Early Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Category — 2.9 Children with Mental Health Disorders: Mood Disorders

Children with Mood Disorders


Mood disorders are sometimes called affective disorders. This is a category of mental health problem that includes all types of depression and bipolar disorder. It is believed that 7% to 14% of children will experience an episode of major depression before the age of 15. Twenty to 30 percent of adult bipolar patients report having their first episode before the age of 20.

The following are the most common types of mood disorders experienced by children and adolescents. Many of these children and adolescents may also experience other conditions including ADHD (attention deficit /with hyperactive disorder):

  • Major depression: A period of at least two-weeks where child is in a depressed or irritable mood; the child also seems to have lost interest or pleasure in usual activities; there may be other signs of a mood disorder, for example, difficulty paying attention and concentrating and being agitated;
  • Dysthymia (dysthymic disorder): This term refers to a chronic, low-grade, depressed or irritable mood for at least one year.
  • Manic depression (bipolar disorder): At least one episode of a depressed or irritable mood and at least one period of a manic (or “high“) (see full Glossary) mood.
  • Mood disorder due to a general medical condition: Many medical illnesses (including cancer, injuries, infections, and chronic medical illnesses) can trigger (see full Glossary) symptoms of depression.
  • Mood disorders that are related to using certain medicines or drugs, or substance inducedmood disorder: Children will show symptoms of depression that are due to the effects of medication, drug abuse, exposure to toxins, or other forms of treatment. Examples of symptoms might include the following:
    • Feeling sad most of the time;
    • Feeling hopeless or helpless (for example, “The world is ending; no one can help”) me.;
    • Having low self-esteem (for example, “I am not good at anything I do.”)
    • Not feeling “ok” most of the time or feeling inadequate;
    • Excessive guilt (for example, “It is all because of me.”)
    • Feelings of wanting to die;
    • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities once enjoyed;
    • Difficulty with relationships (for example, not keeping friends; arguing with peers and adults most of the time);
    • Not sleeping well most nights (for example, insomnia, hypersomnia (see full Glossary);
    • Changes in appetite or weight (eating too little or too much);
    • Feeling with low energy most of the time;
    • Difficulty concentrating at school or in any activity during the day;
    • Finding it very difficult to make decisions;
    • Thinking about or attempting to take own life, or suicidal thoughts or attempts;
    • Frequent physical complaints (that is, headache, stomach ache, fatigue);
    • Running away or threats of running away from home;
    • Fearing they will fail and they will be rejected (see full Glossary);
    • Most of the time feeling irritable, and showing some level of hostility and/or aggression towards others.

Intervention Options

Specific treatment for mood disorders1 will be determined by the child’s physician based on:

  • The child’s age, overall health, and medical history;
  • How severe the child’s symptoms are;
  • Type of mood disorder;
  • How the child copes with certain medications, procedures, or therapies;
  • How the condition is progressing;
  • Parents’ or caregivers’ opinions or preferences.

Mood disorders can often be effectively treated. Parents play a vital role in any treatment process. It is recommended that professionals work with the family and try and understand their particular history and characteristics. It is also important to work in consultation with the child’s school. This will ensure that the treatment is the one that fits both the child and family. Some treatment options include one or more of the following options:

  • Antidepressant medications (see full Glossary) especially when combined with psychotherapy (see full Glossary) has shown to be very effective in the treatment of depression in children and teens);
  • Psychotherapy (most often cognitive-behavioral and/or interpersonal therapy) for the child (focused on changing the child’s distorted views of themselves and the environment around them; working through difficult relationships; identifying stressors in the child’s environment and how to avoid them);
  • Family therapy.
1 Sources: BC Children’s Mood and Anxiety Disorders Clinic
Boston Children’s Hospital http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site3222/mainpageS3222P0.html

January 16, 2011   No Comments