Children who are simply shy or sad run the risk of being diagnosed with mental illnesses and could be prescribed powerful drugs like Prozac to control or alter their behavior, experts have warned.
Psychologists fear that pupils who are quiet at school could be diagnosed with "social anxiety disorder" while those who become withdrawn after suffering bereavement are classified as having a "depressive disorder".
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"Behaviors develop over a long period of time, often with a range of complex causes; we can't 'cure' the behaviors we don't like with a quick fix of medicine. They usually require careful management by all the adults around the child," the Telegraph quoted Kate Fallon, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, as telling delegates.
He also said fears are growing that the number of children diagnosed with mental disorders and prescribed drugs will increase still further after 2013.
"In 2013 we're expecting new criteria for the definition of mental illness to be adopted here in the UK. These criteria will lead to many more children being diagnosed as mentally ill, based on reports of their behaviors," he added.
Research has found that even children under the age of six are being prescribed the powerful drug Ritalin for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, prompting calls for the Department of Health to investigate the scale of the problem and the potential long-term damage it may be causing.
Recent figures show 650,000 children aged between eight and 13 are on the pscyhotropic drug, up from just 9,000 two decades ago, while others are taking Prozac for depression or anxiety.