What does an Adolescent Psychiatrist do?

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A child and adolescent psychiatrist specializes in diagnosing and treating developmental, behavioral, emotional, and mental health disorders in teens and young children. A child and adolescent, or pediatric psychiatrist focuses on the biological, psychological and social components of these disorders. They help children and their families find ways to cope with psychological problems, relationship problems, stress and crises.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist typically:

  • Evaluates your child’s mental, emotional, behavioral and developmental health
  • Performs psychiatric examinations and psychotherapy
  • Orders and interprets laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging exams
  • Prescribes medications
  • Diagnoses and treats depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia, developmental disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse problems

A child and adolescent psychiatrist may also be known as a child psychiatrist or a teen psychiatrist.

Who should see a child and adolescent psychiatrist?

Children and teens who have negative emotions or behaviors that affect their ability to function effectively, or endanger themselves or others should see a child and adolescent psychiatrist. These doctors are experts in child and teen mental health issues. They evaluate and treat young children and teenagers who are having trouble coping with everyday life, coping with a traumatic or shocking event, coping with a loss or the death of a loved one, adjusting to a life change, using drugs or alcohol, or are depressed, anxious or suicidal.

If your child has worrisome symptoms or behaviors, start by talking with your child’s primary care doctor. Your child’s doctor will try to rule out medical causes for his or her problems before recommending a mental health examination. If your child is in a crisis situation, emergency room doctors and crisis centers can help temporarily.

When should your child see a child and adolescent psychiatrist?

Consider seeking care from a child and adolescent psychiatrist if your child develops any of the following behaviors, symptoms or conditions:

  • Changes in eating habits, ungrounded fear of becoming obese, or using laxatives or vomiting to lose weight
  • Decline in school performance, poor grades despite trying hard to succeed, or refusal to go to school or other social withdrawal
  • Frequent physical complaints
  • Frequent, unexplained temper tantrums, severe mood swings, or frequent outbursts of anger or aggression
  • Hyperactivity, constant movement, or inability to pay attention
  • Persistent disobedience, aggression, provocative opposition to authority figures, truancy, theft, or vandalism
  • Refusal to go to sleep, persistent nightmares, or noticeable changes in sleeping habits
  • Repeated use of alcohol or drugs
  • Self-injury, self-destructive behavior (such as head banging), or threatening to harm or kill himself or herself or others
  • Sexual acting out or other unusual behaviors

If you, our child or your family need help coping with psychological and behavioral problems, stress or crises, find an experienced child and teen psychiatrist near you.

What does a child and adolescent psychiatrist treat?

A child psychiatrist treats the following conditions and diseases:

  • Anxiety disorders including panic disorder, panic attacks, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and acute stress disorders
  • Behavioral disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder
  • Developmental disorders including intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, and learning and communication disorders
  • Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder
  • Mood disorders including major depression and bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders including borderline, dependent, and narcissistic personality disorders
  • Psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, paranoia, and delusions
  • Secondary psychiatric disorders including those related to other medical problems, genetics, and environmental exposures such as prenatal drug exposures
  • Substance-related disorders including alcoholism, drug abuse, and substance withdrawal

Other conditions they treat include adjustment disorders, sleep disorders, dissociative disorders, factitious disorders, somatoform disorders, and gender dysphoria.