Child Crime Prevention & Safety Center

Mood Disorders

Many common mood disorders found in juveniles often include bipolar disorder, major depression, persistent depressive disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and substance-induced mood disorder. In many cases, children who have been diagnosed for a particular mood disorder are also put at a heightened risk for a number of other disorders such as substance abuse and anxiety, which can contribute to criminality and involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Although many studies have been conducted to determine the cause of various mood disorders there is still no bright lined indicator as to the cause of these mood disorders. It is speculated that many of these various mood disorders are likely caused by some type of chemical imbalance or some delayed mental development. Additionally, it is also opined by the scientific community that these mood disorders in children can be caused by environmental factors, traumatic life experiences, and inherited through genetics.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, mood disorders are not simply a child’s feelings of sadness or depression from time to time. Mood disorders actually stem from a child’s inability to deal with, process, and manage feelings of sadness or depression which become disrupting to a child’s everyday life. Although there are certain stressful or traumatic life events that can trigger a mood disorder, it has yet to be determined if there is a correlation between the two.

Symptoms of various mood disorders in children often depend on the age of the child and the type of mood disorder that the child has been diagnosed with. Symptoms of mood disorders can include many of the following: extended periods of sadness, episodes of aggressive outbursts or violence, feelings of hopelessness, low self-worth, continuous complaints about fatigue, sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, threats of suicide, and threats of harm towards others. Symptoms of these mood disorders tend to be more evident in children than in their adult counterparts mainly because the symptoms begin to disrupt the child’s daily routine and activities which mainly occur at school.

Given the recent upswing in school-related violence, school administrators and law enforcement take any potential outbursts from a student extremely serious. This places children who have been diagnosed with a mood disorder or who are exhibiting symptoms of a mood disorder in a precarious situation. On one hand, children should be encouraged to speak up about any mental disorders or symptoms that they are struggling with so that they can be diagnosed properly and have a proper treatment plan in place. But on the other hand, children who are forthcoming and candid about their symptoms and mood disorders can potentially find themselves expelled from school and under the scrutiny of law enforcement and in all likelihood, they can end up being referred to juvenile court.

Because children who may be suffering from a mood disorder are put in this dilemma, it is imperative for parents and guardians to seek out professional help. When parents or guardians suspect that their child may be exhibiting symptoms of mood disorders it is critical that a mental health professional is sought out immediately to properly diagnose the child and begin treatment to address any potential disorders that the child may have. Since many of the symptoms of mood disorders can be easily written off as a child dealing with growing pains, it is extremely important that these potential signs and symptoms of a mood disorder do not get easily dismissed. Due to the impact that collateral consequences of a mood disorder may have on a child’s future, it is highly encouraged to address these issues as soon as they arise.