Mood disorders are a group of mental health problems. They are sometimes called affective disorders. These are the most common types:
What causes mood disorders in teens is not well known. Certain chemicals in the brain are responsible for positive moods. Other chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) control the brain chemicals that affect mood. Mood disorders may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This can happen on its own or along with environmental factors, such as unexpected life events or long-lasting stress.
Mood disorders can run in families. Researchers believe that many factors are involved. The factors that produce the trait or condition are often both inherited and environmental. They involve a mix of genes from both parents. If a mother passes a mood disorder trait to her children, a daughter is more likely to have the disorder. If a father passes a mood disorder trait to his children, a son is more likely to have the disorder.
Anyone can feel sad or depressed at times. But mood disorders are more intense. They are harder to handle than normal feelings of sadness. Teens who have a parent or other relative with a mood disorder have a greater chance of also having a mood disorder. It is not definite that this will happen. But hard life events and stress can expose or exaggerate feelings of sadness or depression. This makes the feelings harder to manage.
Sometimes life’s problems can cause depression. Tough situations for a teen include:
It can be hard for a teen to cope with these situations. These stressful life events can bring on feelings of sadness or depression. Or they can make a mood disorder harder to manage. It depends on your teen’s coping skills and his or her ability to rebound from rough times.
Teens don’t always have or show the same symptoms as adults. It is harder to spot mood disorders in children and teens. That’s often because they are not always able to say how they feel.
Teens may show different symptoms. It depends on their age and the type of mood disorder. These are the most common symptoms:
In mood disorders, these feelings appear stronger than teens normally feel from time to time. It is also of concern if these feelings last over a period of time, or if they interfere with a teen’s interest in being with friends or taking part in daily activities at home or school. Contact your teen’s healthcare provider right away if your child expresses any thoughts of suicide.
Other signs of possible mood disorders in teens may include:
These symptoms may seem like other conditions or mental health problems. Make sure your teen sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
A mental health expert often diagnoses a mood disorder after a mental health evaluation. He or she may also evaluate the family and talk with teachers and caregivers.
Treatment will depend on your teen’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Mood disorders can often be treated. Treatment may include one or more of the following:
Teens with mood disorders are at risk for other problems. These include:
Experts don’t know at this time how to prevent mood disorders in teens. But early detection and treatment are vital. They can ease symptoms and enhance your teen’s normal growth and development. They can improve your teen’s quality of life.
You play a key role in his or her treatment. Here are things you can do to help:
Call your healthcare provider right away if your teen:
Call 911 if your teen has suicidal thoughts, a suicide plan, and the means to carry out the plan.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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