Some children with dyslexia also have emotional or psychiatric problems. In some cases, the problems are caused or exacerbated by the stress or frustration experienced in connection with dyslexia and academic problems. In other cases, behavior that is a response to dyslexia may give rise to a mistaken diagnosis. Finally, of course, many children with dyslexia do also suffer from additional mental or emotional problems. Even if not directly related to the dyslexia, these issues can make it more difficult to help with academic issues, particularly if the psychiatric problems lead the child to become unmotivated or resistant to teaching.
A child may be diagnosed with depression if he has depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, for at least a year. His mood will be accompanied by disruptions in patterns of eating or sleeping, low energy or fatigue, low self-esteem, poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, feelings of hopelessness, or persistent irritability.
All children have feelings of sadness or frustration from time to time, but depression is diagnosed when such symptoms are continual and persistent. Depression can be treated with counseling or medications; however, if the underlying reason for depression is the child's despair over poor academic performance, it is crucial that the school situation also be addressed.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is marked by extreme changes in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. The child will alternate between periods of mania and depression. During manic episodes, a child is likely to be extremely irritable and prone to destructive outbursts. Alternatively, he may exhibit extreme elation and high energy. While depressed, the child will be extremely sad or irritable and have low energy. There may be physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches or tiredness, talk of or efforts to run away from home, unexplained crying, or extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.
Bipolar disorder can be easily mistaken for attention deficit disorder. However, stimulant medications (such as Ritalin) which are commonly prescribed for ADD, can induce or worsen the manic symptoms of bipolar disorder. This can also happen with medications commonly prescribed for depression. If you observe such symptoms when your child is taking medication, you should contact your physician immediately.
Children with bipolar disorder usually experience multiple cycles between manic and depressive moods within the same day, moving from giddy, silly highs to morose and gloomy lows. Any indication of suicidal thoughts, such as a child's talk of wanting to die or wishing that he had never been born, should be taken very seriously, as even very young children may attempt suicide during depressive periods. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, but children with dyslexia are no more at risk than any other children.