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CDC Reports That One in Five U.S. Children Suffers from a Mental Disorder

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One in Five U.S. Children Suffers from a Mental Disorder

According to a new federal report, approximately 1 out of 5 American children aged under 17 can be diagnosed with a mental disorder, in a given year. The report was published last Thursday, representing the first comprehensive study done by the government agency in relation to the mental disorders that affect American children. The report, which was conducted by the United States CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services,  is mainly focused on 6 areas of diagnostic:

  • ADHD, or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder,
  • Tourette syndrome,
  • behavioral and conduct disorders,
  • anxiety and mood disorders,
  • autistic spectrum disorders,
  • and disorders caused substance abuse.
Prevalence Chart

Prevalence Chart

According to the report, ADHD the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children and adolescents. Circa 6.8% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 are currently diagnosed with a form of ADHD. Symptoms for the disorder include the difficulty of staying focused, difficulty of behavioral control and hyperactivity. The other areas of diagnostic show smaller percentages of occurrence. Approximately 3.5% of children aged between 3 and 17 are diagnosed with conduct or behavioral disorders. Symptoms include the difficulty of learning, unexplained by intellectual or health problems, the difficulty to create and keep a steady relationship with others and different behavioral types that wouldn’t normally occur in normal circumstances. Anxiety is diagnosed in almost 3% of children, while approximately 2.1% suffer from depression. 1.1% of the children are diagnosed with autism, a disorder defined by diminished social interaction and communication skills, and by restricted and repetitive behavioral patterns. Less than 0.5% of children suffer from Tourrette syndrome. Symptoms of Tourette’s include multiple physical and vocal tics.

The report notes that 4.7% of children and teenagers abused illegal drugs during the previous year, 4.2% abused alcohol and circa 2.8% were regular cigarette smokers, while also showing the differences in mental disorder occurrence classified by gender. According to Ruth Perou, the  leader of the study team, girls are less likely to suffer from mental disorders. Specifically, boys are more liable to develop ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, Tourette’s, anxiety and behavioral problems, and have and increased probability of becoming regular cigarette smokers. On the other hand, girls have an increased probability of becoming alcohol abusers and to suffer from alcohol-related disorders.

Even though this is the first time CDC has compiled a report regarding the prevalence estimates of the most common mental disorders, the agency has done intensive and comprehensive research through multiple population surveys. According to Perou, the prevalence of mental disorders in increasing. The highest prevalence increase was observed in autistic spectrum disorders and in attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders. “We don’t know if it’s due to greater awareness, or if these conditions actually are going up”, said Perou. As a conclusion, Perou reports that the CDC will continue to monitor the prevalence of mental disorders in children due to the fact that an early diagnose can have a great impact on the lives of the children and their families.