Mood Disorders

4 Common Mood Disorders in Teens (And How Parents Can Help)

Mood disorders are mental health conditions characterized by symptoms of depression or mania. Most mood disorders are also known as depressive disorders and revolve around long-term symptoms of low mood and anhedonia, or lack of joy. The most common mood disorders in teens include major depression (or clinical depression), seasonal depression, persistent depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. Visions Treatment Centers helps families navigate the challenges of facing a mood disorder together.

Mood disorders in teens can manifest in various ways, including persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, or emptiness.

Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, and energy levels are common indicators of mood disorders in teens. Understanding the classic signs of a mood disorder and knowing what most mood disorders look like helps parents provide the support their teens need, whether at home or through a residential treatment program for teens.

This article explores mood disorders in teens.

Common Mood Disorders in Teens

Recognizing the most common mood disorders in teens, such as depression and bipolar disorder, is crucial for timely intervention and support.

Early identification can significantly enhance the effectiveness of treatment, preventing the progression of symptoms and potential complications. Awareness among parents, educators, and peers helps create a supportive environment encouraging teens to seek help without stigma.

Understanding and recognizing these disorders can lead to better management and improved outcomes, paving the way for a healthier transition into adulthood.

Let’s take a closer look at four of the most common mood disorders in teens.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): More Than Teen Angst

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a profound mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities.

It significantly impacts a teen’s energy levels, concentration, daily behavior, and overall health. Symptoms might also include changes in appetite or sleep, irritability, and thoughts of self-harm.

Parents can play a crucial role in helping their teen manage MDD by first seeking a diagnosis from a mental health professional. Supportive parenting, including regular communication, emotional support, and a supportive home environment, is critical.

Encouraging healthy habits, such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep, can also aid in managing symptoms. Moreover, parents should consider professional counseling or therapy for their teen, which can provide strategies for coping and recovery.

Related: Teen Depression Treatment

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder in teens is marked by extreme fluctuations in mood, energy, and activity levels, ranging from manic highs to depressive lows.

The manic phase may involve excessive euphoria, high energy, risky behaviors, and a reduced need for sleep, whereas the depressive phase can mirror symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.

Early diagnosis and treatment are vital for managing bipolar disorder effectively. Parents can assist by monitoring their teen’s behavior for signs of mood swings and seeking professional help promptly. Maintaining a routine at home can provide stability and help manage symptoms.

Education about the disorder is also essential so that both parents and teens understand the nature of the illness and the importance of adherence to treatment plans, which may include medication and psychotherapy.

Related: Teen Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is characterized by chronic, severe irritability in children and adolescents. Teens with DMDD exhibit frequent temper outbursts that are disproportionate to the situation and inconsistent with their developmental level, interspersed with periods of persistent irritability.

These symptoms often disrupt their daily functioning, affecting social, educational, and familial relationships. Parents can help by creating a calm, structured environment and responding consistently to outbursts. It’s essential to seek guidance from mental health professionals specializing in youth behavior to develop tailored behavioral strategies.

Parental support in navigating these strategies and reinforcing positive behaviors at home is essential. Additionally, parents should educate themselves about DMDD to better understand and empathize with their teen’s challenges.

Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder)

Dysthymia, or Persistent Depressive Disorder, involves a chronic state of depression that may not be as intense as major depression but lasts for a more extended period, often years.

Symptoms include low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, and a general lack of interest or joy in life which can hinder a teen’s ability to function and feel well. The disorder can be particularly challenging to identify as teens may seem like they are simply always moody or irritable.

Parents can help by observing their teen’s behavior over time and seeking an evaluation from a mental health professional if symptoms persist. Supportive parenting, involving understanding, patience, and encouragement, is crucial. Engaging in therapy, both individual and family sessions can be beneficial in managing dysthymia. Helping teens establish a routine and set realistic goals can also be supportive measures that parents can facilitate.

How Parents Can Help

Recognizing the signs of mood disorders in teens, such as persistent sadness, irritability, changes in sleep or appetite, strange or recent antisocial behavior, and withdrawal from regular activities, is crucial for early intervention.

It’s essential to seek professional help when dealing with a mood disorder. Depressive disorders and symptoms of mania can have serious long-term repercussions, including increased risk-taking behavior, self-harm, substance use, and suicidality. Only a qualified mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis of your teen’s condition and suggest the appropriate treatment plan. Here’s how parents can help provide support for teens struggling with mood disorders:

Encourage Open Communication

Most people who experience depressive symptoms, including teens, tend to hide them. Parents can help catch a mood disorder early on by keeping in touch with their teen’s emotions and talking to them regularly. Find out how your teen is doing, note changes in their behavior or communication, and make sure they feel like they can talk to you about anything that bothers them.

Seek Professional Help Early

If you’re worried about your teen’s mental health, encourage them to talk to a counselor or take them to a therapist. Accompany them every step of the way—work with them to find a mental health professional that they’re comfortable with and let them know that you’re here to support them throughout the entire process.

Educate Family on Mental Health

While it helps to have understanding parents, it can be difficult to openly discuss certain mental health challenges if other loved ones stay ignorant on the topic of mental health. Encourage learning more about depression and other mood disorders, as well as concurrent or related conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, substance use problems, and personality disorders.

Like many other mental health issues, depressive disorders are often hereditary. Learning more about them can help family members identify other people needing help.

Teen Treatment Centers in California

Are you concerned about your teen’s mood swings or prolonged periods of sadness? At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we specialize in treating common mood disorders in teens, such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Our evidence-based therapies and compassionate approach provide a treatment framework for teens struggling with these conditions while guiding them toward a path of long-term mental wellness through continued support and therapeutic adherence.

Contact us today to discover how we can help treat teen mood disorders.


Conditions like major depression and bipolar disorder often pose significant challenges for teens and their families. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of these conditions, such as persistent sadness and changes in behavior, can help families seek treatment.

Evidence-based treatments and long-term support can help teens and their loved ones cope with a mood disorder and foster long-term mental wellness.

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