Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
Temper tantrums are a natural part of raising a child, but when your child’s outbursts happen more often than not and are unreasonably intense for the situation, he or she may have Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD).
What is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)?
A relatively new condition introduced in 2013, DMDD is a psychological disorder impacting children between 6 and 18, entailing incessant and severe tantrums and a chronically angsty mood. Children with this condition face difficulties in learning and socialising due to poor control of their emotions, which can prove detrimental for their development.
The symptoms of DMDD include:
- Bad temper for the majority of the day, almost daily.
- Intense tantrums involving loud and/or violent behaviour, which occur about three or more times a week and are unreasonably intense relative to the situation and the child’s age.
- Occurrence of the above symptoms across various settings, e.g. school and at home.
These symptoms have to be present consistently for at least a year for a child to be diagnosed with DMDD.
Little is known about DMDD’s exact causes. It is suggested that genetics and a difficult family situation may contribute to the DMDD.
How is DMDD Different From Other Conditions?
DMDD shares some of its symptoms with disorders like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Bipolar Disorder. All four conditions involve irritable mood and temper tantrums. However, the frequency and severity of these symptoms are much higher in DMDD as compared to these other conditions. Furthermore, the other three disorders have their own unique symptoms. For example:
- ADHD involves inattentiveness in tasks, or in some cases hyperactivity, i.e. a sudden and drastic increase in focus, for tasks deemed important by the individual.
- ODD involves defiant behaviour towards authority figure, the purposeful antagonising of others and spiteful behaviour.
- Bipolar Disorder involves the alternation between periods of moodiness and periods of emotional highs (mania).
However, it is possible that a mix of symptoms may arise in a child, as DMDD has been found to have significant rates of comorbidity with these conditions, particularly ODD.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) may be used to help the child learn how to cope with his/her anger-arousing thoughts and thus regulate behaviour.
In more severe cases, medication may be prescribed. Antidepressants may be used to treat irritability, and in cases involving extreme tantrums, antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed. Due to the potential side effects of such medication, therapy is usually employed first in treatment.
How Do I Help My Child Manage DMDD?
✽ Parental Support
Parental support can go a long way in helping a child cope with DMDD. Understanding the cues that arouse irritability or sadness in your child allows you to avoid exposing your child to upsetting situations.
✽ Coping Mechanisms
Coming up with coping mechanisms, such as breathing and anger management techniques, can also serve to calm your child down in the midst of a tantrum.
✽ Encouraging and rewarding good behaviour can also encourage the adoption of such behaviours in your child.