- About Us
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Although most children can, at times, be restless and inattentive, for children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), these issues may be severe, persistent and impairing. Youth diagnosed with ADHD display behaviours that cause difficulty in multiple areas, including at home, in school or with friends. ADHD is more common in boys than girls.
Children with a conduct disorder do not respect authority, have little regard for the basic rights of others and break major societal rules. Conduct Disorder behaviour can occur in a variety of settings and can cause difficulties at home, in school and within the community. The cause of Conduct Disorder is believed to be a combination of genetic vulnerability and environmental factors, including the home situation. Treatment plans may include behavioural therapy and pharmacotherapy (drug treatments).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions that children feel unable to control and that are severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily life. Obsessions are repeated unwanted thoughts, while compulsions are repeated and purposeless behaviours that are performed to relieve the anxiety caused by the obsessive thoughts. Unlike adults, children do not always have the necessary skills or life experience to recognize that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. When obsessive thoughts become so frequent or intense or rituals become so extensive that they interfere with daily life, a diagnosis of OCD is considered.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), a manifestation of Conduct Disorder, is characterized by a recurrent pattern of defiant, disobedient and hostile behaviour towards authority figures that seriously interferes with day-to-day functioning and persists for at least six months. All children are oppositional from time to time, and oppositional behaviour is often a normal part of development for two to three year olds and early adolescents. However, a diagnosis of ODD is considered when the behaviour is so frequent and consistent that it stands out when compared with other children of the same age and developmental level and when it affects social, family and academic life. These symptoms are usually seen in multiple settings, but may be more noticeable at home or at school.
Psychosomatic Illness (Somatoform Disorder)
Sometimes a child or adolescent continually complains of a discomfort or a pain for which a physician cannot find a cause. The pain or the discomfort, however, is very real to them. Physical complaints with no apparent medical basis may be a reflection of stress, such as nervousness in a social situation, a demanding school setting or separation from parents. Stress, as it affects the body and the mind, has an effect on some illnesses and can influence how children or adolescents perceive the symptoms of the illness, how they deal with the illness and the rate of recovery.
* With the hormonal changes of puberty, many of these symptoms, including anxiety and worry, fatigue, loss of appetite, and aches and pains, are more commonly felt by girls.
Specific Phobias, a form of anxiety, is an intense fear of a specific object or situation that’s generally considered harmless by most people. Most youth outgrow common childhood fears such as fear of the dark, fear of monsters or fear of being left alone. For some children and teens, however, fears can become severe. If a fear is excessive, it may be a phobia. Symptoms of Specific Phobias may develop as young as age five, especially phobias related to the natural environment, such as spiders, darkness, loud noises, animals or bodily injury. Older children often develop fears of needles, natural events (such as fires or earthquakes), heights, escalators or enclosed spaces. While teens and adults with phobias realize that these fears are irrational, younger children may not be able to recognize that their fears are excessive or unreasonable. Phobias are different from usual fears: they are irrational, don’t decrease with reassurance and interfere with a child’s life.
Adolescence is a time for adventure and experimentation. Many teenagers try alcohol or drugs at least once, and most do not develop a problem. But, not all children and adolescents escape the dangers as easily. Instead, they are at risk for developing serious substance-use disorders. It is important to know that using a substance once or twice is not a substance disorder. To qualify as a substance disorder, the effects of alcohol or drug use must have a serious, negative impact on the user’s life.
Trichotillomania (TTM) is a disorder that causes individuals to pull out the hair from their scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or other parts of the body, resulting in noticeable bald patches. TTM is currently defined as an impulse-control disorder, but there are still questions about how it should be classified. It may seem, at times, to resemble a habit, an addiction, a tic disorder or an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many people with TTM also have symptoms of OCD, such as compulsive counting, checking or washing, so TTM is considered by some to be a subtype or variant of OCD.
Schizophrenia is characterized by the distorted thinking associated with delusions and hallucinations. It may have a gradual onset, with symptoms of withdrawal and disordered language (difficulty with verbal or written expression), or it can have a sudden onset in adolescence. Evidence suggests that schizophrenia is due to an inherited biochemical abnormality in the brain. Schizophrenia is one of the most baffling, troubling and potentially dangerous of the mental disorders because it seems so unbelievable. When a person has schizophrenia (psychosis), his or her brain does not process information in the usual way, making it impossible to control thinking or behaviour. In the most severe stage, a person with schizophrenia has difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality, and has thoughts of hurting him or herself or someone else. Treatment includes medication, such as neuroleptics, to alleviate the painful and intrusive thoughts, and structured programs and education for the youngster and family to improve daily functioning.
