Mood Disorders: Is Your Child Burdened with One?
It is normal for a child to exhibit sudden changes in mood or behavior. These changes are not something for parents to be alarmed about, especially if there’s a reason behind them. For example, a child may become unsociable because of a sad experience, or suddenly turn jubilant because he or she is given a new toy.
However, if your child has persistent, intense, alternating cycles of positive and negative moods without an apparent trigger, he or she may have a mood disorder. Mood disorders among children manifest as a shift in mood, ranging from consistent low mood, as in depression, to cycling low and high moods, as in bipolar disorder.
Prevalence of Mood Disorders in Children
Emotional health issues such as depression and bipolar disorder are common in children and adolescents. Any change in mood can shape your child’s emotional state. A mood condition is unlike the typical bad moods children occasionally feel: the intense thoughts and feelings are persistent and difficult to manage. It is not something a child will get over in the next development stage. A mood condition is a real medical disorder.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) cites the statistics derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), suggesting that 3.7 percent of children aged 8 to 15 years old have a mood disorder. They are more prevalent among girls and older children. Recent studies revealed that as many as 15 to 18 percent of youngsters have experienced a mood episode before the age of 18.
It appears that many forms of mood conditions are very common before adulthood, and clinicians and researchers believe they are among the most underdiagnosed health concerns. Children with undiagnosed mood conditions are at risk for other health issues, such as disruptive behavior and substance abuse. Due to the different symptoms manifested in children and teens with mood disorders, it can be difficult for parents to determine whether it is time to seek intervention for their child.
Possible Causes of Mood Disorders
There are many factors suspected to cause mood conditions. They may have a genetic component: if depression or bipolar disorder runs in the family, children are at increased risk for developing it. They may also be caused by environmental factors, such as a major life change or a chronically overwhelming lifestyle.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
In the case of children, it can be doubly difficult to know the exact diagnosis, since a child’s brain is still in the process of development. Pediatricians and other health providers look for symptoms that can be considered
red flags of psychiatric distress. Although symptoms may vary according to age and biological makeup, the early signs of a mood disorder can include the following:
- Persistent and frequent mood changes, from sad to angry, depressed, irritable, and elevated moods
- Acting out in multiple domains, such as home and school
- Lack of interest in or motivation toward pleasurable activities
- Significant change in sleeping or eating patterns
- Frequent complaints of physical pain, such as headaches, dizziness, or stomachaches
- Dramatic drop in school performance
- Feeling of worthlessness or low self-esteem
- High level of energy with racing thoughts or rapid speed
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Engaging in rebellious or risky behavior
- Self-harming tendencies, which need immediate evaluation
Recognizing these warning signs is the cornerstone of successful treatment and preventing future episodes.
Getting Help to Unburden Your Child
If you suspect your child is showing the symptoms of a mood disorder, it is imperative to get an accurate diagnosis as the first step toward managing the health issue effectively. Mood conditions are treatable, especially with early and appropriate action. Proper treatment can help reduce the severity of symptoms, improving the quality of your child’s life and relationships with others.
Mood disorders cannot be outgrown. It takes intervention or support from a professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment to effectively manage the disorder. At Carolina Counseling Services in Fuquay-Varina, NC, there are independently contracted counselors who specialize in diagnosing and treating the full range of mood conditions in children. They are committed to leading children with mood conditions to long-term success, and can offer a personalized plan for your child based on the latest therapeutic approaches. Just call to request an appointment.
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