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Abuse and children's mental health

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May is mental health awareness month. Children can suffer from the same mood disorders that adults do. Bi-polar disorder, anxiety, and depression are the most heard of. Symptoms can be exclusive to the disorder. A general listing follows and symptoms would be present for two weeks or more:
• Sadness
• Hopelessness
• Feelings of inadequacy
• Irritability
• Suicidal thinking or thoughts of dying
• Fatigue
• Trouble engaging in relationships
• Trouble engaging in daily tasks
• Difficulty concentrating
• Mania
• Academic impairment

Some factors that may cause mood disorders are genetics, abnormalities in the brain circuits involving emotional processing, chronic stress or medical illness, and isolation. So while some people are genetically predisposed to a disorder, other people come to them by outside factors. It’s important to note that stress and isolation can be contributing factors. Living with an abuser is both stressful and isolating. Even if the children are not the ones suffering the abuse.

Often a victim may think that the children are not being affected by the abuse. Statistic show this is not the truth. Psychcentral.com states that children living in a home with spousal abuse have a six times greater chance of committing suicide. Their findings also show they have a 50% greater chance of abusing drugs or alcohol.

There is a level of denial in the victim that abuse is occurring. However this denial does not exist in children. They see the abuse, they hear the incidents, and they see the effect the abuse has on the victim. Children are sensitive and can feel the tension in the home. They learn by watching the adults that the abuse is not supposed to be talked about. Often times if they bring up the abusive incident the victim denies that it happened or minimizes the incident. This can cause the child to begin to question their sense of security and reality.

Adult victims are capable of seeking out support and help for themselves in dealing with the abuse they are suffering from. Children don’t have the capability to reach out for these resources. They are often the unheard victims of living with abuse in the household. The abused parent can be overwhelmed with his or her own mental disorders and perhaps not be aware of the developing mental health issues in the children.

If you see some of these symptoms in your child or are concerned about the abuse going on in your home it’s important to educate yourself about the different kinds of abuse, symptoms of abuse, and recovery options. Counseling for the child as well as yourself is an integral part of managing and maintaining mental health. Adolescent counselors and family counselors are available in the yellow pages. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or go to http://www.thehotline.org/ to find resources to help your family.

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