Our clinic is seeing an increasing number of children who are having trouble self-regulating their emotions and suffering from different levels of anxiety. Although it is normal for children to express themselves outwardly in a physical manner at times (due in part to the limitations around their vocabulary and undeveloped maturity), it may start to become a problem when the behaviour and/or mood of the child is impacting the rest of the family. Relationships and friendships for these children can become strained and problems can start to spread to other areas of the child’s life including their academic performance, self-esteem and general health and wellbeing.
Behavioural issues and mood disorder in children can manifest in various ways and require a multifaceted approach to treatment. Some of the more obvious signs of behavioural disturbance include:
- Inability to regulate emotions
- Angry outbursts
- Physical episodes (hitting, kicking, throwing)
- Verbal attacks (screaming, using inappropriate language, verbal insults)
- Irritability and intolerance to surrounding people and circumstances
- Desire to control social settings and peers
- Hyper or over-reactivity of various outcomes
Some of the more subtle signs of behaviour or mood disturbance include:
- Withdrawing from surrounding people and environment
- Disconnection or detachment from family and friends
- Tummy pains
- Sadness or low mood
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
Children often do not have the maturity to cope with overwhelming feelings which can lead to meltdowns and outbursts. Physical outbursts provide a quick method of releasing negative energy for children, albeit taxing on parents and carers. If these outbursts are occurring frequently or becoming increasingly physical, parents or carers should seek some professional advice on how to manage the behaviour and how best to provide support to the child.
Behavioural problems are not always linked to disturbing and aggressive behaviour patterns. Children experiencing behavioural disturbance or mood disorder may have trouble forming and maintaining friendships and “fitting in”. Behaviour imbalance may also manifest as sleep disturbance including fear of being left alone at night, waking during the night, restless sleep and interrupted sleep patterns.
If your child is having trouble regulating their emotions, you may find they often seem down or sad or may be withdrawing from socialising or communicating with those around them. Their teachers may notice a drop in their academic performance or increasing disruptive behaviour in the classroom or day care setting.
Some children complain of ongoing tummy pains or headache which may be a symptom of underlying anxiety or over-stimulation of the sensory organs. Most children are unable to articulate specific feelings and the underlying trigger of these emotions, therefore it is important to look at the whole picture and speak to other adults that can provide further insight into the child’s behaviour. Collating all this information enables a holistic approach to treatment which is more likely to provide long lasting support and facilitate solid improvement to the behaviour and/or mood of the child.
An integral element of a Naturopathic Consultation is identifying what body systems may be contributing to the imbalance being displayed. Multiple systems are usually implicated in behaviour or mood disorder.
Poor detoxification activity can contribute to behavioural issues as the toxic burden on the liver increases and causes tissue damage and inflammation. Elevated levels of toxins can lead to dysregulation of the nervous system and the digestive system which can impact sleep, elimination processes and mood.
Impaired methylation can cause an imbalance to nutrient levels and negatively impact the synthesis of many essential molecules in the body. Nutrients begin to compete with each other in the body causing further imbalance resulting in aggravated behavioural patterns and mood dysfunction.
There are key nutrients required to modulate the nervous system and stabilise behaviour. Fibre is essential to ensure detoxification pathways and elimination processes adequately excrete toxins and waste. Essential fatty acids are important for healthy nervous system function which helps to reduce anxiety and stabilise mood. Zinc is essential for human growth and development and for healthy neurological function. Tryptophan supports brain health and enhances nervous system function to rebalance mood and behaviour disorders. It is important to note that supplements should never be taken, unless prescribed by your healthcare practitioner following a consultation.
A diet rich in whole foods with adequate protein and essential fatty acids provides a healthy start for children experiencing behavioural issues and/or mood disorder. Time away from stimulation including television, computers and other electronics, especially in the evenings, can help to calm the nervous system. Regular exercise, daily sunshine, adequate filtered water and positive parenting provide further support to optimise the function of the nervous system and the digestive system.
If children require further support to dietary and lifestyle modifications, functional testing can be performed to determine any physiological dysfunction. From pathology testing we can observe any specific nutrient deficiencies to enable targeted treatment and tailored support for the child.
If you are concerned about your child or any children in your care, consider making an appointment with our Naturopath, Belle, who is able to identify pathology, either via consultation or functional testing, and make treatment recommendations accordingly.
A tailored treatment plan may be all your child needs to set them on the right path and bring peace and harmony back into your home and family life. Call us on 8406 0679 or visit www.nbip.com.au to book an appointment.