Many children are irritable, upset, or moody from time to time. Occasional temper tantrums are also a normal part of growing up. However, when children are usually irritable or angry or when temper tantrums are frequent, intense, and ongoing, it may be signs of a mood disorder such as DMDD. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a childhood condition of extreme irritability, anger, and frequent, intense temper outbursts. DMDD symptoms go beyond a being a “moody” child—children with DMDD experience severe impairment that requires clinical attention.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is a mental disorder in children and adolescents characterized by a persistently irritable or angry mood and frequent temper outbursts that are disproportionate to the situation and significantly more severe than the typical reaction of same-aged peers.
DMDD symptoms typically begin before the age of 10, but the diagnosis is not given to children under 6 or adolescents over 18. A child with DMDD experiences:
- Irritable or angry mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Severe temper outbursts (verbal or behavioral) at an average of three or more times per week that are out of keeping with the situation and the child’s developmental level
- Trouble functioning due to irritability in more than one place (e.g., home, school, with peers)
Some of the symptoms associated with DMDD are also present in other child psychiatric disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. Some children with DMDD also have a second disorder, such as problems with attention or anxiety. It is important to get a comprehensive evaluation by a trained and qualified mental health professional.
If you think your child has DMDD, it is important to seek treatment. DMDD can impair a child’s quality of life and school performance and disrupt relationships with his or her family and peers. Children with DMDD may find it hard to participate in activities or make friends. Having DMDD also increases the risk of developing depression or anxiety disorders in adulthood.
While researchers are still determining which treatments work best, two major types of treatment are currently used to treat DMDD symptoms:
- Psychological treatments
- Parent training
- Computer based training
Psychological treatments should be considered first, with medication added later if necessary, or psychological treatments can be provided along with medication from the beginning.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a childhood disorder that is defined by a pattern of hostile, disobedient, and defiant behaviors directed at adults or other authority figures. ODD is also characterized by children displaying angry and irritable moods, as well as argumentative and vindictive behaviors.
Angry and irritable mood:
- Often and easily loses temper
- Is frequently touchy and easily annoyed by others
- Is often angry and resentful
Argumentative and defiant behavior:
- Often argues with adults or people in authority
- Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
- Often deliberately annoys or upsets people
- Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
- Is often spiteful or vindictive
- Has shown spiteful or vindictive behavior at least twice in the past six months
Left untreated, children and teens who struggle with Oppositional Defiant Disorder may develop additional conduct disorders, may be at increased risk for developing antisocial personality disorder, and are also at risk for depression, substance abuse, and a host of additional unhealthy behaviors.