Psychological Special Needs

Psychological Special NeedsWhen considering becoming a parent, whether through adoption or birth, it is important to be aware that your child may face psychological needs requiring professional help.  According to, one in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental health disorder that could include depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder as well as personality and behavioral disorders.  Additionally, up to half of these disorders are identified before the age of 14.

Although exact causes are unknown, it is believed that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Institutionalization, such as growing up in an orphanage, can be considered an environmental factor.


Below is a list of the most common psychological special needs seen in adopted children. We provide the following information for reference purposes only and cannot attest to the accuracy of the information. We highly recommend speaking with an experienced physician for further details on each condition.



Anxiety is a normal reaction to a stressful situation, and in some cases is actually beneficial. And all children go through stages of anxiety or feel a need to do things in a certain order—they don’t want to be away from mom, they only want to wear green clothes or eat only red food. So how do you know when your child is just ‘going through a stage’ or when you are dealing with something more, like an anxiety disorder? 

Stages are temporary and generally get better with the support of parents, teachers and caretakers. An anxiety disorder persists despite support and may even interfere in your child’s daily life.

There are several different types of anxiety disorders which include: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia), and specific phobias.  Each disorder has specific symptoms and requires specific treatment. 

If you suspect the ‘stage’ your child is going through may actually be an anxiety disorder it is important to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. Your doctor will be able to offer guidance, suggestions and referrals if necessary.

Early intervention and support of children who have experienced childhood trauma can greatly reduce the impact that trauma will have on the rest of their lives.


OCDObsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder which tends to run in families. According to the World Health Organization, one in every 100 children has OCD, which means that millions of children around the world have this condition.  

OCD affects how people think. Kids with OCD become preoccupied with obsessions, which are thoughts and impulses which the child cannot control and which cause extreme anxiety or fear. They worry that these thoughts and impulses could be harmful or dangerous and that bad things are bound to happen. Kids with OCD might also worry about things not being "just right” or about their things not being in order. In order to cope with the obsessions, the child often comes up with actions or rituals (compulsions) to make their world feel safer. Some of these rituals can be easily observed. For example, some children might feel the need to wash their hands repeatedly, or they might feel a need to check the home door locks over and over. Other children, however, create rituals in their minds to combat their fears, such as having to count by 3s or reciting specific prayers. These compulsions can make a child feel safer or calmer, but the relief is only temporary and then the need to repeat the compulsions often becomes even stronger. For most people with OCD, these rituals can take up at least an hour a day, but for others it can be almost all consuming. Some doctors describe OCD as an "overactive alarm system” which causes children to feel like they must perform a task in order to stop their anxiety. 

Many children will develop OCD early in childhood, but the average age symptoms appear is normally between ages 7 and 12. OCD is more common in boys before the age of 12, but after puberty, both males and females are equally likely to develop the condition.

Currently, there is no cure for OCD, but people can very successfully learn to manage their condition with proper treatment.


Most children with OCD can be treated effectively with a combination of counseling (especially cognitive and behavioral techniques) and medication.  Family support is often crucial for a child to have successful treatment.