Common Childhood Disorders

These disorders are often diagnosed in childhood and can be seen over years or linked to adult diagnoses.


In recent years, it has become clear that attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a neurological (affecting the nervous system) disorder. It means their brains have a different pattern of functioning that is noticeably different than kids whose brain functions, behaviors, and processing are considered typical. Kids with ADHD/ADD lack the control over impulses and their thoughts are coming fast and furious in their brains. They can focus when interested but struggle when they are not interested in the subject. Harsh punishment and not having a regular routine can cause more troubles for them emotionally.

Symptoms for the attention part of ADHD:

  • Often fails to pay close attention to details on work/projects and makes careless mistakes
  • Often has difficulty maintaining attention in non-preferred tasks. Easily distracted!
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Often does not follow through with instructions, fails to finish work, chores, duties at work
  • Often has difficulty organizing self into tasks, keeping things together or has poor time management
  • Often avoids non preferred tasks or fails to give attention to disliked subjects/tasks. Has a hard time sustaining mental effort on things they do not find interest in
  • Often loses things needed for tasks or work
  • Often distracted by others and activities nearby
  • Is often forgetful of daily activities even if does them every day

Hyperactivity symptoms:

  • Fidgets, taps feet or hands, and cannot sit still
  • Leaves seat when expected to remain seated
  • Often runs or climbs where it is inappropriate to do so
  • Unable to engage in play or activity quietly
  • Is often on the go or seems as if run by a motor
  • Talks too much
  • Blurts out answers, butts into conversations, talks over others
  • Touches other peoples’ stuff without permission, intrudes on space without considering others

Note: A person can have symptoms from both categories. Symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe in all areas or one.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is usually only from the attention part of symptoms but may have some of the hyperactive symptoms. Children with ADD may not have as much trouble in school (except they can’t focus well) but often do not get into trouble in the same way kids with ADHD do.

A child with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) will usually have symptoms from both areas and can experience lack of impulse control in multiple areas of life. Children with ADHD often get in trouble at school and home for being so energetic and not being able to focus on any one thing.

These two disorders are common. Behavior therapy can often be helpful for the child and parent to learn and use frequently. Often these children suffer from low self-confidence because they function differently and struggle in understanding other children, adults, and how to self-regulate. Starting treatments early with these kids can help avoid some loss of self-confidence but know that they will struggle throughout their life to understand social cues and/or stay on task. Parenting skills are important for parents of these kids.  Parents can help them grow to their potential (which may be very different than other kids) as they have different needs and abilities than other children.  Parents often must learn new strategies to help their child thrive while keeping themselves on track as these behaviors often stress the parents as well. Our team of BHC’s can refer you to resources to help you find support for your situation.

Separation Anxiety

An inappropriate and excessive fear of being separated from a person one cares about.  This fear is continual for at least 4 weeks in children and 6 months in adults.

The child or adult will:

  • Have extreme distress expecting separation or being separated from their special attachment person. Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort and care.
  • Have fears of losing major attachment person to an unexpected event
  • Continually not willing to go out, away from home, because of fear of separation
  • Nightmares about loss of this person
  • Physical symptoms appear when they consider being away from their attached person

This child will often cry, in sadness, for long periods of time after being separated from their significant person. These are the kids who can’t be away from their caretaker without high distress. Often a slower approach toward separation and eventual detachment is required. Parents can seek professional help if needed to help them work through this stage with as much patience and courage as the child can tolerate.

Social Anxiety

Noticeable fear or anxiety about social situations and appears in more than one setting. This can be meeting people, being watched, or performing for other people. For children, this will appear in more than one setting, not just with adults. This fear will be present for at least 6 months.

  • This person will fear that their anxiety will show and they will be negatively judged—rejected, shamed, embarrassed
  • This fear will be deep and constant across all social situations. (In children, this may show as fears, tantrums, freezing, shrinking away from others, failure to speak to others.)
  • This will cause significant distress and possible avoidance or fears of social interactions

Often the best help is slowly introducing people and then giving exact social skills training. Slow introductions and assistance with engagement can help slow to warm kids overcome their fears.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

This person is often angry, wanting to argue, or vengeful, lasting at least 6 months.

  • Angry/irritable: frequently loses temper, is often touchy or easily annoyed by others, is angry and hateful toward others.
  • Often argues with authority figures—can be adults for kids. Often actively defies or refuses to comply with rules.
  • Often deliberately annoys others.
  • Often blames others for their behavior or mistakes.
  • Has been spiteful or vengeful at least twice within the last 6 months.

Mild: Occurs in only one setting

Moderate: Present in two settings

Severe: Present in three or more settings.

This person is often hard to get along with, they will constantly challenge and choose an opposing position on any subject discussed. They argue and disagree with rules, authority and this affects their compliance with rules. This child/adult will get in trouble with school/work. They will often change schools frequently due to arguments that have become out of control or frequently change jobs because they do not get along with people.

Behavior training and working with choices is the best way to help parents/caretakers/bosses learn to work with these individuals.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

This person often has extreme temper flares that show as verbal or physical aggression that are way out of proportion to the situation in intensity and length of time.

  • These temper flares are not consistent with their developmental age (under 6 years or over 18 years).
  • They have them 3 or more times per week
  • Their mood is irritable and angry most days out of the week and is seen by others
  • This behavior is seen in most settings they are in

This diagnosis is not to be made before age 6 or after age 18. These behaviors would fit into another diagnosis at those times.

The main feature is the duration and intensity of these temper flares for this diagnosis. This person will not be able to manage their intense emotions and act out as if everyone else is the problem. Working with a behavior therapist is the best way forward to help with learning emotional regulation and acceptable behaviors to manage these outbursts.