Child and adolescent psychiatry or pediatric psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders in children as well as disorders in adolescents, and their families. It investigates the biopsychosocial factors that influence the development and course of these psychiatric disorders and treatment responses to various interventions. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry training emphasizes developmental considerations.
Biological, sociocultural, psychodynamic, behavioral, and familial aspects of childhood and adolescence and their problems are covered in both clinical and didactic experiences. Consultation with ambulatory and hospital pediatric services is an essential part of child and adolescent training. In addition, child and adolescent psychiatrists consult with schools, courts, and social welfare agencies.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and the treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and/or behavior affecting children, adolescents, and their families. A child and adolescent psychiatrist offers families the advantages of a medical education, the medical traditions of professional ethics, and medical responsibility for providing comprehensive care. A child psychiatrist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating behavioral and thought disorders in children and uses his/her knowledge on many factors including biological and psychological factors, in order to devise a treatment plan for a child with behavior and thought disorders. This plan may include medication to help control or minimize certain behaviors or thoughts.
Children, teenagers, and adolescents can be afflicted by any of several prevalent mental health disorders, including:
• Bipolar disorder
• Disruptive behavioral disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
• Mood disorders
• Addiction to drugs
A mental health problem may not only affect the way a child thinks or feels emotionally but also can strongly influence behavior as well as producing physical complications as well. Many parents unnecessarily blame themselves for the mental illness of their children. The causes of mental illnesses are complex and may have little or nothing to do with parental responsibilities. Regardless of the cause, treatment of mental problems during childhood is essential because if they remain unresolved, they can interfere with the development of intellectual capacity and emotional maturity.
Some mental problems do not emerge until adolescence, when peer pressure to achieve in school or engage in rebellious behavior exerts strong emotional influence, sometimes resulting in:
• Mood disorders (including depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder)
• Obsessive-compulsive disorders
• Social phobias or disruptive behavioral disorders such as ADHD
• Oppositional defiant disorder
• Conduct disorder
The child and adolescent psychiatrist initially perform a comprehensive diagnostic examination in order to evaluate the current problem with attention to its physical, genetic, developmental, emotional, cognitive, educational, family, peer, and social components. The child and adolescent psychiatrist arrives at a diagnosis and diagnostic formulation which is shared with the patient and family. The child and adolescent psychiatrist then designs a treatment plan which considers all the components and discusses these recommendations with the child or adolescent and family.
An integrated approach may involve individual, group or family psychotherapy, medication, and/or consultation with other physicians or professionals from schools, juvenile courts, social agencies or other community organizations. In addition, the child and adolescent psychiatrist is prepared and expected to act as an advocate for the best interests of children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatrists perform consultations in a variety of settings (schools, juvenile courts, social agencies). A child and adolescent psychiatrist may devise a treatment plan that may involve just your child, your family, or another group. A treatment plan usually consists of either a medication or a behavioral therapy, or both, in order to reduce negative behaviors.