Females are More Vulnerable to Teen Mood Disorders

Up until recently, certain mental illnesses that had to do with emotions were categorized under mood disorders, also known as affective disorders. The word affect is a clinical term for emotion or feeling. In the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, however, teen mood disorders are now categorized differently. The categories for mental illnesses are Anxiety Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders, Substance-Related Disorders, and more.

For instance, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Bipolar Disorder (BD) are common mood disorders. However, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), also a very common psychological illness, is now classified differently. Nonetheless, the rates of prevalence among these three illnesses – MDD, BD, and GAD – are different between females and males.

Typically, as children grow older, the rates of depression and anxiety are the same regardless of gender. It is usually around 3 to 5 percent for both boys and girls alike. However, when children enter into adolescence, girls are more at risk for experiencing a teen mood disorder. In fact, female teens are twice as likely to exhibit signs and symptoms of mood disorders.

One reason for this is the way that females respond to emotional stimuli. Females tend to mature faster than males regarding their ability to regulate their emotions. They also tend to have a heightened sensitivity towards emotions, which might be a trigger for anxiety and depression.

In fact, one recent study explored the presence of depression in adolescents involved in an afterschool arts program. A total of 2,482 teens (1,244 males and 1,238 females; 27 percent were black, 19 percent were Hispanic and 54 percent were non-Hispanic whites.) between the ages of 15-16 were interviewed. As predicted, those teens who participated in arts activities were more likely to report feeling depressed or sad compared to teens not involved in the arts. The research also revealed that female adolescents were more likely to take part in an arts program and reported somewhat higher rates of depression than male adolescents.

Furthermore, according to an article in Psychiatric News, what leads to depression in both men and women have some important differences. Research, led by Dr. Kenneth Kendler and his colleagues, identified 20 risk factors across both genders that can contribute to the onset of depression in adults. The research revealed that 11 of the 20 risk factors differed between the genders. Five of those risk factors had a greater impact on women. They were parental warmth, neuroticism, divorce, social support, and marital satisfaction had the strongest impact on depression in women. Six had a greater impact in men – sexual abuse, conduct disorder, drug abuse, history of depression, and stressful events had influences on the onset of depression in men. Although the study involved adults, it can be compared to the differences between male and female teens as well. This statement warrants clinical research; however, the social factors that influence genders play a role in the differences between men and women despite age. The risk factors for teens include having parents with depression, especially if the mother is depressed, early trauma or negative experiences, and early exposure to stress, neglect, or abuse.

Also, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that more adolescent girls experience suicidal thoughts and are more likely to attempt suicide. The study surveyed about 6,500 teens between the ages of 13 to 18 and found that nine percent of boys and fifteen percent of girls experienced a period of persistent suicidal thoughts. It’s interesting to note that the differences in the sexes continue into adulthood, which reflects the Kendler study described above.

On the whole, regardless of how diagnoses are categorized, when there are symptoms that indicate a disturbance in mood, there could be a psychological illness. Also, because variations in mood are common in adolescence, it’s important to have a teen clinically assessed if he or she is exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness.


Young, Laura. “Teens Involved in Arts Activities Report More Depressive Symptoms than Teens Not Involved in the Arts, Research Finds.” Http://www.apa.org. American Psychological Association, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

Risk Factors for Development of Major Depression Differ Among Genders, Study Reports. Psychiatric News. Retrieved online on March 31, 2014 from: http://alert.psychiatricnews.org/2014/03/risk-factors-for-development-of-major.html

Gregoire, C. (Jan 24, 2013). Mood Disorders Among Teenage Girls: Young Women More at Risk for Anxiety, Depression Than Boys. The Huffington Post. Retrieved on May 12, 2014 from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/mood-disorders–teenage-g_n_2529514.html