Since October is Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s only natural that we discuss the most common mental health illnesses in adopted children. By doing this, we can help break away from the notion that having a child with a mental health illness is not normal and that it is more work as a parent. Destroying these barriers will, in turn, help ease the minds of prospective adoptive parents and allow them to reap the benefits of a broader network of support. Adoption Choices of Nevada is happy to provide any and all resources, and answer any questions you may have on this subject.
Common Mental Health Illnesses
Research suggests that adopted children are at greater risk for illnesses like these:
- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Others include but are not limited to: depressive disorders and attachment issues. These terms can sound complex and scary, but remember that the field of medicine constantly changes. It’s all too easy to latch on to the negative stigmas circulating and assume that you will encounter that, too. But that’s not always the case. Adoption alone does not cause your child to have a mental health illness.
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Some people believe that being adopted means you’re automatically going to suffer from some type of behavioral disorder. Yet, there is no conclusive evidence saying this. Adoption has nothing to do with why your child developed a disorder like ADHD. In fact, research is still being conducted on this condition’s cause. Thus far, scientists speculate that ADHD is an inherited disease stemming mainly from the paternal side. Other risk factors include: prenatal alcohol exposure, prematurity or even exposure to lead poisoning. ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in children during grade school. Statistics show that while boys are more often diagnosed with ADHD, girls experience more of the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms. Regardless, ADHD is often characterized by the following:
- Frequent daydreaming
- Trouble completing tasks
- Impulsivity (such as the inability to wait in lines)
Like any medical condition, ADHD requires a medical diagnosis accompanied by different behavioral tests. Doctors also recommend waiting until your child is school-age for a formal diagnosis.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
Children often exhibit disobedient behavior on different levels, so how do you know when there’s a real behavioral problem like Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)? The signs of ODD can manifest in different ways. Yet, the more common symptoms include: rebellion against parents, stubborn behavior, and refusal to obey authority figures. It’s also possible for an adopted child with ODD to be especially resistant to change and the word, “no.” If no is a trigger for your child, they may display outbursts that can make you feel helpless as a parent. If you find yourself in these circumstances, you can try to be as flexible of parent as possible and remember that it’s okay to walk away when you need a break.
Sometimes, ODD is the result of your child feeling like they are not in control, which leads to panic. In this situation, you can learn de-escalation techniques to help them cope. Research suggests it best to avoid the conflict altogether and redirect your child onto something else. One of the ways you can escape the conflict altogether is by creating a schedule or routine for your child to follow. If a fight ensues anyway, you can attempt to redirect your child’s focus to a different task or future goal/reward.
Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
It’s natural for parents to want to spend a lot of time with their children. But what if your child becomes increasingly upset and hesitant when it’s time for school? Should that be a cause for concern? As aforementioned, adopted children can be at risk for attachment disorders, especially when they’ve experienced a major trauma or constant change to their environment. One such condition to be aware of is Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
SAD can appear at an early age in children and can prevent them from reaching important developmental milestones. Unfortunately, SAD is twice as common in girls than boys, and can cause your child a great amount of stress. Children exhibiting the signs of SAD may not want to participate in social activities without a parent there or even go to sleep on their own. As a result, homesickness and nightmares can occur.
If you feel your child is experiencing a higher level of separation anxiety than normal, you can choose to have them evaluated by a professional for SAD. The treatment can include things like parental education (which Adoption Choices of Nevada can help with) or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
Mental Health Illnesses in Adopted Children
Choosing to adopt a infant who develops a mental health illness is not a reflection of you or your parenting skills. With the right amount of support and education, you can help your child grow into a healthy adult. Having a mental health illness is not an end-all-be-all diagnosis, and doesn’t mean that your child will always struggle. It is our mission and goal to make sure that families have the right tools and support they need to have a wonderful life!
Adoption Choices of Nevada
If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Nevada. You may visit the website here or contact us by 775-825-4673 (Reno Office) or 702-474-4673 (Las Vegas Office). Our hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm PST.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Desiree (Desi) Pohl is eager to start her career in writing! A Colorado native and adoptee herself, she lives, works and goes to school online from home. Desi received her BA in Communications in December of 2018 from Grand Canyon University and is currently a full-time online graduate student working towards her MA in English.
The majority of her writing thus far has centered around research papers for school; though, at one point, she created and managed a blog called “PTSD Me” that allowed her to share her personal experiences with others. She enjoys writing short stories and articles focused on women and family issues, mental and physical health, and wellness. Desi has said that it’s important for her writing to reach readers on a personal level, and she loves sharing her own story in hopes it will make a difference to others!
She aspires to become a writer or editor first and foremost when she’s finished with school. When she’s not writing articles or working on homework, Desi enjoys spending time with her husband and three dogs. Being in Colorado, they are a family who loves the outdoors. She’s been a swimmer most of her life and is currently training for her first open-water marathon swim next year at Lake Tahoe!
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Castles, Thomas. “Doing Your Best for Your Adopted Child with ODD.” Embrella Blog, 9 Sept. 2015, http://foster-adoptive-kinship-family-services-nj.org/adopted-child-with-odd/.
Lehman, James. “Oppositional Defiant Children: Why ‘No’ Sets Them Off.” Empowering Parents, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/why-the-word-no-sets-off-an-oppositional-defiant-child/.
Park, Madison. “Adopted Children at Greater Risk for Mental Health Disorders.” CNN, Cable News Network, 14 Apr. 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/13/children.adoption.mental.health/index.html.
Yasgur, Batya Swift. “Beyond Normal Attachment: Managing Childhood Separation Anxiety Disorder.” Psychiatry Advisor, 28 Jan. 2019, https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/child-adolescent-psychiatry/beyond-normal-attachment-managing-childhood-separation-anxiety-disorder/.