How to recognize mood disorders in your teens

As the unrecognizable mother draws her in, the teenager ignores her mother. The teenager is frustrated and angry.

One in eight young people aged 5 to 19 is at risk of developing a mental disorder, of which mood disorders and anxiety are the most common.

The focus on youth mental health has recently increased due to the disruption caused by Covid-19 and blockages that have exacerbated the challenges that existed before the pandemic. So it became important again not only to start talking about youth mental health, but also to recognize the symptoms and know where to look for help.

“The prevalence of mood disorders among young people is increasingly becoming an international concern,” says Dr. Jacques Mostert, Academic Brand Manager at ADvTECH, SA’s leading private education provider. Dr Mostert holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and is internationally recognized in his field, having conducted experiential educational research in Denmark, UK, South Africa and the Netherlands.

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Dr Mostert notes that about 24% of teens aged 11-19 suffer from depression caused by the family environment, 25% are prone to cyberbullying and loneliness, 92% of LGBT youth report suffering from depression between 11 and 19-year-olds and 80% of 11-19-year-olds report a sense of isolation that makes them feel depressed.

“It is very important to understand the signs of depression, so that action can be taken in time if concerns about a child’s mental well-being arise,” says Dr Mostert.

“Teachers and parents can recognize the onset of depression when a sudden change in behavior becomes apparent and continues for at least 3 weeks or more. These include an atypical lack of energy, becoming increasingly irritable and restless without a rational explanation, and a feeling of being in the trash for no reason. “

If there is a noticeable and drastic change in a young person’s behavior that continues for several weeks or more, intervention is necessary.

Doctor Jacques Mostert

Some teens may withdraw from friends and family for an extended period of time, he notes, adding that this is of particular concern if this is atypical of the adolescent’s normal interactions.

“Another red flag is the inability to concentrate in class where ADHD or other non-neurotypical difficulties are not present, as well as not regularly completing homework and homework on time or being late for class because he feels overwhelmed.

“This, together with unusually provocative behavior towards teachers and other school staff, especially if it is atypical behavior, may indicate that the adolescent is having mood difficulties and of affect. “

Similar to anxiety difficulties and disorders, the student often asks to go home because they are feeling unwell with no discernible symptoms. The teenager often has days off due to doctor’s appointments, hospitalization, or inability to attend classes.

Changes in sleep patterns, significant weight loss or gain over a short period of time, and a disinterest in hobbies or areas the teenager has previously been interested in also raise concerns about mental well-being. of the teenager.

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Finally, a loss of the spirit of the future, or talking about death or suicide, engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors (drinking alcohol, taking drugs or cutting, for example) are signs clear that the adolescent has a mood disorder or a possible mood disorder.

“All of the above does not need to be present, but if there is a discernable and drastic change in a young person’s behavior that continues for several weeks or more, intervention is necessary,” explains the Dr Mostert.

He says the first steps teachers and parents can take to help their child cope with depression at home and in the classroom include:


Parents of teenagers should develop the habit of listening with empathy and not giving in to the simplest solution to avoid lectures. However, it should also be said that parents should be gentle but persistent when it comes to having realistic expectations of their child.


Punishment, sarcasm, denigration and passive aggression are a way of affirming the belief of the depressed adolescent that he is not worthy or a valued member of family or society. Parents need to be prepared to be vulnerable and to recognize their own feelings and those of their teenagers, especially during times of disruption like the Covid-19 pandemic.


Realistic and deserved rewards are one of the most important tools in a parent’s approach to supporting their depressed child. The feeling of having won an award and receiving recognition for an aspect of their life that they find important affirms a sense of worth. However, the reverse is also true. Undeserved praise leaves the teenager with a sense of inauthenticity and affirms their already negative self-perception.


Activities of interest are often overlooked when teens are depressed. Often times, parents try to organize and engage in these activities as a cure-all for their teenager’s depression. However, this can exacerbate the young person’s feeling of worthlessness. Parents should find new and interesting activities that can lead to deserved success. This can include DIY activities around the house or asking for help with a specific app or technology in which, when success is achieved, praise is earned.

“Most importantly, parents need to trust their instincts,” says Dr. Mostert.

If your teenager insists that everything is fine, despite a prolonged period of depressed mood or a diagnosis of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, parents need to trust their instincts and seek help.

“If the above techniques did not improve mental well-being, parents should seek advice from their doctor or psychiatrist. “

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