What Parents Should Know About Pediatric Psychiatry
Approximately 17.1 million of the 74.5 million children in the United States live with a psychiatric disorder or have recovered from such an illness. This is more than the number of children in the country that face diabetes, cancer, and AIDS combined. While the statistics are staggering, the persistent stigma of mental illness and a lack of awareness keep families from getting psychiatric care for their children.
We believe that parents have the right to make fully informed decisions about their childrens’ care. This is only possible when families have accurate, honest information about psychiatric medication in children.
Children are Not Overmedicated
For decades, many parents have worried that children are being given psychiatric medication when it’s not necessary or that children are taking doses that are too high. This rumor is understandably worrisome for parents who are considering this medication for their children. However, the idea is untrue.
In reality, children are too often left without treatment for mental illness. One in four people will live with a mental illness at some point in their lives, and half of these disorders start before the person turns 14 years old. Clearly, many children live with mental illness, but they are more likely to go without any treatment than to be overmedicated.
It’s understandable that parents also worry about children taking such high doses that they become “zombies.” Seeing a specialist can help your child avoid this. A psychiatrist or psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner can help you find the lowest dose that is effective for your child.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help
Certain lifestyle changes can help to reduce your child’s symptoms. For example, reducing caffeine and sugar can help children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and exercise can ease some symptoms of depression. However, these changes should not replace other types of treatment, including therapy and psychiatry.
Psychiatric Medication Can Be Safe for Children and Teens
A child’s safety is top-of-mind for every parent, especially when starting a new medication. All medicine carries some risk of side effects, which range from mild to serious. Medical providers must weigh the potential risk of medication against the known risks of going without treatment. They only recommend medication when they believe it is safe.
Your child’s provider will also help keep your child safe by answering any questions you may have. Be sure that before you leave the appointment, you know exactly what dose to give your child, ideal timing for the medication, what side effects to look for, and what to do if you notice those effects.
We take patient safety seriously, which is why we recommend medication management appointments. In these follow-up visits, the provider will ask about the child’s symptoms and any side effects. At that point, you and the provider may decide to make changes to the prescription.
Lifetime Medication Needs Vary Widely
Some parents understandably worry that if their children start psychiatric medication now, they will need to forever. The truth is that some people will continue to need medication throughout their lives, while others will not. The difference is not in when they start medicine, but in the nature of their disorder.
For example, many children outgrow ADHD in adulthood and no longer need medication. Others may continue to have symptoms and need psychiatric care for longer. Furthermore, some disorders are chronic and need lifetime care, regardless of when treatment begins.
Having a child with a psychiatric illness can be scary and overwhelming. You are not alone. If you need help understanding your options, contact us to set up an appointment. Whether you decide on medication or not, we can help you find a care plan that helps.