Healthy Kids:Recognizing Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Article excerpt

As an adult, you probably know someone or know someone who knows someone who suffers from major depression or bipolar disorder.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that approximately 20.9 million American adults, or 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, have a mood disorder.

Recently, what had been considered an "adult only" concern has become more common in the pediatric population.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about one in 100 children has bipolar disorder (a disorder that causes a person to experience extreme mood swings from elated highs to overwhelming lows), or a related mood disorder, such as major depressive disorder. In addition, recent studies have found that 15-18 percent of teens have experienced a mood episode by age 18.

What does a mood disorder look like in children and adolescents?

Mood disorders are not always easy to diagnose in children and adolescents because symptoms can overlap with other mental health disorders and brain development is still occurring at this age. However, parents and caregivers can look for some symptoms if concerned a child or adolescent may be experiencing a mood disorder:

Symptoms of depression in children and adolescents include:

* Irritability or anger

* Persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness. He or she may feel like "no one likes me," "I'm worthless," or "I'm stupid."

* Decline in school grades

* Spending more time alone, becoming more quiet and loss of interest in being with friends or activities once enjoyed

* Easily fatigued and changes in sleep patterns

* Physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches

* Changes in appetite

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents include mood changing rapidly from depression or severe lows (symptoms listed above) to manic behaviors. …