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Mood Disorders Program
It is normal for children to feel sad, irritable or upset at times. However, prolonged or intense changes in mood can be a sign of a mood disorder. Mood disorders can have wide-ranging effects on children, teens and their families. The toll on a child’s physical health, performance in school, family and social relationships and overall well-being can be devastating.
The Mood Disorders Program at Children’s National Hospital is a specialized treatment clinic dedicated to helping children and teens with mood disorders live happy and healthy lives. We provide personalized care for each child and family to ensure children receive the most appropriate treatment with the best outcomes.
What are Mood Disorders?
Mood disorders are one of the most common mental health problems affecting children and adolescents. Our program is dedicated to treating a wide range of mood disorders, including:
- Major depression. A serious condition that involves persistent sadness, hopelessness and other symptoms.
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia). Depression that is less severe but more long-lasting than major depression.
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. A mood disorder that is characterized by repeated temper outbursts and persistent irritable or angry mood.
- Bipolar disorder. A type of depression that also includes severe mood changes to extreme elation and happiness.
Children and teens with mood disorders may exhibit:
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in eating patterns or weight
- Low energy or fatigue
- Poor concentration
- Extreme temper outbursts
- Aggressive behaviors
- Difficult relationships with family and friends
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or helpless
Mood disorders can cause other symptoms as well. Parents are in a unique position to see behavior changes and problems in their children. We take your concerns seriously and listen carefully to your observations. In addition to getting psychotherapy support, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression.
How We Help
We start with a thorough evaluation to talk with you about your child’s symptoms, your family health history and any other psychological concerns you may have. The evaluation may take one or two sessions or more, depending on your needs. To give us more details about your child’s condition, we may ask your family to fill out questionnaires. In some cases, teachers are also asked to complete these forms. With an accurate diagnosis, we design a specific treatment plan to provide the best care for each child.
Our clinicians provide individualized treatment programs with the goal of reducing your child’s mood symptoms and improve their functioning as quickly and successfully as possible. Parents are strongly encouraged to participate in their child’s treatment to help reinforce treatment progress. We rely upon the most effective psychotherapy techniques available to achieve your treatment goals.
We offer groups for children of various ages throughout the year. Group therapy allows children and adolescents the opportunity to learn from, build skills and practice with their same age peers. Parent groups are also offered to assist parents in better understanding your child’s condition and learn ways to best support your child.
Many children and adolescents with mood disorders benefit from medication, in addition to psychotherapy, to help manage their symptoms. The Mood Disorders Program team includes a child psychiatrist who specializes in treating children and adolescents with a range of presenting problems.
Features of Our Program
When a child or teen’s negative feelings do not go away, our highly trained pediatric specialists have the expertise and experience to recognize mood disorders and provide the care they need. At Children’s National, our experts include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, advanced trainees, among others.
Our multidisciplinary team knows that you know your child best. We value your input and work closely with your family to include caregivers as a part of your child’s care team. This ensures your child receives the most comprehensive and individualized care.
We strive to empower children, teens and families diagnosed with depression to learn about the disorder that is impacting their lives. Families are provided psychoeducation about diagnoses and are provided referrals for additional support, as needed.
Learning more about the factors that can lead to depression and other mood disorders in children and teen can improve their treatments and outcomes. Our team is committed to discovering new ways to identify, prevent and treat these disorders. Some of our families participate in clinical trials. You can find out more by speaking with your child’s care team member.
If you're concerned your child may be experiencing a mood disorder, contact us to schedule an intake evaluation. We see children and teens across the DMV at our Takoma Theatre location and via telehealth. To make an appointment call 202-729-3300.
Mood Disorders Program Team