Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is a relatively new diagnosis in the field of mental health. Children with DMDD have severe and frequent temper tantrums that interfere with their ability to function at home, in school or with their friends. Some of these children were previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, even though they often did not have all the signs and symptoms. Research has also demonstrated that children with DMDD usually do not go on to have bipolar disorder in adulthood. They are more likely to develop problems with depression or anxiety.

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.

Symptoms of DMDD

The symptoms of DMDD include:

  • Severe temper outbursts at least three times a week
  • Sad, irritable or angry mood almost every day
  • Reaction is bigger than expected
  • Child must be at least six years old
  • Symptoms begin before age ten
  • Symptoms are present for at least a year
  • Child has trouble functioning in more than one place (e.g., home, school and/or with friends)

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. This is why it is particularly important to get a comprehensive evaluation by a trained and qualified mental health professional.

A diagnosis requires the above symptoms to be present in at least two settings (at home, at school, or with peers) for 12 or more months, and symptoms must be severe in at least one of these settings. During this period, the child must not have gone three or more consecutive months without symptoms. The onset of symptoms must be before age 10, and a DMDD diagnosis should not be made for the first time before age 6 or after age 18.

What To Do

The treatment for DMDD will be individualised to the needs of the particular child and his or her family. It may include individual therapy, as well as work with the child's family and/or school. Having a child with DMDD can be a challenging experience. Appropriate treatment for your child is important. However, it is also important to make sure you have the information, support and assistance you need.