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Warning signs of abnormal mental development | Health


Depending on the person’s age, abnormal mental development can take different forms. Abnormal mental development can manifest in various ways depending on the individual and the specific condition they may be experiencing.

Warning signs of abnormal mental development (Photo by Sebastian Pandelache on Unsplash)
Warning signs of abnormal mental development (Photo by Sebastian Pandelache on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Rohini Rajeev, Senior Psychotherapist and Founder of The Able Mind, insisted, “It is important for parents to understand and accept that developmental milestones(cognitive, emotional/social, speech/language, motor skills etc.) differ from growth milestones(physical parameters) and most children fall within a range. While infrequent minor developmental delays should not be a cause for alarm, frequent, multiple and significant developmental milestone delays should be paid attention to. Noticing developmental delays in their child can be upsetting and challenging for parents.”

According to her, following are a few signs to watch out for so that early interventions can be initiated, especially in case of neurodevelopmental delays and the child can be supported and parents guided appropriately:

  • Sudden and continuing change in behaviour
  • Not responding when called and not maintaining eye contact
  • Lack of facial expressions and expressing shyness negatively
  • Lack of social interaction: The child does not show interest in social interactions with other people, prolonged avoidance of any interactions, not smiling, or responding to others’ attempts to communicate.

With respect to adolescents, Dr Vrushali Bichkar, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist at Motherhood Hospital in Pune’s Lullanagar, cautioned to watch out for these warning signs of abnormal mental development –

• Feeling sad or low: In case the child tends to feel sad for no reason then it might be due to depression or any other mental illness.

• Confused thinking or inability to concentrate: Having these red flags will indicate that you need to see the therapist without any delay.

• Feeling worried or guilty: If you are often worried or keep feeling guilty then you need to take care of your mental well-being.

• Extreme mood changes and withdrawal from the activities that you loved doing previously mean there are problems with your mental well-being. The child may be happy but at the very next moment, he/she can get angry or sad.

• Tiredness: If you often feel tired and are unable to do your daily activities with ease then you need to be aware. Unusual tiredness will indicate that something is wrong with you.

• Lack of ability to cope with the stress of exams or peer pressure will also indicate a problem with mental health.

• Suicidal thinking: If you feel like ending your life then it also means that there is some problem with you. You may be stressed, anxious, or depressed due to issues such as bullying, failure in exams, or family problems. You need to seek timely intervention without any delay.

In infants and toddlers, Dr Sudha Saini, Paediatrician at Apollo 24/7 and Apollo Hospitals in Noida, highlighted these warning signs to look out for:

1. Delayed or lack of development of motor skills, such as crawling, walking, and speaking.

2. Lack of interest in toys or other objects.

3. Poor eye contact or difficulty in following objects with the eyes.

4. Excessive crying or difficulty in calming down.

5. Failure to respond to sounds or voices.

6. Repetitive behaviours, such as rocking or spinning.

In children and adolescents, Dr Sudha Saini listed:

1. Difficulty in learning and retaining new information.

2. Difficulty in paying attention or staying focused.

3. Lack of interest in social interactions or relationships.

4. Aggressive or impulsive behaviour.

5. Withdrawal from family and friends.

6. Mood swings or emotional instability.

7. Sleep disturbances or changes in appetite.

Dr Sudha Saini said, “It is important to note that some of these behaviours can be normal at certain ages and stages of development, but if they persist or interfere with daily functioning, it may be a cause for concern. If you are concerned about a child’s mental development, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.”

As per Dr Himani Narula, Developmental Behavioural Paediatrician, Co-Founder and Director at Continue Kids, here are some common warning signs that may indicate abnormal mental development in children:

  1. Delayed speech and language skills
  2. Difficulty with social interactions and making friends
  3. Lack of interest in play or limited play skills
  4. Repetitive behaviours or obsessive interests
  5. Difficulty with learning and academic skills
  6. Poor memory or attention span
  7. Hyperactivity or impulsivity
  8. Unusual responses to sensory input, such as sensitivity to light or sound
  9. Self-injurious behaviours or aggression towards others
  10. Unusual mood swings or emotional outbursts

She concluded, “It is important to note that these signs may not necessarily indicate a developmental disorder or delay, and that each child develops at their own pace. However, if you are concerned about your child’s development or notice persistent signs that seem to be impacting their daily life, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or mental health provider for further evaluation and support.”


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