Category Archives: Children

Recent Trends In Mental Health And Psychiatry

New studies continue to be conducted and published to better the practice of psychiatry and improve mental health. Here are some of the more important trends in the field that have come out in the past year.

First is an update in the guideline on dealing with mild cognitive impairment or MCI. This study was published by the American Academy of Neurology just last February. This new guideline stresses the importance of proper MCI diagnosis, to assess for reversible causes which in turn would help families and patients themselves better understand the condition and deal with it. Included in this guideline is the discussion of prognostic implications on the risk of dementia, as well as recommending neuropsychological testing as soon as a patient is tested positive for MCI.

                               Image source:

A study done in November 2018 looked at primary care records in England, matching young people between the ages of 10 and 19 who had episodes of self-harm with a group that doesn’t have any. Those who had instances of self-harm (which refers to non-suicidal self-injury or attempt) were proven to be three times more likely to pass away from unnatural causes. This study emphasizes the importance of seeking professional help and treatment for children and adolescents who have had an episode of self-harm.

                                      Image source:

Last is the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for treating ADHD among adults. MBCT combines mindfulness meditation in a clinical setting with aspects of cognitive therapy. The trial done in the Netherlands showed that, compared with the control group, patients were given MBCT had their core ADHD reduced and the effects maintained for six months. This study is showing that, while still requiring further testing, MBCT is proving to be an effective treatment for ADHD.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is certified in both general and child/adolescent psychiatry. He is an elected fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. For more insights on mental health, check out this link.


Kid Gloves? Easing Children Into Learning Independence

Parents are often preoccupied with the “now” of childcare, and it is forgivable that foresight is lost in the melee of fulfilling their child’s daily needs. There are, meanwhile, forward-looking measures integrated into daily routines that can (almost) reassure parents their children will pick up the virtue of independence. These neither have to be harsh nor uptight.

Image source :

Teaching a child independence starts with the small chores. So-called “over-parenting,” the tendency to tolerate children’s every caprice, or to perform tasks—down to the minute ones of the daily routine—has been seen in direct opposition to austere and strict parenting. It is assumed that this more understanding stance produces an environment of warmth and affection children will fondly look back on and will help them grow in love as adults.

While this parenting style does produce, in later years, memories of a loved childhood, it also neglects to teach children basic skills and initiative. Parents who have “over-done” their jobs might be hard-pressed to get their children to clean their rooms, for instance, or have them help around the house by simply picking up after themselves. This could end in frustration for parents, who might find themselves nagging their children in the future to adopt these habits of independence.

Image source :

One school of thought advises parents to take themselves out of the equation from time to time: summer camps are excellent examples of leaving children to their own devices in certain situations. These environments cultivate habits of independence through a peer environment. As long as the activities therein speak to the child’s passions and interests, he or she will find a way to get along, abide by the camp’s rules and expected responsibilities, and get a taste of life without too much supervision.

Another way is to simply be uncompromising about it. Parents should learn to delegate some household chores to their kids and make them realize that reward or punishment shouldn’t be the motivation in accomplishing tasks. The ultimate lesson is that independence the normal way of life.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, who is certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry. A clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York, he also runs a private practice in Manhattan. For more articles on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.

Depression and teen video game addiction: Encouraging friendships could be key

Video gaming is subject to bad raps for supposedly inducing among teenagers addictive playing. But while playing for more than four hours could be a cause for concern, it is not a plain and simple indication of depression.

The link between depressive symptoms and excessive playing must not be ignored, however. New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals that the effects of game addiction could be tempered by the use of mobile applications and social media platforms in aid of socialization. The facilitation of socialization and formation of friendships online could be instrumental in warding off depressive symptoms. This led researchers to claim that not all video game addicts are vulnerable to depression. Gamers (mostly boys) who interact with their peers through such platforms then display better-adjusted behavior.

Image source:

The study comes on the heels of frequent research on compulsive video gaming, which is recognized as a modern psychological disorder. Rehabilitation centers for video game addicts have come into existence, while children, teenagers, and young adults are the focus of most research. Common observations derive a link between aversion to socialization and increased propensity for habitual gaming. Longitudinal studies to the effect have been undertaken in countries such as China and Singapore, with respondents observed for manifestations of anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms.

Image source:

While the link between these psychological issues and video gaming remains tenuous, parents are reminded that compulsive playing remains an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Gamers should be taught early on the balance between doing what they love and living life without a controller in their hands.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist with a celebrated career spanning several positions in various organizations, most recently as the director of ambulatory behavioral health services and associate professor of psychiatry at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. For more reads similar to this, visit this blog.

Beyond Imaginary Friends: Signs And Treatment Of Schizophrenia In Childhood

Schizophrenia is a rare but severe medical illness that usually manifests in adulthood. But the onset and its early warning signs may appear during childhood and adolescence.

Diagnosing schizophrenia is very difficult because of its rare manifestation in children under age 13, and because the symptoms are similar to autism and conduct disorder. Ruling out the latter disorders, which are more common among children, is the first step to a prognosis for schizophrenia. Some early indications of the disease are language delays, unusual motor behaviors, and hearing voices that are not real.

Image source:
Image source:

The disease progresses in puberty, at which point an adolescent may recognize that their experiences are a cause for concern. Signs of a developing psychosis are hallucinations, disorganized thinking or bizarre thoughts, paranoia, severe anxiety, confusing movies or dreams from reality, increased isolation, and difficulty in focusing.

Image source:
Image source:

Children and adolescents showing these symptoms must be evaluated by a specialist immediately for early diagnosis. The disease can be managed with medication, individual and family therapy, specialized programs, and life skills training.

Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a certified psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He runs a private practice in Manhattan and holds a clinic at the Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York. For more articles on child and adolescent mental health, subscribe here.

Striking The Balance: The Importance Of Praising Children

Image Source:
Image Source:

There are two schools of thought when it comes to praising children. The first is that too much praise can cause children to grow up undisciplined and proud, expecting recognition in everything they wish to pursue. The second is that constant praise develops the child’s self-esteem, making him or her grow confident and adapted to deal with the everyday challenges of life. For years, mental health experts have studied the correlation between praise received during childhood and personal success in adult years.

Several studies have been made on the subeject. Most of the research, however, conclude that temperance is the way to go. That is, parents need to strike a balance between what is too much and too little praise; either extremes could pose detriments to the child. Children who receive enough praise tend to be more socially aware and are often reported to have better interpersonal skills. On the other hand, too much praise can encourage the child to be an underachiever or lack motivation – since he or she will be praised regardless of what he or she does.

Image Source:
Image Source:

Psychologists have then given a few suggestions on how to properly praise a child. These include being sincere and specific with the praise and using descriptive language that defines realistic and attainable standards. To be clear, general praise (e.g. you are so smart, you are great, etc.) is also helpful, but children respond better when specifics are rewarded (e.g. I love it when you did this, you are really good in math, etc.) Children have a tendency to want to meet their parent’s expectations so they will develop behaviors and attitudes that earn rewards, either through language (i.e. praise) or gestures (i.e. gifts).

Dr. Jonathan Lauter specializes in general child and adolescent psychiatry. His practice focuses on helping a child develop into a happy and mentally healthy adult. Learn more about child and adolescent psychology by liking this Facebook page.