How to Manage Mood Disorders in Children?

What are Mood Disorders?

A mental health problem that can be anything from depression to bipolar disorder is labeled as mood disorders or affective disorders.

A serious change in mood shapes a child’s personality. A mood disorder is not like a normal bad mood. It can involve intense thoughts and feelings that are persistent and difficult to manage.

The mood disorder is not a rare medical condition in children and they cannot get over it on their own.(1)

An undiagnosed mood disorder can put a child at the risk of other conditions such as disruptive behavior and substance use disorder.

Common Mood Disorders in Children

The common mood disorder that can be seen in children and adolescents are:

  • Depression: It is state of mind when a depressed and irritable mood lasts for at least two weeks.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): It is a chronic and low-grade depressed mood that lasts for at least one year.
  • Bipolar Disorder: It is like having periods of persistently elevated mood followed by a depressed and flat emotional response.
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: It is having persistent irritability and having an extreme inability to control behavior.
  • Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder: This is depression, irritability, and tension before menstruation.
  • Mood Disorder Due to General Medical Condition: Any kind of chronic medical condition can trigger the symptoms of depression.
  • Substance-induced Mood Disorder: There can be symptoms of depression due to certain drugs or exposure to toxins.

Girls are twice as likely to develop depression when compared to boys.

Signs and Symptoms of Mood Disorder in Children

Signs and symptoms of depression vary in children according to their age and biological makeup. All the signs of mood disorder include:

  • Loss of energy and fatigue
  • A sad, depressed, angry, irritable, and elevated mood that is more intense than the child usually feels.
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble with family
  • Changes in sleep and eating pattern
  • Difficulty in achieving in school
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Worthlessness, guilt, and low self-esteem
  • Running away or giving threats of running away from home
  • Expression of suicidal thoughts

How to Manage Mood Disorders in Children?

Mood disorders in children are treated with evidence-based treatments. The treatments for mood disorder can help manage the episodes, reduce the severity and also prevent future episodes in children.

This can help enhance a child’s growth and development and improve the quality of life.

Individual Therapy

A specialist identifies the key problems in a child and helps him manage the stressors. He uses various techniques and helps the child manage symptoms of mood disorders. These techniques include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: The therapy involves changing the problematic feelings and thoughts experienced by the child. It is known to be the most effective therapy for mood disorders.(2)
  • Interpersonal Therapy: This therapy focuses on building social skills and helping the child with difficult relationships in his life. The therapist helps the child to recognize the triggers. Once the triggers are identified, he helps the child to improve his ability to manage and improve his interaction with others.

Family Therapy

The family has a major role to play in managing mood disorders in children. The parents and guardians can learn methods to help the child manage his mood and behavior. The specialist recognizes the stressors in a child’s life and patterns of interaction with the family. There might also be a consultation with the child’s teacher or guidance counselor.

Family therapy is effective in reducing academic and behavior problems in children.(3)

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy involves meeting with a healthcare professional and identifying and working through the problems that lead to mood disorder. It takes place one-on-one with the psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed clinical social worker.

It can be used alone or with medications to treat mood disorders in children.

Medications

There are numerous medications that can be effective in treating mood disorders in children. These medicines alter the brain chemicals involved.

The medicines may reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms and decrease the child’s problematic behavior. It may also improve brain functioning and prevent future episodes.

The child, if given an early and adequate treatment for mood disorder improves significantly. The recurring episodes are managed with therapeutic support i.e. medication, therapy, and additional resources.

If managed appropriately, children with mood disorders can grow, develop and have meaningful life experiences.

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