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All people may have times in their lives when they feel sad, or blue, or down. However, the extent to which this occurs, the length of time it lasts, and/or the degree it impacts the person or represents a change in the person's functioning may be above and beyond a typical range. For example, the individual may have a harder time having fun while engaged in activities he or she previously enjoyed or in any new activities. The person may appear as if he or she used to be happier or show changes in behavior, such as changes in appetite, sleep, or frequency of being grumpy or irritable. There are a number of types of mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, or dysthymic disorder, that are based on different criteria. The specific mood disorder someone has is related to how long an individual has symptoms as well as the degree of the symptoms.
Diagnosis: If you have concerns about the mood or changes in mood of your child, yourself, or a friend or loved one, find a professional to speak to. Good options are your doctor or pediatrician or a school or other counselor. They may be able to refer you to mental health services. Alternatively, talk to your insurance company about who may be an eligible provider of mental health services. The mental health professional will probably interview you about your concerns and ask you to fill out questionnaires. They may want to speak to other people as well. If you are seeking help for a child, the mental health professional may want to interview your child or have your child fill out questionnaires, if the child is able to do so. Depression is sometimes accompanied by suicidal thoughts or a wish to die. Any comment such as this should be taken seriously and addressed immediately with your doctor or mental health provider.
Treatment: Treatment for depression or other mood disorders may involve therapy that teaches individuals and families tools and strategies to identify emotions and feelings, cope with feelings, or address potential triggers. Treatment may also include medication. If you or your child is prescribed medication, make sure you are in regular contact with the prescriber, even if the depression seems to get better. It is most important not to start, stop, or change medication without speaking to the prescribing doctor first. Sometimes, stopping too soon can cause side effects or make it harder to find an effective medication if the symptoms of depression return. Also, always let your doctors know if you or your child is taking other supplements or vitamins. Some of these can create chemical reactions with medications.