Helping Children Deal With Mood Disorders

Young children and adolescents often experience mood disorders, but they’re less likely to talk about them with family or caregivers. Some children with depression may have trouble sleeping, have trouble concentrating at school, or be irritable and withdrawn. They may show signs of anxiety, as well, being afraid to go out in public or avoiding social situations altogether. 

If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, it’s important to seek help right away from a pediatrician or clinician. They can direct you to a child psychiatrist or psychologist who is experienced in helping children deal with mood disorders.

What Is a Mood Disorder?

A mood disorder is a mental health condition that impacts a person’s emotional state. It causes changes in mood, behavior problems, and changes to overall functioning.

Symptoms aren’t one-size-fits-all. Depending on the child or adolescent, a variety of disorders can present in different ways.

Risk Factors

While children with a family history of mood disorders are more likely to develop the same mental health disorders, other factors can cause symptoms to develop, as well. For example, the death of a loved one or the divorce of the child’s parents are life changes that can cause depression or anxiety.

Residential treatment facility at Meridian.

Help For Your Child’s Mood Disorder at Meridian

There are treatment options available to help your child learn coping skills for their varying mental health needs. From problem-solving and cognitive behavioral therapy to family therapy, Meridian HealthCare is here to help your family.

Boardman Office

8255 South Ave
Youngstown, OH 44512
Phone: 330-797-0070

Types of Mood Disorders

Just because a child is displaying mental health problems doesn’t mean that the child’s life has to be defined by them. With pediatric counseling, children and adolescents can receive the care they need to treat their mental illness, leading to a productive life.

It’s important to note there are a range of feelings and symptoms children show when they have a mood disorder, and it’s not always the same as an adult, which is why professional medical care is important.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is marked by severe irritability, being angry, and having intense temper outbursts (at least three times a week). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children between the ages of 6 and 10 are diagnosed with DMDD after they’ve had symptoms for at least one year.

Since DMDD is a newer-classified disorder, not many treatments have been established. Current treatment options can include psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. Two  popular psychotherapy treatments used for DMDD include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and parent training. CBT helps children and adolescents learn to handle anxious or depressed thoughts. Parent training helps caregivers learn how to read the signs of each mood transition.

Bipolar Disorder

About 4% of children (under the age of 18) are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Mood changes for children can be drastically different from adults. Within 24 hours, a child’s behavior may have transitions from a depressive episode to elation, confusion, or even anger.

Unfortunately, the cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, although genetics are believed to be a factor. In evidence-based research, the death of a family member or abuse have also been shown to increase bipolar development.

To diagnose and treat bipolar disorder, your child’s healthcare provider will conduct a full medical history workup, medical tests, and a mental health evaluation. Treatment often includes medication and psychotherapy. Other therapies can include chronotherapy (a sleep routine), family-focused therapy (FFT), and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT).

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Nearly 10% of children have ADHD. Common in both children and adults, ADHD is when a person can’t control their impulses. Symptoms include trouble focusing, hyperactivity, hyperfocusing, restlessness, forgetfulness, fidgeting and excessive talking.

Behavior therapy and medication are common interventions for ADHD.

Anxiety Disorders

About 9.4% of children have an anxiety disorder, which can include social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). If a child or adolescent is regularly nervous, feels fearful, or has trouble sleeping/concentrating, they may have an anxiety disorder.

Genetics, life events, and individual circumstances all play a role in anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is utilized to treat anxiety disorders.


Around 4.4% of children have depression. Symptoms of depression include stomachaches, low self-esteem, being socially withdrawn, and suicidal thoughts. It’s important to note that symptoms are different for each child.

Children with a family history of depression are more likely to develop this mood disorder, as are those who live in chaotic households. Adolescent substance abuse can also lead to depression.

Once diagnosed, depression is treated with psychotherapy and CBT, sometimes along with medication.

Symptoms or Warning Signs of Mood Disorders

As stated above, there are multiple symptoms and warning signs of mood disorders in children. Symptoms often vary from person to person, but some disorders have “shared” symptoms. That’s why it’s important to be in tune with how your child feels.

Symptoms and Warning Signs

  • Mood swings
  • Irritable moods
  • Tantrums
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sadness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Anger
  • Physical aching (stomach, head)
  • Restlessness
  • Nervousness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Hyperactivity or hyperfocusing
  • A change in sleep patterns

*If this is an emergency or your child has had suicidal thoughts, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

When reviewing treatment options that include medication, remember to ask about potential side effects.

Preschooler in a counseling session with a mental health professional.

Compassionate Mental Health Professionals at Meridian

For more than 50 years, Meridian HealthCare has been helping children manage mood disorders. If your child is experiencing issues, we are here and ready to help. Give us a call.

What do current and recovering patients have to say about Meridian?

Without the help I got from Meridian, I would be dead. I’m so grateful to them for everything they did. Thanks to Meridian, I got my life back.

They actually care. Meridian helped me with my recovery. Really, they saved my life.

My Meridian counselor was the BEST ever. You should never hesitate to ask if you need help — they are great.

I had a great experience at Meridian. They are the best out there for drug and mental health issues.