Psychological testing can be used to evaluate and identify a variety of issues in children and adolescents including the potential for Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without Hyperactivity); learning disabilities; Autism spectrum disorders; psychological issues including depression, anxiety, and mood disorders; disruptive behavior; social and relational difficulties; and even giftedness.
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GENERAL & SPECIFIC ANXIETIES
Anxiety and depression in children are completely treatable conditions, but unfortunately 80% of children with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not receiving treatment, and an even greater number are not being diagnosed correctly. Anxiety encompasses a wide spectrum of behaviors in children, adolescents, and young adults, from general to specific.
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Mood disorders describe a category of illnesses that is signified by a serious change—a drastic elevation or depression—of one’s mood. Several industry resources include under this umbrella major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder (mania - euphoric, hyperactivity, inflated ego, unrealistic optimism), persistent depressive disorder (characterized by long lasting low grade depression), cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder), and SAD (seasonal affective disorder) However, in diagnosing mood disorders in children and adolescents, it is important to be as specific as possible so as to avoid misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment. Only those trained specifically in child and adolescent clinical psychology should attempt to do so. Mood disorders in adolescents if untreated may put them at risk for other conditions including anxiety disorder, disruptive behavior, and substance abuse disorders, which could persist even long after initial episodes of depression are identified and seemingly resolved.
Depression is characterized by a persistent sense of sadness, loss, and lack of motivation. If left untreated in children and teens, depression can often continue into adulthood and even lead to more serious issues later in life. Depression manifests itself in different ways in children depending on their age and temperament. Some children will refuse to go to school, become unusually clingy to parents, or exhibit sings of irritability. Older children may act out, especially during times of significant personal changes, and frequently this causes co-occurring issues with anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even contemplation of, or attempts at, suicide.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings, causing periods of intense happiness known as manic episodes, which are offset by down periods of extreme sadness and depression. While it is not entirely known what causes bipolar disorder, it tends to run in families, so children and adolescents of adults with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience those symptoms themselves. Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose in children, and should be done with care to ensure that the episodes identified as ups and downs are clearly distinguishable from their normal changes in mood.
LIFE TRANSITIONS - YOUNG ADULTS
As young adults move from adolescence into adulthood, they experience a wide array of “firsts,” while simultaneously discovering who they are and making decisions as individuals for the first time in their lives. While experiencing these intense period of discovery, children and adolescents can respond very differently. In many cases, they benefit from the help of professional with an outside, objective perspective, to ensure they transition in a way that is healthy and specific to their desires and goals.