Growing Mind Pains

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Today, a child with a mild heartache from a highschool romance could be diagnosed with depression, a serious mental disorder confused for a minor difficulty. I’ve noticed an increasing number of my friends being prescribed sleep medication, and even though I’m not qualified to make the decision, I’m unsure about whether they need it. But in a world primarily influenced by the media, mass appeal, and trends, maybe the increasing commercial spots for such medications intrigue the viewer enough to make them believe they have mental health issues.

How does a parent decide whether their child has a mental issue and needs medication and on what grounds? According to a recent article in the New York Times, even child psychiatrists, doctors, and social workers are in some confusion and routinely hand out different diagnoses and are now routinely giving out more than one at the same time. This may be due in part to different biases and to the fact there are no blood tests or brain scans to diagnose mental disorders. Diagnoses are based on judgments of interviews and checklists of symptoms.

At least six million American children have difficulties that are diagnosed as serious mental disorders, according to government surveys — a number that has tripled since the early 1990s. But there is little convincing evidence that the rates of illness have increased in the past few decades. Rather, many experts say it is the frequency of diagnosis that is going up, in part because doctors are more willing to attribute behavior problems to mental illness, and in part because the public is more aware of childhood mental disorders.

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