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  • Writer's pictureSonia Ashford

Early Childhood Mental Health

Definition: Infant and early childhood mental health refers to the quality of a child’s first and early relationships and the child’s social and emotional development. When we talk about early childhood mental health we mean a child’s ability to:

-experience warm and responsive relationships with care givers

-create relationships with others

-explore and learn

-communicate in play

-express and regulate emotion

Children can experience a range of mental health conditions, including:

*Anxiety disorders

Children who have anxiety disorders — such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia and generalised anxiety disorder — experience anxiety as a persistent problem that interferes with their daily activities.

Some worry is a normal part of every child's experience, however, when worry or stress makes it hard for a child to function normally, an anxiety disorder should be considered.

*Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

This condition includes symptoms in difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Some children with ADHD have symptoms in all of these categories, while others might have symptoms in only one.

*Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder is a serious developmental disorder that appears in early childhood — usually before age 3. Though symptoms and severity vary, ASD always affects a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.

*Eating disorders

Eating disorders — such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder — are serious, even life-threatening, conditions. Children can become so preoccupied with food and weight that they focus on little else.

*Mood disorders

Mood disorders — such as depression and bipolar disorder — can cause a child to feel persistent feelings of sadness or extreme mood swings much more severe than the normal mood swings common in many people.

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