Now shy children face risk of being given mental-health drugs... with 650,000 youngsters already on Ritalin
- Experts fear widespread use of powerful medications
- Hyperactive children already being treated with drugs
By Emily Allen
Last updated at 1:30 PM on 15th September 2011
Children who are shy or considered moody run the risk of being diagnosed with mental illnesses and given powerful drugs like Prozac, psychologists have warned.
Experts said mental health diagnoses are likely to increase from 2013 as new guidelines on the definition of mental illness are being drawn up in America and are likely to be replicated in Britain.
Psychologists in the UK fear school-age children could be diagnosed with mental illnesses like 'social anxiety disorder' if they are quieter among their peers, or depression if a child is temporarily sad or is battling bereavement.
Common problems among children such as shyness could be regarded as a mental illness psychologists have warned
Meanwhile, youngsters who appear to lose their temper easily or answer back to adults could be classed as having 'oppositional defiant disorder'.
Once diagnosed, psychologists say children are likely to be treated with powerful drugs like Prozac or Ritalin to curb their behaviour - without fully understanding the long-term impacts.
Ritalin is already used to help control attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in youngsters under six and about 650,000 children aged between eight and 13 have also been prescribed the drug or an equivalent.
MENTAL ILLNESS OR COMMON PROBLEM?
Social anxiety disorder: Where someone is fearful or anxious about social situations where they might be exposed to scrutiny by others.
They might be fearful of situations including having a conversation, being watched, or performing in front of other people.
Youngsters may react by clinging on to adults, crying, or refusing to speak in social situations.
Oppositional defiant disorder: If youngsters lose their tempter or argue with adults or are 'spiteful or vindictive at least twice within six months to others' - not their siblings.
Earlier this week, the TUC called for an investigation into the use of mental health drugs among school-age children and voted to see more research into their long-term impacts.
Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, told The Daily Telegraph: 'Behaviours develop over a long period of time, often with a range of complex causes; we can’t "cure" the behaviours we don’t like with a quick fix of medicine.
'They usually require careful management by all the adults around the child.'
She said parents need to take time and energy to help their children deal with their problems and warned it was tempting to opt for a drug which would be quick to change their behaviour.
The British Psychological Society is also concerned about the new guidelines and said pigeon-holing problems as 'illnesses' ignores the wider causes.