A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Mood and Thought Disorder Treatment

Teen mood and thought disorder treatments are utilized to help teens who struggle with both symptoms of mood disorders and thought disorders. While these two are separate, they do happen together, and to varying degrees of severity. For example, a teen can experience a unipolar mood disorder (depression) with episodes of psychosis. Or, they can experience a bipolar disorder with no psychosis.

Or depression and schizophrenia (schizoaffective disorder). The distinction between mood disorders and thought disorders is important – both changing the way a person perceives reality, but only one revolving around delusional thinking and psychotic breaks – but because they can occur together, some treatments have to be built around treating both.

As their names imply, mood disorders most prominently affect teens’ moods, and thought disorders predominantly affect teens’ thoughts. The distinction between a depression and a delusion is very small for some, but the conventional distinction is that mood disorders describe disorders that involve symptoms of depression and mania, while thought disorders describe symptoms of psychosis and delusion.

What Does a Mood and Thought Disorder Look Like?

  • Mood disorders or depressive disorders describe a very wide array of disorders characterized primarily by symptoms of depression. There dozens of these along a wide spectrum, depending on severity and specific circumstances, ranging from major depressive disorder to postpartum depression, dysthymia, premenstrual dysphoria, and others.
  • Thought disorders or psychotic disorders are also present across a spectrum, with one extreme end being schizophrenia, a severe and chronic disorder characterized by strong sensory psychosis, and strong delusions.
  • Teens who exhibit symptoms of both may simultaneously struggle with perpetually low mood and thoughts of helplessness or self-harm, while perceiving things that aren’t real through hallucinations, or while struggling with delusions of persecution or other paranoia.

Signs of a Mood and Thought Disorder

Social withdrawal

Sudden emotional outbursts

Change in energy

Low appetite

Hearing voices that aren’t real

Delusional thinking

Academic problems

What Are Mood and Thought Disorders?

Mood and thought disorders are two distinct categories of mental disorders, but are sometimes co-occurring, meaning that a teen may be diagnosed with both.

Thought Disorders – thought disorders are characterized by illogical thinking and include but are not limited to symptoms of psychosis and delusional thoughts. Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders are part of a wider spectrum of disorders sharing psychotic symptoms, while milder thought disorders simply include issues with communication, trouble forming coherent thoughts or arguments, heavy cognitive dissonance, and other signs of occasional breaks from reality.

Mood Disorders – these include disorders with depressive symptoms, largely varying in diagnosis based on a number of factors, such as possible cause, severity of the condition, length of the diagnosis, and codependent symptoms. Mania is also a symptom of a mood disorder, usually a form of bipolar disorder. Examples of depressive disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymia, peripartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, seasonal affective disorder, persistent depressive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and atypical depression.

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Teen Mood and Thought Disorder Treatment | Paradigm Malibu

What Causes Mood and Thought Disorders?

A very complex set of factors affects the human brain on a daily basis, and any given anomaly can offset the balance and cause peculiar symptoms. Sometimes, anomalies are there from birth, developing over time, and at other times, they’re not physically present by psychologically present, such as through the scarring effects of trauma. Countless factors influence an individual’s mental health, including their likelihood to develop a disorder. These include:

Environmental factors – anything that constitutes as external stimuli or stress counts as an environmental factor, including lifestyle choices, stress from work, factors like having children, or a stressful home environment (loveless marriage, distraught and combative partner/parents, other sources of distress).

Genetic factors – teens with family members with depression or psychotic disorders are more likely to struggle with them, accounting for a significant percentage of the odds towards developing a mental disorder. While stress is often the trigger, and a stressful event often pushes a teen to start exhibiting symptoms, the “cause” may be the brain itself, although it’s not completely understood what parts of the brain account for depression, and why.

Trauma – a traumatic event, wherein the stress was enough to push a person past their boundary and force their mind to consistently dwell on the event, and cause them to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, as well as come up with ways to explain away or rationalize the cruelty of what happened to them, sometimes leading to irrational thoughts, or consistently low moods.

Biological factors – aside from genetics, other internal factors may contribute to a developing mental illness. Pregnancy and birth, head trauma, endocrine diseases, brain tumors and a variety of other conditions significantly affect the way a person thinks and feels, to the point of potentially triggering or even causing a mood and/or thought disorder.


people struggles with schizoaffective disorder


of Americans have schizophrenia


Americans are affected by major depressive disorder

How Can I Help My Teen with Mood and Thought Disorder?

Establish and maintain a bond of trust – trust between a teen and their parents is always important (and difficult to maintain), but it’s especially important if you want to support your teen while they’re struggling with their mental health. Complete trust can be the difference between hearing about their symptoms and helping them make the choice to seek help and get treated or struggling to communicate with them as their condition deteriorates.

