can be an effective part of the treatment for several psychiatric
disorders of childhood and adolescence. A doctor's recommendation
to use medication often raises many concerns and questions
in both the parents and the youngster. The physician who recommends
medication should be experienced in treating psychiatric illnesses
in children and adolescents. He or she should fully explain
the reasons for medication use, what benefits the medication
should provide, as well as unwanted side-effects or dangers
and other treatment alternatives.
medication should not be used alone. As undertaking a
medication trial may mean adjusting doses of medicine over
time and/or the use of additional medications to meet an individual
youngster's needs, the use of medication should be part of
a comprehensive treatment plan, usually including psychotherapy,
as well as parent guidance sessions.
recommending any medication, the child and adolescent psychiatrist
interviews the youngster and makes a thorough diagnostic evaluation.
In some cases, the evaluation may include a physical exam,
psychological testing, laboratory tests, other medical tests
such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) or electroencephalogram
(EEG) , and consultation with other medical specialists.
and adolescent psychiatrists stress that medications which
have beneficial effects also have unwanted side effects, ranging
from just annoying to very serious. As each youngster is different
and may have individual reactions to medication, close contact
with the treating physician is recommended. Do not stop or
change a medication without speaking to the doctor. Psychiatric
medication should be used as part of a comprehensive plan
of treatment, with ongoing medical assessment and,
in most cases, individual and/or family psychotherapy.
When prescribed appropriately by a psychiatrist (preferably
a child and adolescent psychiatrist), and taken as prescribed,
medication may reduce or eliminate troubling symptoms and
improve the daily functioning of children and adolescents
with psychiatric disorders.
may be prescribed for psychiatric symptoms and disorders,
including, but not limited to:
it persists regularly after age 5 and causes serious problems
in low self-esteem and social interaction.
(school refusal, phobias, separation or social fears, generalized
anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorders)-if it keeps
the youngster from normal daily activities.
deficit hyperactivity disorder-marked by a short attention
span, trouble concentrating and restlessness. The child
is easily upset and frustrated, often has problems getting
along with family and friends, and usually has trouble in
disorder-recurring obsessions (troublesome and intrusive
thoughts) and/or compulsions (repetitive behaviors or rituals
such as handwashing, counting, checking to see if doors
are locked) which are often seen as senseless but which
interfere with a youngster's daily functioning.
disorder-lasting feelings of sadness, helplessness,
hopelessness, unworthiness and guilt, inability to feel
pleasure, a decline in school work and changes in sleeping
and eating habits.
disorder-either self-starvation (anorexia nervosa) or
binge eating and vomiting (bulimia), or a combination of
(manic-depressive) disorder-periods of depression alternating
with manic periods, which may include irritability, "high"
or happy mood, excessive energy, behavior problems, staying
up late at night, and grand plans.
include irrational beliefs, paranoia, hallucinations (seeing
things or hearing sounds that don't exist) social withdrawal,
clinging, strange behavior, extreme stubbornness, persistent
rituals, and deterioration of personal habits. May be seen
in developmental disorders, severe depression, schizoaffective
disorder, schizophrenia, and some forms of substance abuse.
other pervasive developmental disorder such as Asperger's
Syndrome)-characterized by severe deficits in social interactions,
language, and/or thinking or ability to learn, and usually
diagnosed in early childhood.
aggression-which may include assaultiveness, excessive
property damage, or prolonged self-abuse, such as head-banging
problems-symptoms can include insomnia, night terrors,
sleep walking, fear of separation, anxiety.
information about psychiatric medications see Facts for Families:
#29 Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents: Part
II-Types of Medications, and
#51 Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents:
Part III-Questions to Ask.
information see Facts for Families:
#00 Definition of a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist,
#25 Know Where to Seek Help for Your Child, and
#52 Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation.
See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your
Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).
#21 Updated 11/99