Depression in children and teenagers is different from the feelings of sadness and other everyday emotions that most children experience. Depressed children are sorrowful beyond the range of normal sadness. Depressed children do not necessarily have the same signs and symptoms as adults. If a child or teenager’s symptoms become persistent, disruptive and interfere with social activities, interests, schoolwork and family life, he or she may be depressed. Depression is most likely due to an inherited predisposition to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Effective treatments include medication and cognitive behaviour therapy.
Dysthymia is a disorder similar to clinical depression. Although it is less severe, dysthymia tends to be chronic and longer lasting. Major depression lasts at least two weeks, but chronic dysthymic disorder lasts a year or longer, and seems to characterize the child's temperament or personality. A "down mood" is a pervasive part of the child’s life. Dysthymia involves long-term, chronic symptoms that are not disabling, but keep the child from functioning well or from feeling good.
Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depression, is characterized by intense, persistent mood swings between the poles of depression and mania. These moods are greatly intensified or clearly different from the youngster's usual personality and are far out of proportion to events in the environment in intensity and/or duration. The youngster experiences the typical signs of both depression (helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness) and mania (grandiosity and exuberance) over a period of anywhere from several days to several months. Bipolar Disorder can cause serious disruption to one's life. The disorder may be genetic and caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication is successful in moderating the symptoms.
Autism Disorders Spectrum
Autistic Disorder and Asperger's Disorder are the two most common forms of the Autism Disorders Spectrum (ASD). Children with these disorders have difficulty accomplishing developmental tasks entailing social language, communication and socialization. The diagnosis of Autistic Disorder is generally made between birth and 30 months of age, whereas the diagnosis of Asperger's Disorder is generally made later in a child's life. Although the disorder is present from birth, some youngsters may not be diagnosed until they enter school or some may have been given another diagnosis because they are developing normally in some areas of life. These disorders appear to have a genetic cause. Treatment can include a combination of medications and specialized training to develop and improve acquisition of necessary skills.
Signs and Symptoms
Although people with Asperger's Disorder are of average or high intelligence, with no significant language problems, they have difficulties with social interaction.
Eating and Body Disorders
People with anorexia are obsessed with food, weight and body shape. They struggle to maintain a weight that is far below normal for their age and height.
Binge-eating disorder, sometimes called compulsive overeating, is a serious disorder in which a person frequently eats unusually large amounts of food, often in secret. People with binge-eating disorder may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and decide to stop, but they feel such a compulsion that they cannot resist the urge to eat. A binge usually lasts about two hours — though some experts say binges can last an entire day — and involves eating a larger amount of food than most people would eat under similar situations (e.g., eating 10,000 to 20,000 calories worth of food during a binge, while someone following a normal diet may eat 1,500 to 3,000 calories in a day). After a binge, a person may try to diet or eat normal meals. But restricting eating may simply lead to more binge eating, creating a vicious cycle. Treatment can help binge eaters win back control and overcome secret shame.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
While many people spend a lot of time and effort on appearance, individuals with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) are beset by a more extreme version of normal appearance concerns. BDD is characterized by a time-consuming and potentially disabling preoccupation with imagined or slight defects in one's appearance or excessive concern about a slight physical anomaly. To meet the criteria for this diagnosis, the preoccupation must cause significant distress or impair school, personal or social functioning. Although virtually any body part can become the source of preoccupation, BDD most commonly involves the eyes, ears, nose, skin, chin, jaw or other facial features.
Bulimia is a type of eating disorder in which the person is preoccupied with weight and body shape, and often judges him/herself harshly for perceived shortcomings. People with bulimia engage in episodes of overeating (at home or they may visit fast-food restaurants, secretly eating in the car). Then they try to rid themselves of the extra calories with self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise. Binges often occur in private. Because most people with bulimia are of normal weight or even slightly overweight, it may not be readily apparent that something is wrong. Bulimia is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. Because it is not just about food but about self-image, it can be difficult to overcome. The aim of treatment is to help individuals develop a more realistic view of themselves, feel better about themselves, adopt healthier eating patterns and reverse serious complications.
Compulsive Skin Picking
Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP), also known as dermatillomania, is an impulse disorder characterized by repetitive picking at one’s own skin to the point of causing damage. CSP has obsessive-compulsive features that are quite similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Trichotillomania. It is sometimes found in individuals with these disorders, as well as in patients with certain medical conditions. CSP has negative effects on a person's life: individuals with CSP take measures to hide their disorder by not leaving home, avoiding social contact, wearing long sleeves and pants in summer, and using heavy make-up for coverage. The disorder is more typically found among females than males.
