Behavior or Emotional Problems in 5 Year Old?

Updated on September 15, 2012
S.M. asks from Zanesville, OH
7 answers

My entire family has always (half-jokingly) said my son will be on ritalin as soon as he's old enough, because he's such a whirwind, he never stops. I figured he was just hyper, typical for a little boy. But recenty certain things have gotten worse, and I'm worried for him. I found an online behavior test and the results scared me. He tested 80% for impulsive-hyperactive and 95% for anxiety/depression. I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm considering taking him to a counselor.

As for impulsive-hyperactive, that's no surprise. For example, right now he's coloring with markers, but even while he's focused on his work, the rest of his body is dancing all over the place. He can't stay put during meals, not just in his chair, but he wanders out of the room! We've threatened to put him in a booster chair because we're tired of dragging him back to the table 20 times in a row.

He has a great attention span, but it's like he has too much pent-up energy. He loves to be read to, long chapter books, but he can't sit next to you and listen, instead he'll be running laps around the room or doing somersaults. If I think he's distracted or not listening, I'll stop and ask him what just happened in the book, and without fail he remembers every detail!

The anxiety/depression shouldn't really surprise me either, my husband and I both are on medication for anxiety. But we were hoping we'd be be able to help our kids avoid it. This boy takes everything so hard, and he's very critical of himself. I avoid doing craft projects with him, because if something doesn't turn out exactly how he wants it to, he gets very angry and upset with himself, and it usually ends with him in tears and the craft torn up or in the garbage. I'm afraid this is just genetic, because nobody is ever critical of what he does, but my mom tells me I was the exact same way when I was 3-4.

He also takes everything very personal. Whenever he plays with other kids his age, he talks about the problems he had for days, weeks, or more. For example: we were at a children's museum and a little girl elbowed him out of the way to get to a certain display. He turned & ran to me, and I simply said "get back over there," and he turned and pushed his way back in, and I thought that was the end of it. But on the way home, he asked me "why did that mean girl shove me out of the way like that?" I told him she probably wasn't trying to be mean, she just wanted to see, and yes, it was rude to push in front of him. Later that night before bed he asked me about her again, and again the next morning. Then almost a week later he was with my mom, and she called me up to ask about it - he had brought it up with her too! It's like he just can't let it go, he takes everything so personal and dwells on the bad parts, so that it ruins the whole experience. When we asked him a month later if he wanted to go back to that museum again someday, the first thing out of his mouth was "what if another kid pushes me?" And this is not something he's learning at home, we are not a bunch of negative-nancies!

So, am I reading too much into his behavior? Is he just a over-dramatic, hyper kid? Should I take him to a child therapist?

Edit: Let me clarify, I am not going to put my son on medication, whether or not a doctor recommends it, until he is older. I just wanted some input from other parents before I run to the doctor for nothing. If he is diagnosed with some kind of behavior problem, at least we would know where to go from here.

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answers from Chicago on

Sounds like my daughter. I think she is perfectly normal. I think there are major issues with diagnosing children. They are children, they need time, and I think most of them are hyper because THEY ARE CHILDREN. They aren't suppose to sit still --something my daughter is totally incapable of doing.

But my daughter is the same, even down to the crafts. I've just stopped doing them. She gets too upset too quickly.

There is nothing wrong with any of this behavior, they are young and still learning how to control their impulses and emotions.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Definitely follow up and have him evaluated by professionals. Take him to a developmental pediatrician. They will look at his entire situation and decide what needs to be done and make referrals. Start with his pediatrician if you need a referral.

Counselors are very narrow in their approach. They deal with these issues after they've been diagnosed.

You can have him evaluated by the school district under an early intervention program. My daughter started there with her son. They will evaluate and provide treatment, if needed, without cost to you. However, she eventually learned about the role of a developmental pediatrician and took him there. That was a big help. It was covered by his health insurance.

I just reread your opening statement. Behavioral and emotional problems are interrelated. A child with ADHD, in addition to being hyperactive will also be anxious and even short tempered. The condition causes both behavior and emotions.

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answers from San Francisco on

You say he has a great attention span and that he can focus on his work. That tells me he is not ADHD because ADHD kids cannot focus and have very short attention spans. He may be hyperactive, but not ADHD. There is a difference.

As an experiment, try giving him some coffee. Ritalin is a stimulant; same with coffee. A lot of hyper kids can be calmed down by drinking coffee.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

First off, don't self diagnose the poor child. If he's happy and healthy with bouts of sadness, it's normal as far as I'm concerned. I'm more concerned about the sudden jumps to medicate all the time. Once you start, some drugs are hard to stop but make sure by taking him to a doctor and get seek multiple opinions. He's 5 though, kids are hyper and some are more than others. It may just be you can alter his diet (gosh, I was always too lazy to do that but if I really had to, I would).

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answers from New York on

You know, it's possible he may be on the hyperactive or anxious side, but I would caution you against going right away to Ritalin.

ADHD is WAY overdiagnosed, and Ritalin is way overprescribed. That doesn't mean there aren't kids who need it -- there are -- but there are a lot of kids who are on the stuff who really don't need to be. And it's a serious drug. It's speed, basically. Once a kid is on it, it's very hard to get that kid off.

That doesn't mean he ultimately won't need Ritalin. He could be one of the kids who truly do. I just recommend proceeding with caution.

Where I would start, honestly, is with his diet. There are bajillions of additives, preservatives, etc., in the modern American diet that trigger weird reactions in kids. This also includes stuff given to cattle, chickens, etc., that winds up entering kids' bloodstreams in higher concentrations than the original cow got. I'm not an expert on all the additives, all the reactions, etc., but I do know that a common hyperactivity trigger is food dye. And all kinds of food -- even natural-looking food in very boring colors -- can have harmful dyes. Kids can also can have sensitivities (not allergies, sensitivities that an allergist can't catch) to even additive-free food staples. Mine can't touch a drop of milk. So, I'd try that -- educate yourself on hyperactivity and anxiety triggers in the contemporary American diet -- first. If that doesn't get you anywhere, THEN maybe it's time to have him evaluated for ADHD.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Talk your child's primary doctor first you can do a phone consult first. Then next the next steps call your insurance and see if there is counselling available for your children.

A social worker is also an option too.

You can also help him cope when things do not go his way. Take a deep breath count to five that sort of thing when thing start getting out of hand but before they do. Also a very slow breath in and out like trying to blow out a single birthday candle, count backwards from ten.
Talk to him about what you or dad too. He is young but to talk to him in terms he may understand. Good Luck

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answers from Lafayette on

I would talk to a pediatrician (not just a family doctor). Get some solid information from a trained professional -- what we see on the internet can sometimes be scary! :) But be prepared for both sides of what you can hear -- from his behavior is perfectly normal, to he certainly needs medicine and/or dietary changes. If there is a next step, take your time to research dietary changes before you accept a prescription.

Don't beat yourself up worrying about your parenting skills, etc. If your son needs additional help, then just do what's best for him. Whatever change is needed (food or medicine), just remember that it's best for him to be able to function well in school and in life. Keep his overall health as your focus. Stay strong!

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