process. These include trouble using information, making decisions, and paying attention.

No one is sure what causes schizophrenia. Your genes, environment, and brain chemistry may play a role.

There is no cure. Medicine can help control many of the symptoms. You may need to try different medicines to see which works best. You should stay on your medicine for as long as your doctor recommends. Additional treatments can help you deal with your illness from day to day. These include therapy, family education, rehabilitation, and skills training.

Suicide

Summary

Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death in the United States. People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can't see any other solution to their problems. Often it's related to serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or a major stressful event.

People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men. But women and teens report more suicide attempts. If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously.

Therapy and medicines can help most people who have suicidal thoughts. Treating mental illnesses and substance abuse can reduce the risk of suicide.

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