Symptoms of affective disorders

As many teenagers often struggle with the hormones that adolescence brings, it can be difficult to spot the signs of an affective disorder. However, there are a number of core symptoms which you should look out for in the young person including:

These are the three main types of affective disorder. Negative life events can trigger these affective disorders, for example bereavement or early traumatic experiences.

In some cases, it may be difficult to read whether a teenager is truly struggling with depression or anxiety due to the pressures of school life and growing up in general that all teenagers experience. It is often a good idea to be sensitive and try to put yourself ‘in their shoes’ before approaching them about their condition.

Traits of bipolar disorder may be easier to spot as the sufferer will experience extreme highs and extreme lows at various points throughout a period of time. Episodes of depression and mania cause the young person to suffer from a lack of stability and an inability to control their mood.

Additionally, there may be a reduction in libido, which can be difficult to discuss with a young person. There is often a general withdrawal and loss of interest from hobbies, friends and school. Parents should look out for irritability, behaviour problems, poor conduct at school and substance abuse. The latter is often used to manage mood and avoid sad feelings.

Signs of affective disorder

Common signs of affective disorders in young people can include:

  • A lack of positivity and reduced energy for example little or no motivation in the work place or at home
  • A lack of confidence and concentration, and reduced self-esteem
  • Increased irritability - becoming annoyed at insignificant situations and taking it out on those who are close to you
  • Lack of interest in everyday life for example dreading leaving your home and wanting to be alone on a regular basis
  • A sense of hopelessness - feeling constantly defeated and unable to see a way out
  • Feeling worse in the morning - not wanting to get out of bed is a common reaction to this
  • Sleeping issues - insomnia is a common symptom of depression as it is likely that you are unable to switch off from any negative thoughts. Sleeping long hours is also a common side effect
  • Change in appetite - either a decrease or increase in eating which will inevitably lead to weight loss or gain
  • Significantly lower mood - crying often, feeling angry, lack of trust and unable to be positive are common symptoms
  • Negative thoughts regarding family, friends, and sometimes life in general. Suicidal thoughts are a common side effect of depression; if this is the case, please seek help immediately
  • Turning to alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with depression. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs will in fact hinder recovery and could lead to further problems, such as addiction, anxiety and financial troubles
  • Retreating from social situations - not meeting with friends or family, neglecting any responsibilities and decreased communication are common side effects.

Other emotional symptoms of affective disorders

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feeling tearful and emotionally tired
  • Feelings of extreme guilt
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Feeling sensitive and vulnerable

7 tips for dealing with the initial stages of an affective disorder

  1. Admit that you have a problem and commit to work positively to a better state of mind
  2. Speak to a family or friend about your emotions – it is often the case that a problem shared is a problem halved
  3. Every evening write down three positive things before going to sleep and reflect on these first thing in the morning
  4. Make a plan of ‘where you want to be’ emotionally, mentally and even physically and lay out  small steps of how to get there
  5. Have a positive daily routine, for example cook at certain times of the day and have time set aside to exercise outdoors,  if at all possible
  6. Avoid alcohol, drugs and any negative influences
  7. Make a 'problem list', then try and tackle the things on it one by one

Teenage depression... a parent's guide

We've produced a guide to help parents better understand depression in teenagers. In the guide, Priory’s Group Associate Medical Director and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg explains the common causes of depression, the signs that your teenager may be suffering and what can you do to help them. Please click here to download the guide.

For further information on the treatments available for Affective disorders, then please call: 0845 277 4679.