Stress and Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is a natural human emotion; everyone feels anxious or worried at times. Many young children are frightened by the dark, have a variety of bedtime rituals and can get anxious at times of separation from a parent. However, a youngster who experiences anxiety more strongly and more readily than others and worries excessively to a degree that interferes with his or her life may have an Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety in children and teenagers can arise because of separation, fears, something catastrophic happening, being judged, worrying about things before they happen, worrying about getting a perfect score on a test, or being in school or in social situations. Anxiety is a complex emotion, and its signs and symptoms may be manifested in different ways.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Children with separation anxiety disorder (SAD) have intense anxiety about being away from home or caregivers, which affects their ability to function socially and in school. These children may cling to parents, refuse to go to school or be afraid to sleep alone.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have recurring fears and worries that they find difficult to control. They worry about almost everything — school, sports, being on time, even natural disasters. They may be restless, irritable, tense or easily tired, and they may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Children with GAD are usually eager to please others and may be perfectionists, dissatisfied with their own less-than-perfect performance.
Young people with this disorder are extremely shy and have a constant fear of social or performance situations such as speaking in class or eating in public. They respond to these feelings by avoiding the feared situation. This fear is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath or muscle tenseness. Young people with Social Phobia are often overly sensitive to criticism, have trouble being assertive and suffer from low self-esteem. Social phobia can be limited to specific situations, so the teenager may fear dating and recreational events, but be confident in academic and work situations.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Children who experience a physical or emotional trauma such as witnessing a shooting or disaster, surviving physical or sexual abuse, or being in a car accident may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A child may develop PTSD after being directly exposed to or witnessing an extreme traumatic situation involving threatened death or serious injury, or after hearing about such an event involving a family member. Victims of repeated abuse or children who live in violent environments or war zones may experience PTSD. Treatment includes community and family support, and psychotherapy.
Acute Stress Disorder
This disorder refers to the immediate reaction of intense fear, helplessness or horror of a person exposed to a traumatic event, during which the person experienced, witnessed or was confronted with a situation involving actual or threatened death or serious injury (e.g, sexual assault or mugging).
Agoraphobia involves intense fear and avoidance of any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable if the individual should develop sudden panic-like symptoms. Examples include being in a car or being in crowds.
Panic Disorder (with or without Agoraphobia)
Panic Disorder (PD) is characterized by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. As a result, people with this disorder feel intense fear when in certain situations or places. Some individuals with PD avoid places where they think panic attacks might occur, or worry about being trapped in places where help might be unavailable if an attack occurred (this is part of Agoraphobia). Young people who have PD with Agoraphobia most often avoid places with large numbers of unfamiliar people, such as school auditoriums, large parties and restaurants.
This refers to an intense, unreasonable fear of a specific object or situation. Some common phobias are animals, flying or lightning.
Selective mutism refers to selective silence in a child who speaks freely in very familiar situations. Children who demonstrate this condition appear comfortable and talkative with close family members. However, whenever people other than the closest family members are present, the child is quiet and shy. Some children avoid eye contact and do not communicate in any form with others. They refrain from the use of gestures or changes in facial expression.
School Refusal Behaviour
School Refusal Behaviour refers to children who are entirely absent or truant from school or who leave during the day. It can be associated with Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia and Conduct Disorder.
Reactive Attachment Disorder
Attachment refers to the intimate bond formed between an infant or very young child and the primary caregiver. This bond, or attachment, is considered vital to the child's emotional development and ability to establish other healthy social relationships. When infants and children under the age of five show disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness and do not initiate or respond to most social interactions, a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder is considered. This disorder develops primarily from the child living in a grossly deprived environment. There may be repeated changes of caregivers or caregivers who persistently disregard the child's physical needs or emotional needs for comfort, stimulation and affection. The physical and emotional milestones of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder deviate from expected developmental norms.
A child with a learning disorder shows difficulty in acquiring age-appropriate competence in reading, mathematics, written expression or social skills. Learning disorders are thought to be due to variations in brain structure and function. Treatment includes the design of individualized learning strategies and modifications in school requirements.
A child with a Reading Disorder reads significantly below the expected level. His oral reading is characterized by distortions, substitutions or omissions; both oral and silent reading is slow and shows comprehension errors. Symptoms such as inability to distinguish among common letters or to associate common phonemes with letter symbols may be apparent as early as kindergarten.
A child with a Mathematics Disorder may have problems in a number of different skills, such as understanding mathematical terms, operations or concepts, recognizing and reading mathematical signs, copying numbers correctly, adding and carrying numbers, observing signs, following sequences of mathematical steps, counting objects, and learning multiplication tables.
Disorder of Written Expression
A child with a Disorder of Written Expression has a combination of difficulties in the ability to compose written text, evidenced by grammatical or punctuation errors, poor paragraph organization, multiple spelling errors, and exceptionally poor handwriting.
Non-verbal Learning Disorder
A child with a Non-verbal Learning Disorder has marked problems with acquiring social skills and usually has both social and academic problems. He or she may fail to interpret the emotional responses of other people and can be insensitive to the wishes and desires of others. Children who have difficulties acquiring social skills should also be evaluated for a pervasive developmental disorder.