From Depression to Bipolar, Mood Disorders are No Longer Just for Adults

Traditionally, the field of psychology saw major mood disorders as existing primarily in adults. However, today, those disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder, are increasingly seen in adolescents. In fact, recent studies have found that as many as 15%-18% of teens have experienced a mood episode by age 18. A mood episode is either an experience of a very low mood, such as depression, or a very high mood, such as mania. There is also the experience of hypomania, which is also considered to be a mood episode and is a less severe form of mania. Depression is a consistent or regular periods of low mood and Bipolar Disorder is the oscillation between a low mood and high mood. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Bipolar Disorder (BD) are common mood disorders.

Vilma Gabbay, Director of the Pediatric Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at Mount Sinai Hospital and a psychiatrist specializing in treating mood and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents, ranging from depression to bipolar disorder, points out that “risk factors include a family history of mood disorders, a tendency toward anxiety, and stressors like trauma and bullying. Stress itself can trigger a mood disorder – not in everyone – but in many teens.”

The symptoms of mania and depression come with different symptoms. According to Gabbay, “Depression can come with experiences of sadness, tearfulness, diminished capacity to enjoy pleasurable activities, irritability and physical symptoms including increased or decreased appetite, sleep disturbances and fatigue.” Teens who have Bipolar Disorder have these same symptoms but can also experience manic or hypomanic episodes. These include “…high feeling of irritability, decreased need for sleep, increased energy, behaving strangely in the classroom, impulsivity, being more talkative, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities,” says Gabbay. In severe cases, mania can cause psychosis and distorted thinking.

Approximately 5% of teens exhibit a mood disorder. Mood disorders, although traditionally observed in adulthood, actually begin to display symptoms in adolescence. This may be true due to changes that take place in the adolescent brain along with the associated rush of hormones. The prevalence of mood disorders in teens is approximately 3 to 5 percent for boys and girls alike. However, when children enter into adolescence, female teens are twice as likely to exhibit signs and symptoms of mood disorders. One reason for this is that girls tend to mature faster than males and have a heightened sensitivity towards emotions, which may be a trigger for anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Most importantly, get the support you need by calling upon the support of a mental health professional for mood disorder, bipolar disorder, or depression treatment.