One of the most difficult questions a parent can face is whether or not their child needs to see a psychologist. That’s due in no small part to the fact that we sadly still live in a society that far too often stigmatises and scapegoats mental health problems.
Even raising the possibility that your child may need psychological help can be enough to earn the anxiety, fear, and even ire of other parents. In their ignorance or hatefulness, they can treat your child as though they are radioactive, something to be avoided, shunned, or even removed.
That said, not bringing your child to see a child psychologist isn’t a neutral decision either. If they do have a mental illness or emotional condition, not getting them the mental help they need can be greatly harmful.
While there are no hard and fast rules here, there are a few red flags which, when taken together, may prompt you to seek out a child psychologist.
Constant feelings of deep depression and despair
It is normal for children to feel sad sometimes; we all do. It is normal for teenagers to go through mood swings which include bouts of sadness and depression. Again, we’ve all been there.
If your child is constantly sad or depressed, this may be a warning sign. The depths of their depression may also be a tell. Mild depression is one thing, but if your child is constantly depressed day in and day out, or has feelings of depression to the point where they don’t want to eat, go out, or talk to anybody, or is otherwise convinced that things will never improve, this is likely part of a larger problem.
Constant anger and overreacting
The same may be said for anger. We all get angry, and in fact, expressing anger in small doses can be a healthy way of dealing with one’s negative emotions. That said, constant anger is anything but healthy.
The same may be said for disproportionate anger towards seemingly innocuous things. Behavioral child therapy may be the ideal solution when facing such emotional anger, by enabling your child to progressively gain control over his or her thoughts, emotions and reactions.
One of the most important signs to look for when determining whether your child may benefit from meeting with a psychologist is sudden and unexplained changes in their social patterns. Again, we all go through changes, but there is typically an explanation for them, and these changes must be healthy.
If your child has, in a few short weeks, gone from being a social butterfly and straight-A student who is part of several clubs to a total sullen recluse who’s failing one test after another, chances are there’s a larger problem at work here.
While the other issues on this list are more given to shades of grey, this one is much more black and white.
If your child expresses thoughts of or has an idolisation of suicide, get help immediately. Any risk of ‘overreacting’ pales in comparison to the risks posed by the alternative. It’s never too late. Take the time to consider these and other warning signs in determining whether your child might benefit from a meeting with a child psychologist.
Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.