According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20.9 million American adults in a given year have a mood disorder. Children also have mood disorders though many symptoms are often dismissed or overlooked. Children’s National psychiatrist, Adelaide Robb, MD
, explains two of the most common mood disorders seen at Children’s National.Depression
“Depression is a mood disorder characterized by sadness accompanied by emotional and physical signs and symptoms,” said Dr. Robb.
Often undiagnosed, depression is frequently attributed to normal growing pains as a child develops. If sadness or disruptive behavior interferes with school, social activities, or hobbies, your child may have this mood disorder.Symptoms:
- Weight loss/weight gain
- Look/feel sad
- Trouble getting schoolwork or chores done
- Change in appearance/less concern about appearance (e.g., not showering as frequently)
- Not participating in social activities or hanging out with friends
- Complaints of boredom
- Suicidal thoughts
Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood changes in addition to the symptoms outlined above for depression. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 1 in 100 kids suffers
from bipolar disorder and may suffer extreme mood swings.Symptoms:
What Should Parents Do?
- Children who experience depression symptoms and at least a week or more of the manic symptoms listed below are more likely to have bipolar disorder. Symptoms include:
- Extreme silliness
- Talking quickly, loudly, or too much
- Decreased need for sleep or insomnia
- New activities or friends
- Disconnected or racing thoughts
- Reckless behavior
- Increased sexual desire
- Inappropriate social behavior
“The first thing parents should do if they notice any symptoms is ask the child how they are feeling and what is going on at school,” said Dr. Robb.
It could be that the child is being bullied or experiencing side effects from current medications. If that is not the case, call your pediatrician for an assessment and possible referral to a mental health professional. Bring your child to the emergency department if he or she is experiencing suicidal thoughts.