Learn more about your teen’s condition – if you want to better communicate with your teen, it always helps to empathize what they’re going through, and intellectually understand what’s likely happening in their mind. Talking to your teen about their feelings is one thing, but it also helps to take the time to speak with your teen’s doctors and consult online resources to learn more about your teen’s condition.

Keep yourself healthy – it can be frustrating and heartbreaking to see your loved one struggle with reality or think of themselves as worthless or hopeless. It takes a lot of patience to watch your teen improve, and there will be times when they have to go through a setback or will struggle with their condition despite making steady progress. Rather than let these things affect you – and conversely, affect your teen – it’s important to take care of your own health as well. Take heed of the signs of your own potential mental deterioration, and always have a way of dealing with the excess stress and frustration.

What Types of Mood and Thought Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Mood and thought disorders are primarily treated through therapy and medication, depending on the severity of any given teen’s condition and their reaction to medication. It may take some time to find the exact medication to use, as there are several different types of antidepressants and antipsychotics. Additionally, some teens respond better to certain types of therapy than to others. Taking time to identify the right treatment program is crucial for a teen’s health.


Antipsychotics, atypical antipsychotics, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (a type of antidepressant) are the more commonly prescribed medications given to teens with severe symptoms of psychotic behavior, delusional thinking, and depressive symptoms. If SSRIs do not work, then doctors may prescribe different types of antidepressants. For teens with rare episodes of manic behavior, certain anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and lithium have been successfully used to treat and manage manic symptoms.

Talk Therapy

One-on-one therapy is the core of treating mood and thought disorders, particularly utilizing dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy to help teens identify erroneous thinking, isolate it from normal thought, and use that to influence their own moods. This can take time and patience, and ongoing therapy.

Other forms of therapy can also be effective, particularly in coordination with talk therapy, as a way to help teens cope with stress and manage their emotions on a day-to-day basis.

Family Therapy

Another way of treating mood disorders and thought disorders is by bringing the family into the picture, helping teens work with their family to address certain issues and create a more welcoming environment at home, conducive to getting better over time.

Teen Mood and Thought Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Malibu

At Paradigm Malibu, we offer residential treatment services to teens struggling with a wide range of mood and thought disorders, including those that exist as co-occurring disorders.  Our first step with any teen is to conduct a thorough psychiatric evaluation that will help us in designing a holistic, individualized treatment plan, according to your teen’s specific needs.

A Unique Approach

Because our treatment plans are individually designed and based, teen mood and thought disorder treatment will look different for each teen.  We implement a combination of what we believe to be the best traditional and experimental approaches to therapy, carried out by therapists and team members that are experts in their fields, and experienced in adolescent treatment.

For mood and thought disorders, we often combine talk therapy methods with medication, while providing careful supervision and support of a teen’s progress, fluctuations, and changes, throughout treatment.

Only the Beginning

Teen mood and thought disorder treatment may begin at Paradigm Malibu, but in many cases, these conditions tend to be chronic and require a consistent approach that helps a teen manage their symptoms over months and years. This is why a large amount of focus is placed on preparing both the teen and their family for the future, through family therapy meant to help create a healthy environment at home for a teen’s continued recovery.

Of any place that my parents sent me to, this is by far the best of the best. I was instantly welcomed and treated with respect. The counselors listened to me, helped me identify what the real problem was and why I was having trouble. The staff was in complete control and never let any situation escalate with any of the other kids here. Even keeping in touch with my parents was not seen as a problem. They were more than happy to keep my parents informed of my progress and I even was able to see them. This center was such a better experience than anywhere else I had been. I have been clean and sober now for almost three months, and was taught the skills I needed to learn in order to maintain after my treatment was over.

– Carl D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mood and Thought Disorder

Is there a cure for thought disorders, such as schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is usually seen as a chronic condition, meaning that it often reoccurs and comes back, and flares up in times of stress or due to certain triggers. It cannot be completely removed, although treatment – both in the form of medication and through healthy lifestyle choices that can affect a teen’s mental health – allows a teen to push schizophrenia into remission, and enjoy a normal life. However, this does not count as a cure. Other thought disorders may only be temporary, often in response to physical or emotional trauma, or due to an injury or physical obstruction in the brain. In that sense, removing the cause can effectively cure the condition. In other words, it depends on the circumstances and the disorder in question.

Isn’t depression a thought disorder, because it involves delusional thinking?

Depressive thoughts can be semantically called delusional, because they often rely on irrational fears to justify the thoughts as they occur. But in this case, the thought is the chicken, while the mood is the egg. Both affect each other in a cycle, but depressive disorders are characterized by a low mood without a reasonable cause. It’s normal to be depressed after a serious loss or something traumatic, but a continuous low mood with no clear reason is a sign of a depression. The thoughts follow this mood. Meanwhile, delusional thoughts occur without a specific mood, and may in fact be “positive” in the eyes of the person affected by them.

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