Mood disorders pertain to a "category of mental illnesses in which the underlying problem affects a person's emotional state." Teens with mood disorders experience persistent highs and lows in their emotions, making it challenging to lead an everyday life. Teens with these conditions may experience sudden changes in their behavior.
Symptoms of Mood Disorders
Common symptoms of mood disorder include:
- Appearing sad, irritable, or withdrawn.
- Having frequent unexplained crying spells, dramatic and rapid mood shifts, and difficulty concentrating.
- Losing interest in activities previously enjoyed.
- Acting out in aggressive ways toward people or property.
- Suffering from low self-esteem or exhibiting extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure.
- Anxiety, including worrying excessively about grades and school performance, social isolation, and poor self-esteem.
- Distorted body image.
What Causes Mood Disorders?
Mood changes occur due to an increase in hormones that can affect emotions. While the exact causes of mood disorders are not understood, several risk factors contribute to a person's chance of developing a mood disorder. These include:
- Family history: Having a parent or other close family member with a mood disorder can increase your child's risk of developing a mood disorder.
- Stressful life events and trauma: Death of a loved one, divorce, violence, and abuse are examples of stressful life events that can trigger mood disorders in teens, especially if they have not developed adequate coping mechanisms.
- Changes in the brain: Teens with mood disorders may have imbalanced chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which help send messages between brain cells. Neurons within the brain may be wired differently in teens with mood disorders, although it is unclear whether this difference is inherited or caused by environmental factors.
- Drug and substance abuse: Substance abuse can lead to changes in the brain that might contribute to depression and bipolar disorder.
- Medical problems: Some illnesses, such as cancer and chronic pain syndromes, can increase the risk of developing depression.
Common Mood Disorders in Teens
Researchers believe that approximately 14.3% of teens experience a severe mood disorder. The most common mood disorders among teens include:
- Bipolar disorder can lead to feelings of mania and depression.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), associated with seasons, can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
- Cyclothymic disorder is a milder form of bipolar disorder.
- Dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder, is a type of depression that lasts for at least two years.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, in which feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist for at least two weeks.
How Can I Help My Teen Who Suffers From a Mood Disorder?
For teens with depression or bipolar disorder, dealing with mood swings, irritability, and other symptoms can be overwhelming. When you're talking with a teen with a mood disorder, keep these things in mind:
- Be patient. Your teen may not want to speak and may be very irritable.
- Regularly check-ins. Check-in with your child after school, on the weekends, around stressful times of the year.
- Monitor their medication. Know what medicines your child is taking and how they affect them. Keep track of side effects when possible.
- Offer hope. Reassure your teen that there are ways to feel better, like therapy and medication. Talk about how they've dealt with tough times before and gotten through them.
Get support for yourself. Find support through family therapy and parent support groups for families living with mood disorders. Parenting a teen with a mood disorder is hard work, and you need to take care of yourself.
- Get help. Talk with your child's doctor as soon as possible if you think your child may have depression. Ask for help even if your child doesn't want you to; their illness may keep them from seeking treatment.
Treatment Options for Managing Mood Disorders in Teens
There's no single way to treat mood disorders. You can successfully manage them with strategies, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. If your teen is diagnosed with a mood disorder, it's essential to work closely with your doctor or another healthcare professional to find a treatment plan that works for them. Treatment options include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of treatment helps them explore their thought patterns and behaviors to identify what contributes to the problem — negative automatic thoughts and maladaptive behaviors — and replace them with more positive ones.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): In this treatment approach, the therapist helps the teen identify unhelpful avoidance behaviors that may be contributing to depression or bipolar disorder symptoms. The therapist then allows the teen to gradually replace those avoidance behaviors with more practical activities to improve their well-being.
- Prescribed medications: Treating teens with prescription medications are effective for many teens with depression and bipolar disorder. Doctors usually prescribe the newer antidepressants, SSRIs, for depression, and they have fewer side effects than other antidepressants.
It sometimes seems easy to get caught up in friends, hobbies, and schoolwork. It's important to remember that every day can be a challenge for teenagers. At Clearfork Academy, we believe that teens with mood disorders can lead enjoyable lives and extraordinary futures; they need the proper support. Therefore, if you suspect your child has a mood disorder, do not delay in seeking help. The sooner they receive appropriate treatment, the better your teen's long-term prognosis will be. Above all, it's essential to seek treatment from a professional who has experience working with teens. With proper treatment, education, and coping mechanisms, you can control your disorder and lead a productive life. Our team of licensed clinicians specializes in helping teens struggling with mood disorders and SUD. Our clinicians can intervene if your child engages in destructive behaviors with evidence-based therapies and holistic therapeutic programs. To learn more, contact us at (817) 259-2597.