There are several common types of mental health disorders amongst children and adolescents, such as the following:

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – This is the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorder that causes trouble paying attention, being overly active, and difficulties controlling impulsive behaviours (resulting in acting without thinking about what the end results will be). ADHD is normally first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. ADHD symptoms may progress to being severe and may cause difficulties at school, at home, or with friends.

Anxiety disorders – This is a mental disorder which causes persistent fear, worry or anxiety, which may disrupt the child's ability to participate in playing with other children, school and other age-appropriate social situations. Other symptoms may include difficulties sleeping, fatigue, headaches and stomachaches. Some children may keep their worries and fears to themselves, thus resulting in the symptoms being missed.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – This is a neurological condition which occurs in early childhood, normally before age three. Signs of autism spectrum disorder include difficulties communicating and interacting with other children. The severity of this condition varies from child to child.

Depression and other mood disorders – Depression is a condition that results in persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest, which may interfere with the child’s ability to interact with other children and function properly at school. Bipolar disorder may cause extreme mood swings between depression and extreme emotional or behavioural highs, which may be unguarded, unsafe and risky.

Schizophrenia – This is a mental disorder which causes a person to lose touch with reality, called psychosis. This disorder normally occurs in the late teens through to the 20s. Schizophrenia signs and symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and disordered thinking and behaviours.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – This is a condition that causes prolonged emotional distress, anxiety, distressing memories, nightmares and disruptive behaviours which may result from violence, abuse, injury or other traumatic events.

How are children and adolescent disorders treated?

Children and adolescent disorders treatment depends on the type of disorder diagnosed, severity and overall health. Dr Matshaya may recommend a combination of psychotherapy and medication to help treat these disorders. Psychotherapy is indicated to help teach children how to talk about their thoughts and feelings, how to respond to them, and how to learn new behaviours and coping skills.


1How can I help my child cope with a mental health disorder?

You need to support your child and do the following:

  • Learn about the mental disorder your child has
  • Consider family counselling
  • Learn how to respond to your child and how to handle difficult behaviour
  • Explore stress management techniques to help respond calmly to your child
  • Praise your child’s strengths and abilities
  • Seek ways to relax and have fun with your child
  • Work with your child’s school to secure the necessary support.
2When do I seek help?

You need to support your child and do the following:

  • Loss of weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent headaches or stomachaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in academic performance
  • Avoiding or missing school
  • Extreme irritability or outbursts
  • Persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in mood, behaviour, or personality
3What must I do when I suspect my child may be suffering from a mental disorder?
You should consult with your healthcare provider, and necessary steps will be taken from there

"Do not only go through pain but grow through pain"





A psychiatrist is a qualified doctor that specialises in the medical treatment of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists can assess both mental and physical aspects of psychological conditions and are able to prescribe appropriate medication.