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Mood Disorders in Children

What is a Mood Disorder

Mood disorders in children present themselves as mental health problems ranging from depression to bipolar disorder. A mood disorder involves thoughts and feelings that are intense, difficult to manage, and persistent. 

The cause of mood disorders are unknown but it is believed to be a combination of biological, psychological, social and environmental factors. It is not uncommon for this condition to go undiagnosed as the parents of a child with a mood disorder believe they will grow out of it. 

Symptoms of Mood Disorders 

Symptoms can vary depending on the type of mood disorder, but some common signs to look for are:

  • Frequently feeling sad, helpless or lonely 
  • Feeling inadequate or having low self-esteem
  • Feeling guilty 
  • No longer enjoying activities or hobbies
  • Problems sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Problems with relationships
  • Lethargy
  • Running away or threatening to run away
  • Being hypersensitive to rejection
  • Being aggressive or irritable 

Types of Mood Disorders

The most common mood disorders in children and adolescents include:

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder in children is also known as clinical depression. In this case, major depression is usually characterized by persistent sadness or irritability that can negatively impact a child’s daily life.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

Dysthymia is classified in children as a persistent depressive disorder. The most prominent sign is a consistent depressed or irritable mood lasting for one year or longer.

Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

Children may trigger a mood disorder through the use of substances. This can occur after an individual takes medication, is exposed to toxic substances, or uses certain drugs.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder in children can be slightly different from bipolar disorder in adults. A child or adolescent with bipolar disorder experiences cyclical swings between depression and mania, which is marked by feelings of grandiosity, excessive exuberance and silliness, and chronic, severe irritability.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is seen in children who are angry and irritable on a regular basis and have emotional outbursts that ultimately impact their ability to function. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder occurs more commonly in boys than in girls.

Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition that only affects females who have gone through puberty. This includes depressive symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation. On top of the psychological symptoms, the painful physical symptoms of PMS are present. 

Treating Mood Disorders 

Early recognition of mood disorders allow for effective evidence-based treatments. Treatment can help manage the episode, reduce the severity of symptoms, and help to prevent future episodes.Treatment can include:

  • Medications (Mood stabilizers, Antidepressants, SSRIs)
  • Family Therapy
  • Individual Therapy

Depending on your child’s personalized treatment plan, your child and family may continue to meet with a Lee Health specialist.