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Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day. Among the more common mental disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders.

There are different ways to estimate which children have difficulties with mental health. CDC uses surveys, like the National Survey of Children’s Health, to understand which children have diagnosed mental disorders and whether they received treatment. In this type of survey, parents report on the diagnoses their child has received from a healthcare provider. Learn more facts about children’s mental disorders below.

Facts about mental disorders in U.S. children

  • ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children
    • 9.4% f children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis. Read more information on ADHD here.
    • 7.4% f children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.
    • 7.1% f children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.
    • 3.2% f children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. 
  • Some of these conditions commonly occur together. For example:
    • Having anther disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%).
    • For children aged 3-17 years with anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also have behavior problems (37.9%) and about 1 in 3 also have depression (32.3%).
    • For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%) and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%).
  • Depression and anxiety have increased over time
    • “Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression” among children aged 6–17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8% in 2007 and to 8.4% in 2011–2012.
    • “Ever having been diagnosed with anxiety” increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012.
    • “Ever having been diagnosed with depression” did not change between 2007 (4.7%) and 2011-2012 (4.9%).
  • Treatment rates vary among different mental disorders
    • Nearly 8 in 10 children (78.1%) aged 3-17 years with depression received treatment.
    • 6 in 10 children (59.3%) aged 3-17 years with anxiety received treatment.
    • More than 5 in 10 children (53.5%) aged 3-17 years with behavior disorders received treatment.
  • Mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders begin in early childhood
    • 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
  • Rates of mental disorders change with age
    • Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common with increased age.
    • Behavior problems are more common among children aged 6–11 years than children younger or older.
  • Many family, community, and healthcare factors are related to children’s mental health
    • Among children aged 2-8 years, boys were more likely than girls to have a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
    • Among children living below 100% of the federal poverty level, more than 1 in 5 (22%) had a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
    • Age and poverty level affected the likelihood of children receiving treatment for anxiety, depression, or behavior problems.

Note: The rates reported on this page are estimates based on parent reports, using nationally representative surveys. This method has several limitations. It is not known to what extent children receive these diagnoses accurately. Estimates based on parent-reported diagnoses may match those based on medical records, but children may also have mental disorders that have not been diagnosed.