What are the Symptoms of Mood Disorders in Children?

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  • Written By: Marco Sumayao
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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The symptoms of mood disorders in children depend largely on the type of disorder suffered. Depressive disorders, the type most commonly found in children, are often exhibited through general sadness, an inability to experience pleasure regardless of stimulus, and unexplainable bouts of fatigue. In addition, each distinct type of depressive disorder has a set of symptoms that distinguish it from the rest. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, displays symptoms from both depressive and manic mood disorders. Mood disorders in children can also result from exposure to mood-altering substances, such as alcohol and certain drugs.

Although mood disorders in children are relatively uncommon in comparison to those exhibited by adults, they occur in a significant amount. Aside from situational precursors, such as poverty and familial problems, mood disorders can be genetically inherited. Most experts agree, however, that heredity only predisposes patients for psychological disorders and that mood disorders are triggered through external stimuli.

Symptoms of mood disorders in children are often more easily spotted than those in adults, as children are less likely to hide them. Children with depression, for example, have a greater tendency to express their sadness in a public forum than depressed adults. Other symptoms of depression commonly expressed by children are insomnia, oversleeping, and a lack of desire to seek out pleasurable activities. Depressed children can also express suicidal thoughts, but most adults take such statements for granted.


Depression is an umbrella term for depressive mood disorders in children. Specific varieties bear distinctive symptoms; psychotic major depression, for example, can cause the child to have delusions and hallucinations. Atypical depression, on the other hand, can have symptoms not usually expressed by depressed subjects, such as weight gain and an abnormally positive attitude. Another form of depression, seasonal affective disorder, is characterized by bouts of depression for the length of winter seasons that disappear during springtime.

Children are also known to suffer from bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic-depressive disorder. This mood disorder is characterized by common symptoms of depression offset by times of extreme mania. Children in a manic state are often hyperactive, irritable, and overconfident. Manic children also tend to have extraordinarily flighty thoughts and unpredictable mood swings.

Treatment for mood disorders in children often consists of a combination of medication and psychological therapy. The medication is provided for the management of symptoms while therapists seek to resolve the causes of the disorders. In cases where the cause of the disorder is a biological deficiency, the child might require lifelong medication.


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