ZocdocAnswersCan a young child have a mood disorder?

Question

Can a young child have a mood disorder?

My daughter is only 6 years old, but she shows an extreme volatility. We never really know how she's going to react to a gentle reprimand or even just a question. Should we take her to a doctor or could this be a normal phase of development?

Answer

Children the age of your daughter can indeed have mood disorders, although their diagnosis and treatment can be difficult at times. Child psychiatrists are specialized in these disorders and could discuss the issue with you in greater detail. However, children this age can also just be working through some developmental tasks, and this can manifest as volatility. It can help to maintain a constant, affirming parental involvement and to set clear, realistic, and consistent expectations with rewards and consequences. It can also be helpful to gather some more information. For example, talk to your daughter's school teacher to see how she behaves in school and around her peers in that setting. Talk to parents of your daughter's friends to see how she behaves when she visits their homes. Also think about any recent stressors or changes in life that your daughter may be working through - common problems include bullying at school, or a divorce or death in the family, or a recent move. After collecting all of this information, the best first step is to sit down and talk with your daughter's pediatrician. They can help you decide whether psychiatric involvement is warranted.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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