Emotional, Behavioral and Mood Symptoms

Children are increasingly being prescribed pharmaceutical medication to help them deal with emotional and behavioral problems as well as mood symptoms.

What Types of Emotional, Behavioral and Mood Symptoms Are Commonly Seen in Our Kids?

  • Depression: May be exhibited as anger with mood swings
  • Unable to adapt to stressful situations
  • Excessive rigidity
  • Excessive anxiety, panic
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviors: Persistent thoughts, impulses, behaviors
  • Rage
  • Excessive anger
  • Moodiness
  • Negativism
  • Defiance
  • Non-compliance
  • Disobedient
  • Hostile behavior
  • Oppositional behavior
  • Intense fear
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty falling asleep

Common Diagnoses of Mood, Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Here are some of the more common diagnoses:

  • PANS/PANDAS
  • OCD
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Aggressiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder
  • Depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Schizophrenia

What Your Doctor May Tell You About Mood, Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Your doctor will most likely suggest therapy and counseling at school and/or private therapy and counseling depending on the severity of the situation. She might also suggest removing any triggers that might be causing behavioral issues in your child or, if there are marital problems between you and your spouse, to seek counseling to improve family relations and circumstances. Many doctors may also recommend psychoactive pharmaceutical medications.

Another Way of Thinking about Mood, Emotional and Behavioral Problems

There are many stressors in a child’s life today, and they could be physical, emotional, educational, environmental, or biological. It is most likely a perfect storm of these varied stressors that ultimately contribute to a child’s mood and behavioral symptoms. Many times doctors offer cognitive or psychiatric therapy or even pharmaceutical solutions without first looking to see what might be the root cause, which is often physiological, of the symptoms.

For example, the relationship between food and mood/behaviors is often overlooked. Similarly, inadequate sleep can impact mood and behavior. Researchers are beginning to uncover the important role that immune dysregulation and gastrointestinal disorders may play in the role of mood disorders such as biopolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and others.

Like autism, mood disorders have long been understood as “brain-based,” often genetically-determined disorders best managed by psychiatrists. In reality, these mental health diagnoses are really just symptoms of larger systemic medical problems, usually involving some element of gut dysbiosis, immune dysregulation, or mitochondrial dysfunction. Many of these biological problems stem from certain environmental exposures.

While psychiatrists may certainly be helpful in managing these disorders, they are not necessarily trained to look for the root cause of their patient’s medical issues. What’s more, many of the pharmaceuticals prescribed to manage these conditions may actually make the conditions worse in the long run.

A physician or healthcare provider trained in integrative or functional medicine may be able to find underlying medical issues and suggest medical protocols that will help heal these underlying systemic problems.

Mood, Emotional and Behavioral Problems Checklist to Start

Before resorting to medications or behavior modification therapies, consider the following underlying issues:

Consider lifestyle contribution:

  • Is your child getting 10 hours of sleep per night (or more if your child is under 10)?
  • An hour of exercise or movement per day?
  • Drinking half his body weight in ounces of water?

Make dietary changes:

Is your child craving and eating primarily a refined carbohydrate, high sugar, trans-fatty acids and fast food diet? Eliminate all processed foods, and eat a whole foods diet. Foods with artificial colors, artificial flavors, natural flavors, preservatives, phenols and salicylates have been linked to mood and behavioral symptoms since at least the 1970’s.

  • Eat whole foods
  • Buy organic foods
  • Remove all GMO foods
  • Remove all fast and processed foods
  • Remove all foods with:
    • Artificial colors
    • Artificial ingredients
    • Preservatives
    • Phenols
    • Salicylates
  • With an elimination diet, remove potentially inflammatory foods such as:
    • Casein
    • Gluten
    • Soy
    • Corn
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Shellfish
    • Nuts
    • Peanuts
  • Strictly limit:
    • Sugars
    • Refined salt
    • Refined carbohydrates
  • Consider implementing a low glutamate diet and/or the Feingold diet

Include plenty of good quality fats, such as:

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Wild salmon
  • Organic chicken
  • Organic turkey
  • Grass-fed ghee
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Essential fatty acids from:
    • Cod liver oil
    • Hemp seeds
    • Flax seeds
    • Evening primrose oil
    • Borage oil
    • Walnut oil

Heal the gut with special diets such as:

Learn more about healing diets and foods.

Clean up your environment:

Have you identified and removed possible environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, pet dander, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs)?

Have you identified and removed possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products?

  • Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
  • Remove carpets
  • Use non-toxic cleaners
  • Use non-toxic building materials
  • Green your home

Ask your pediatrician to run some laboratory tests for:

  • Possible food sensitivities and allergies
    • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) IgG, IgA, IgE and IgM
  • Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. The NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs covers the following areas:
    • Malabsorption
    • Dysbiosis
    • Cellular energy
    • Mitochondrial metabolism
    • Neurotransmitter metabolism
    • Vitamin deficiencies
    • Toxin exposure
    • Detoxification need
  • Bacterial and yeast overgrowth
  • Gluten and casein sensitivities
  • Organic acids: The organic acid test by Great Plains Laboratory for yeast overgrowth and Candida, oxalates, and other microbial infections

Add fermented foods and probiotics daily:

These will keep the gastrointestinal system and microbiome healthy and strong which in turn will keep the immune system strong.

  • Eat kefir yogurts
  • Eat fermented vegetables
  • Eat umeboshi plums (very alkalizing)
  • Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated

Some good probiotics are:

  • VSL#3
  • Gut Pro
  • Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics
  • Garden of Life
  • Culturelle
  • Klaire Labs
  • Test for:
  • Test for the presence of chronic infections such as Lyme and coinfectors, or strep. Your child’s mood and behavioral issues could be the result of chronic Lyme and/or PANS/PANDAS, both of which are associated with obsessive compulsive behaviors, anxiety, depression and other “psychiatric” symptoms.
  • Attend to issues of:
    • Bullying
    • Safety
    • Overcrowding
    • Too much computer usage
    • Not enough movement/exercise/outdoor sports activity
    • Inappropriate curriculum
    • Too much noise
    • Trauma
    • Fears
    • Family issues
    • Unrealistic expectations
    • Low self-esteem
    • Lack of successes
    • Too much failure
    • Other experiences that may be impacting your child’s emotional well-being
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