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Mood Disorders Program

Contact number | 202-476-5166 (Children) / 202-476-3867 (Adolescents)

It’s normal for children to feel sad, irritable or upset at times. Unfortunately, that can lead to depression and other mood disorders being misdiagnosed or dismissed as a typical part of childhood, especially in teens.

Mood disorders can have wide-ranging effects on children, teens and their families. The toll on their physical health, performance in school, family and social relationships and overall well-being can be devastating.

Helping Children and Teens with Mood Disorders

The Mood Disorders Program at Children’s National Hospital is dedicated to helping children and teens with mood disorders live as happily and healthfully as possible. We personalize care for each patient and family to ensure children receive the most appropriate treatment with the best outcomes.

Features of our program include:

  • Expert pediatric specialists. When a child or teen’s negative feelings don’t go away, our highly trained pediatric specialists have the expertise and experience to recognize mood disorders and provide the care they need. That includes pediatricians, counselors, social workers, psychiatrists and others.
  • Family-centered care. Our multi-specialty team knows that you know your child best. We value your input and work closely with your family to include you as a part of your child’s care team. This ensures he or she receives the most comprehensive and individualized care.
  • Ongoing support and education. We strive to empower preteens and their families diagnosed with mild to moderate depression to learn about the disorder that is impacting their lives. Group sessions that include art therapy and other tools help you work together toward recovery and wellness.
  • Finding new ways to help. Learning more about the factors that can lead to depression and other mood disorders in school-age children can improve their treatments and outcomes. Our researchers are committed to discovering new ways to identify, prevent and treat these disorders. Some of our patients participate in clinical trials. You can find out more by speaking with your child’s doctor, nurse, or other care team member.

Conditions We Treat

At Children’s National, we treat a wide range of mood disorders, including:

  • Major depression. A serious condition that involves persistent sadness, hopelessness and other symptoms
  • Bipolar disorder. A type of depression that also includes severe mood changes to extreme elation and happiness
  • Dysthymic disorder. Depression that is less severe but more long-lasting than major depression
  • Anxiety disorder. Excessive worry that doesn’t get better and can interfere with daily activities

Children and teens with mood disorders may have:

  • Difficult relationships with family and friends
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in eating patterns or weight
  • Extreme temper outbursts
  • Low energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Aggressive behaviors

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.

Services We Offer

We start with a thorough evaluation, which can last two sessions or more, depending on your needs. Your pediatric specialist will talk with you about your child’s symptoms, your family health history and any other psychological concerns you may have. To give us more details about your child’s condition, we may ask your family to fill out forms known as objective scales. In some cases, teachers are also asked to complete these scales.

With an accurate diagnosis, we design a specific plan to provide the best care for each child. Follow-up care may involve:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Medication, when necessary

We want you to be confident in your child’s care. To that end, we also provide second opinion evaluations and consultations.

Contact Us

We see children and teenagers from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region and across the nation. To make an appointment for a child, call 202-476-5166. To make an appointment for an adolescent, call 202-476-3867.

Mood Disorders Program Team

  • Faith Kelley

    Faith Kelley
    Medical Director, Mood Disorders Clinic

  • Erin Sadler

    Erin Sadler
    Co-Director, Mood Disorders Program
    Director, CPP Services