When someone struggles with a mood disorder, they experience distortions or inconsistencies in their overall mood or state of mind. Often these disturbances interfere with their ability to function and attend to day-to-day tasks or obligations. Depending on the disorder, you may experience severe bouts of sadness, irritability, depression. These emotions may alter, sometimes unpredictably, to feelings of excessive happiness. There are several different mood disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5). While each impacts its own specific list of symptoms and challenges, many are effectively treated with similar forms of counseling and alternative treatments at a facility like Beachside.
What Are Mood Disorders?
Before learning about natural ways to manage a mood disorder, it is essential to understand more about what mood disorders are and how they can affect your teen. Mood disorders are the class of mental conditions that encompasses all types of depression and bipolar disorders. Mood disorders can impact individuals of all ages; however, the presentation will often be different in younger children and teens than adults. Also, it is often more difficult to definitively diagnose mood disorders in younger children as they often lack the ability to explain or express their emotions clearly. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was updated in 2013, the broad category of mood disorders was separated into two groups: bipolar disorder and related disorders and depressive disorders. Generally, the mood disorders most people are familiar with include bipolar disorder and various types of depression.
Major Depressive Disorder
Also referred to as major depression or clinical depression, major depressive order is characterized by periods of extreme sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness. These marked alterations in mood are typically accompanied by various, often debilitating physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms.
Bipolar I Disorder
Formerly called “manic depression,” someone with a bipolar I diagnosis will experience alternating euphoric and/or irritable moods and increased energy or activity. During manic episodes, someone with bipolar I will often regularly engage in activities that can lead to painful consequences for themselves, those around them, and their loved ones.
Bipolar II Disorder
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a bipolar II diagnosis requires one to experience at least one episode of current or past hypomania (a less severe form of mania), and at least one episode of current or past major depression, but no history of any manic episodes. The 2013 updates to the DMS-5 did not change the criteria for episodes of mania, hypomania, and major depression.
These are the three mood disorder diagnoses most are familiar with; however, there are others. These categories include substance or mediation and medically induced mood disorders and categories for “other specified” and “unspecified” mood disorders that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for mood disorders listed above.
Mood Disorders in Teens
For parents, it can be challenging to determine if the mood swings your teen experience are rooted in “typical” teen angst or something deeper. General irritability, anger, drama, and various other emotional changes are a natural part of the growth process for most teens. Despite the common, even expected, nature of mood changes in teens, it is important for parents to know how mood disorders may present in teens to understand better how to help provide support and guidance around treatment options such as mental health programs at Beachside.
Teens may not present with the same symptoms as adults who are struggling with the same mood disorder. The most common symptoms teens may display include persistent feelings of sadness, reduced self-esteem, feeling not good enough, difficulties forming or maintaining relationships, changes to sleeping patterns, weight changes, decreased energy, problems concentrating, and frequent complaints about physical troubles such as headaches or stomach aches. Other signs that could point towards a potential mood disorder in teens are poor academic performance, rebellious behavior, difficulties at home or in social groups, and constant (often unwarranted) anger.
Natural Ways to Help with Mood Disorder
In addition to comprehensive treatment programs, other natural methods can help reduce the intensity of mood disorder symptoms. There is scientific research to support using alternative treatments for depression; however, their effectiveness in treatment for bipolar disorder still requires more research. Before beginning any alternative treatment, it is essential to speak to your teen’s primary care provider. This is especially true if your teen takes any other medications or has any underlying medical conditions for which alternative treatments could have unintended side effects. Alternative treatments are not intended to replace traditional treatments or medications that your primary care provider may have prescribed for your teen; however, many people report increased benefits when combining traditional treatments with alternative treatment options.
Vitamins and Supplements
Nature is the source of a wide variety of supplements that have been shown to reduce symptoms of physical or psychological illness for centuries. Fish oil is believed to affect the chemicals in the brain frequently associated with mood disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids, a primary component of fish and fish oil, may help reduce irritability and aggression, reduce depression symptoms, and maintain mood stability while improving overall brain function. Another supplement, Rhodiola Rosea, is also thought to help treat mild to moderate depression. R. Rosea is a mild stimulant that may lead to sleeping disturbances. Other vitamins, supplements, and naturally occurring antioxidants may help to reduce the intensity of depression symptoms. Again, it is important to ask your primary care provider or nutritionist for more information before changing or starting any new medications.
Calming and Relaxation Techniques
Stress and anxiety complicate the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. Many alternative treatments strive to reduce anxiety and stress levels to help naturally reduce the severity of depression and bipolar symptoms. Some of the most common calming and relaxation techniques your teen can integrate into their routine include massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation, and yoga. These techniques will not cure bipolar disorder or depression; however, they may help provide a natural supplement to your teen’s treatment plan.
Lifestyle changes will not “treat” or cure bipolar disorder or depression; however specific changes may help stabilize your teen’s mood and enhance their current treatment program at Beachside. Some changes which could be most beneficial include getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular exercise. Exercise does not have to be intense or extensive. As little as 30 minutes a few days a week can make a significant difference in mood. It can also help your teen get better sleep and reduce depression symptoms. Also, regular exercise will help them maintain their physical health. Getting adequate sleep is a challenge for people of all ages. However, ensuring your teen gets regular and sufficient rest can also stabilize mood and reduce irritability. Finally, healthy foods (including fish and omega-3 fatty acids) are highly beneficial. It is important to encourage your teen to reduce their intake of saturated fats and trans fats as they are linked to chemical imbalances in the brain.
Other Treatment Options
The best course of treatment for your teen will depend on the specific illness and symptoms your teen experiences. The best treatment programs often combine traditional evidence-based treatment models with alternative and holistic treatments listed above. As part of a comprehensive treatment program, your teens counseling teen at Beachside will work with your family to create a treatment plan that meets your needs specific treatment needs and goals. Treatment programs generally involve a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy).
Medications are not ideal for all patients and will not be used in all cases. However, if antidepressants or mood stabilizers are deemed helpful for your teen during the early days of treatment, a treatment provider may use them to help regulate mood swings or reduce the severity of depressive symptoms. It is also important to note that medications are often taken only for short periods. Many antidepressants, anti-psychotics, or mood stabilizers are prescribed for a short duration, with the goal of slowly weaning off them as they are no longer a vital part of a treatment program. It is important, however, to ensure that this weaning process takes place under medical supervision.
Another essential component of treatment for mood disorders is therapy. Teens who struggle with depression or other mood disorders may benefit from various types of talk therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, or problem-solving therapy.
Mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorders, may reoccur or be ongoing. For this reason, they may require a long-term or lifetime treatment at varying intensities. If prescribed, it is vital to ensure that your teen continues to take all medications and only reduces or stops taking them under the doctor’s supervision. Comprehensive therapy programs, including traditional psychotherapy models and alternative or holistic treatments, have been shown to be helpful treatment approaches for individuals of all ages. The type of treatment and duration of treatment that will work best for your teen will depend significantly on their unique circumstances, the symptoms with which they struggle, and the severity of those symptoms. Each person who experiences a mood disorder does so in a unique way, and therefore their treatment program must be equally as unique.
If you are concerned that the changes in your teen’s mood could point to a potential mood disorder and would like to learn more about their symptoms or possible treatment options, reach out to the admissions team at Beachside today. The teen years are a struggle for many. It is often challenging for those struggling with fluctuating or constantly changing emotions to understand what they are experiencing and how to get better. Our experienced team of teen treatment professionals at Beachside is here to help your family take those first steps towards banishing mood disorder symptoms.