There are several reasons why it might be difficult for your child to control his mood and emotions. Two of the most likely are being upset and excitement. Your child becomes upset or excited and his emotions get a little out of hand. Nonetheless, he normally can settle down if necessary, at least for a few minutes. With this sign, his mood jumping to the extremes needs to be combined with an inability to control it before the behavior is significant. Most adolescents tend to be somewhat hyper-emotional at times. This is not abnormal and the youngsters can control this behavior, although it may take longer than parents and other adults expect at times.
A potential cause of the sign when mental illness is a possibility is depression. A depressed child often does not behave like adults expect depressed children to behave. They might think he would be in a down mood and not very active. His depression may look like this but is just as likely to look quite differently.
One aspect of depression in children fits this sign well. The child’s moods and emotions flip around unpredictably. For example, he may be very up and have a lot of energy and then down and withdrawn, open and friendly and then very angry for no reason you can see. The important thing is to see he cannot stop the emotional turmoil by himself and needs specialized help with his depression.
Another cause of this sign is serious mental illness. If this is what is happening with your child, you likely see one or more of the other signs discussed here.
Arguing and getting upset with your mentally ill child only makes things worse. It is not a problem having anything to do with discipline or willfulness. Your youngster’s emotions and reactions really are out of control; and he cannot help it. Patience and tolerance are in order along with a careful evaluation by your family physician. If this evaluation does not result in a referral to a children’s mental health specialist, consider getting a second opinion.