Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

As parents, we want the best for our children. We strive to give them the chance to live a life that is rich with love and support. We do our best to provide their bodies and minds with nutritional value. When our children misbehave or act out, we step in and guide them to express and process their emotions more effectively. Children typically grow out of the temper tantrum stage and learn to regulate their emotions as they get older; for those struggling with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, however, it is not always that easy.

What is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder?

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, or DMDD, is a condition that appears in childhood. Children with DMDD are chronically irritable or angry and may experience frequent, severe temper outbursts. These outbursts are usually inappropriate to a child’s developmental level and out of proportion to the situation at hand. Children and adolescents diagnosed with DMDD are not simply in a “bad mood” or acting out. DMDD symptoms are severe and can seriously affect a child’s quality of life.

DMDD is a fairly new disorder, first appearing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5”) in 2013. DMDD was identified to more accurately diagnose children who were previously labeled with pediatric bipolar disorder. Youth with DMDD have a hard time regulating their emotions in an age-appropriate manner and often experience significant problems at home, at school, and with peers. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, kids with DMDD have a high school suspension rate and are more likely to develop other mood disorders.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Your child may have DMDD if they show signs of severe temper outbursts, verbal or behavioral, on average of three or more times per week for at least 12 months. Another requirement for diagnosis is strained interactions with their parents, teachers, and peers. Other signs may include:

  • Chronic irritation
  • Regular Anger
  • Overreacting to things that don’t seem warranted
  • Trouble functioning in more than one place (e.g., home and school)

Determining a Diagnosis

If you think your child may have DMDD, speak with your healthcare provider. Consider keeping a journal describing your child’s behavior, including information like the duration and intensity of a tantrum. If this is not possible, be sure to provide your child’s doctor with a detailed description of the behaviors you observe. An accurate diagnosis is vital for effective treatment.

The onset of DMDD symptoms typically begins around 10 years old, though children can be diagnosed as young as the age of six. DMDD symptoms can appear simultaneously with other disorders that entail increased irritability, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety disorders.

Treatment for Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is treatable. A treatment plan generally consists of psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) and medications. Determining the best method to treat your child’s symptoms is a team effort; in most cases, psychotherapy is considered first, while medication necessity is evaluated.

  1. Psychotherapy
    Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is used to help people learn to cope with their thoughts and feelings. CBT is often used to treat individuals with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders to help them cope with and manage their feelings effectively. Clinicians can help children with DMDD by teaching them techniques to increase their tolerance for frustration without engaging in an outburst. Throughout CBT sessions, children learn coping skills that will help them control their anger while simultaneously being able to identify triggers that spark their outbursts.
  2. Parent Training
    Guardians should receive specific training to teach them more effective ways to respond to their child’s difficult behavior. Through parent training, parents and caregivers can learn the importance of predictability, being consistent with children, and the value of rewarding positive behavior.
  3. Medications
    Currently, there are no medications that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to specifically treat DMDD. However, many healthcare providers prescribe certain medications, such as stimulants, antidepressants, and atypical antipsychotics, that have been shown to relieve DMDD symptoms in children and young adults.
    • Stimulants are often used to treat those with ADHD.
    • Antidepressants are used to treat irritability and mood problems whose symptoms can overlap with those of DMDD.
    • Atypical antipsychotics are sometimes used to treat children with irritability, severe outbursts, or aggression.

All medications come with risks and should always be monitored by both a responsible adult and a healthcare professional. If you are unsure about any medications or need additional information, reach out to your health care provider or mental health care professional before making any decisions.

There is no doubt that raising kids comes with its challenges. You do your best to raise healthy children, and despite understanding that sometimes your children are going to be moody, it can be frustrating when your child misbehaves. No matter how many times you’ve corrected their behavior or given them a consequence, nothing seems to work. Children and adolescents with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) struggle to control their emotions. Their outbursts are severe; they are constantly irritable and angry. Youth with DMDD find it difficult to get along with their parents, caregivers, teachers, and peers, and often experience increased challenges at school. At Achieve Concierge, we specialize in helping children and adolescents as well as adults. Receiving a proper diagnosis is vital for effective treatment. We want to be the ones to help you and your child through these trying times. Reach out to Achieve Concierge at (619) 393-5871 to get effective help today.

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