Diagnoses & Conditions

Widely used systems of classification of mental health disorders include the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association (current edition is DSM-5) and Chapter V of the tenth International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) produced by the World Health Organization.

Definitions and categorization of mental illness have been contested for centuries.  Clear bright lines between disorders and between "disorder” and “no disorder” cannot be drawn using biological or statistical methods.  Genomic studies suggest that there may be more in common across certain disorders than our current categories recognize.  Some clinicians and scholars argue that categorical definitions of disorders (you have it or you don’t; you have A or you have B) should be replaced by continua.  Continuous definitions of mental health disorders recognize a spectrum of symptoms and impairment or wellness.

Most mental health disorders emerge before young adulthood, and most emerge gradually or with a prodrome.  As pediatric clinicians, you see children with emerging mental health issues long before they will see a mental health specialist.  

With a definition of mental health and a sense of the landscape of mental health disorders, you can recognize symptoms and symptom clusters that may be of concern.

Mental Health:  

The capacity to keep functioning in an imperfect world.

For kids, mental health includes:

  • Learning to regulate feelings and behavior, and tolerate distress
  • Being able to form and maintain relationships 
  • Developing a sense of right and wrong
  • Being able to play and attain developmental milestones

Mental Health Disorders Emerge at Predictable Times in Development

The figure below illustrates the age range in which symptoms of common mental health disorders tend to appear in from infancy to young adulthood. 

The figure below illustrates the same information but includes additional disorders.