Children’s Behavioral and Mood Disorders

Children suffering from behavioral and mood disorders may appear to be in a bad mood much of the time or may act out in disruptive ways. However, these mental health problems are much more than occasional outbursts of behavior. They can interfere with a child’s daily activities like school, extracurricular activities, and friendships. Behavioral and mood disorders typically involve a range of extreme emotions and intense thoughts and feelings.

Types of Behavioral and Mood Disorders

Mood and behavioral disorders cover a broad spectrum of conditions that may include:


Anxiety can cause children to feel uneasy, distressed, and frightened with no apparent cause.


Also known as major depressive disorder, depression is a serious mental health illness that negatively affects the way one feels, thinks, and behaves. When a child experiences depression or irritability that lasts for at least two weeks, they may be suffering from major depressive disorder.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia)

Ongoing, low-grade depression or irritability lasting more than one year.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

One of the most common mental disorders among children, ADHD affects more boys than girls. Symptoms of the disorder often include an inability to sit still, plan ahead, or finish tasks.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Extreme inability to control behavior and often involves persistent irritability.


Autism is another disorder that is more common in boys than girls. It can manifest itself in language delays and emotional connections with other people.

Bipolar Disorder

Usually involves periods of elevated mood, followed by periods of depression or flat emotions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

An anxiety disorder that involves recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas, or sensations that can create a compulsion to perform repetitive actions or behaviors.

Eating Disorders

Mental health illness that creates a severe disturbance in a child’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to food and their body.

Signs and Symptoms of Behavioral and Mood Disorders

Although each child is different and may demonstrate a variety of behaviors depending on their unique diagnosis, here are a few common signs and symptoms that may indicate a child is suffering from a mood or behavioral disorder.

  • Academic difficulties

  • Skipping school

  • Persistent feelings of sadness

  • Harming themselves or others

  • Threatening themselves, other people, or pets

  • Lying or stealing

  • Low self-esteem

  • Aggression or hostility

  • Frequent tantrums

  • Disrespect toward authority figures


To diagnose mood and behavioral disorders, a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is usually performed by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. When possible, the child’s family is also evaluated as this can provide additional information that may help confirm a diagnosis. Sometimes, a child’s teachers or care providers are asked to provide additional information that can help the mental health team determine the correct diagnosis and treatment.


Parents play a vital role in their child’s treatment, which is why it’s important for parents to understand their child’s diagnosis and how they can help support their mental health treatment. Since each child is unique, specific treatments for mood and behavioral disorders vary and will be determined by your child’s health care provider based on the following:

  • Overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the symptoms
  • The child’s age
  • Type of disorder
  • The child’s tolerance for certain medications or therapies

Medications — Some mood and behavioral disorders can be effectively treated with the use of medication.

Psychotherapy — Cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapies have proven effective treatment methods for a variety of mental health conditions, including behavioral and mood disorders in children and adolescents. These therapies focus on changing the child’s view of themselves and the world around them and help the child develop coping strategies that often includes learning how to avoid unnecessary stressors in their environment.

For more information about children’s behavioral and mood disorders or to learn more about any of our services, please call 800-Novomed (800-668 6633) or fill in the appointment form on this page.