Mood disorders occur in both genders but studies have shown that in their teenage years, girls are much more at risk than boys. According to the Child Mind Institutea USA-based non-profit that provides help to children struggling with mental health and learning disorders before puberty the occurrence of mood disorders is about the same (three to five per cent) in girls and boys. However, by mid-adolescence, girls are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder as boys.Before we get into what these figures mean and why the large disparity, it is important to understand what mood disorders are all about. To get the complete primer on this and the impact that they have on the mental health of teenage girls, we reached out to Dishaa Desai, a psychologist at Mpower.What is a mood disorder?According to the American Psychologist Association, it is a mental health condition where the principal feature is a prolonged and pervasive emotional disturbance, explains Desai. Simply put, it is a health problem that affects your emotional state.The most common mood disorders and their symptoms as explained by her1. Major depression/clinical depression which involves feelings of extreme sadness, low mood, lack of interest, withdrawal, hopelessness, interference in daily functioning. These feelings are persistent over time and pervasive.2. Bipolar I is characterised by at least one manic [read: extreme happiness] followed by hypomania and extreme low periods. Bipolar II involves one depressive episode and then one manic episode but no hypomania.3. Dysthymia can be considered as a low mood that persists for at least two years with two other depressive symptoms. Some common signs of depression are hopelessness, low self-esteem, low appetite and energy, and lack of interest in normal activities.4. Substance-induced mood disorder occurs as a result of being on certain substances such as drugs, alcohol, or medications.5. Seasonal affective disorder is linked to the change in seasons and is characterised by having low energy and a sense of fatigue, decreased interest in activities you once liked, and social withdrawal.What causes mood disorders?No one factor can be primarily held responsible for this mental health condition. There are many things that can contribute to these disorders like genetics and an imbalance in certain neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Other environmental factors come into play too including life events like the death of a loved one, grief, diagnosing of chronic or terminal illnesses as well as any kind of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, says Desai.There could be multiple reasons for the difference in mood disorders including the fact that girlsin terms of emotional recognitionmature faster than boys. Emotional recognition refers to the identification of someones emotional state based on observing their visual and auditory non-verbal signals. Being able to gauge these cues earlier on in their teens may make girls more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.Biologically, there are certain factors like estrogen and progesterone that may affect the neurotransmitters related to our moods. For example, the hormonal fluctuations during and after the menstrual cycle, she explains.Why is early intervention critical?A 2016 study published in Molecular Psychiatry reported that researchers were able to use brain scans of teenagers to predict the severity of future behavioural and emotional problems about a year from then. Early intervention can help mitigate the impact of an impending change that may have a significant effect like a divorce, change in school, or relocation, explains Desai. Furthermore, it can provide an outlet for healthy coping.How can parents identify mood disorders?Often, there are subtle deviations that accumulate over time so it is important to be observant. If you see a persistent significant change in mood, reactivity and behaviour in your teens like a consistently low mood across situations, withdrawal from loved ones, reduced interest and motivation, consider reaching out for professional help, explains Desai. Other major indicators include loss of concentration and confidence and the desire and intent to take ones life and/or self-harming behaviour.If your teen child expresses the need to see a mental health professional, take this seriously and do not ignore or dismiss their desire.If youre uncertain about what your child might be going through, try to directly check with your teen. They might be holding back because they fear that the topic might not be well-received. Checking in with them might help them to open up the possibility of talking about it in the future. Just feeling like they can if they wish to, makes a big difference, confirms Desai.Common treatments to manage mood disordersAccording to Desai, individual therapy and pharmacologydepending on the severity and if needed as determined by a professionalcan help address emotional and physiological distress by delving into the roots of it. Family therapy can also be instrumental as it can help the members understand how to best support the teen.It is recommended to seek immediate professional advice if your child has symptoms or expresses the need to seek help.