Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Mental health problems are common and help is available.

Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobiological disorder with onset in childhood that is characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The symptoms shown in ADHD are linked to many specific brain areas, and are influenced by the activity of stress-signaling pathways that control attention and behavior in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Symptoms in younger children may be different from those exhibited by teens. Research has shown that the majority of children do not outgrow ADHD when they reach adolescence, and continue to exhibit inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, symptoms related to hyperactivity may lessen over time and become more subtle, while those of inattention and distraction remain throughout adulthood. Thus, poor school performance may intensify due to increased demands and expectations. Symptoms of ADHD persist into adulthood in as many as 65 percent of cases.

What Causes ADHD?

Despite multiple studies, researchers have yet to determine the exact causes of ADHD. However, scientists have discovered a strong genetic link since ADHD can run in families. More than 20 genetic studies have shown evidence that ADHD is strongly inherited. Yet ADHD is a complex disorder, which is the result of multiple genetic interactions.

Other factors in the environment may increase the likelihood of having ADHD, such as:

  • Exposure to lead or pesticides in early childhood
  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Brain injury
  • Prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs

A traumatic event is a frightening, dangerous, or violent event that poses a threat to a child’s life or bodily integrity. Traumatic experiences can initiate strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event.

Traumatic experiences can initiate strong emotions and physical reactions that can persist long after the event. Children may feel terror, helplessness, or fear, as well as physiological reactions such as heart pounding, vomiting, or loss of bowel or bladder control. Children who experience an inability to protect themselves or who lacked protection from others to avoid the consequences of the traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses.

Even though adults work hard to keep children safe, dangerous events still happen. This danger can come from outside of the family (such as a natural disaster, car accident, school shooting, or community violence) or from within the family, such as domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one.

What Experiences Might Be Traumatic?

  • Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse and neglect (including trafficking)
  • Natural and technological disasters or terrorism
  • Family or community violence
  • Sudden or violent loss of a loved one
  • Substance use disorder (personal or familial)
  • Refugee and war experiences (including torture)
  • Serious accidents or life-threatening illness
  • Military family-related stressors (e.g., deployment, parental loss or injury)
  • When children have been in situations where they feared for their lives, believed that they would be injured, witnessed violence, or tragically lost a loved one, they may show signs of child traumatic stress.

To learn more, visit TraumaMattersOmaha.org

Anxiety (therapistaid.com): Anxiety is a mental and physical reaction to perceived threats. In small doses, anxiety is helpful. It protects us from danger, and focuses our attention on problems. But when anxiety is too severe, or occurs too frequently, it can become debilitating.

Anxiety drives people to avoid the things that scare them. When a “scary” thing is avoided, there is an immediate but short-lived sense of relief. However, the next time a similar threat arises, it feels even scarier. This creates a harmful cycle of avoidance, and worsening anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety are:

  • Uncontrollable worry
  • Poor concentration
  • Excessive nervousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sleep problems
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle tension
  • Avoidance of fear

Types of Anxiety:

  • Generalized Anxiety: An excessive amount of anxiety or worry in several areas of life, such as job responsibilities, health, finances, or minor concerns
  • Phobia: A very intense fear of a specific situation or object, which is out of proportion to its actual threat. For example, a fear of giving speeches, or of spiders, could be considered a phobia.
  • Panic: An extreme anxious response where a person experiences a panic attack. During a panic attack, the individual experiences numerous physical symptoms, and is overwhelmed by a feeling of dread.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (https://www.nimh.nih.gov) : Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “dev