What is Pediatric Psychiatry?

Growing up isn't easy for anyone, but when kids need serious help handling issues in their lives, they may be referred to a pediatric psychiatrist. A pediatric psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating children's and teen's problematic feelings, thoughts, or behavior.

Why should caregivers seek out a pediatric psychiatrist as opposed to a general psychiatrist' Problems can have different symptoms in children than they do in adults, and certain issues (such as ADHD) are more common in children. Children also communicate differently than adults do, especially when it comes to difficult thoughts and feelings. It is important to seek appropriate treatment for kids with a mental illness, because their brains are still developing. Issues that cause significant anxiety, numbness, or poor coping skills in childhood could affect a child's growth into a mentally and emotionally healthy adult. A good pediatric psychiatrist understands the kinds of issues likely to face young patients, can communicate well with children, and understands how kids fit within the context of their families and school life.

Some of the issues that may be treated by a pediatric psychiatrist include:
  • Mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Learning disabilities
  • Substance abuse
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Conduct disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Trauma and loss

Treatment varies and depends on the child and the diagnosis. Talk therapy, either individual, group, or family, is commonly used for many disorders. If needed, intervention and support may be planned via the child's school, community, or social services. Some psychiatric illnesses benefit from treatment with medication, which a psychiatrist can prescribe.

When children and teens face unusually difficult problems, pediatric psychiatrists can offer a safe resource to help them manage their thoughts and feelings.
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