11 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Irritability and tantrums are common in childhood, but some children suffer repeated, severe tantrums — even if most kids of the same age have overcome them — and are irritated all of the time. These are symptoms of a condition known as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder or DMDD. It’s a long name, but the crucial elements are “disruptive,” which refers to outbursts and tantrums, and “dysregulation,” which implies that these children can’t manage their emotions appropriately for their age.

Children with DMDD have typically had a tough disposition since infancy. They’ve struggled with self-soothing and adjusting to changes without becoming upset or losing their cool. They were obstinate and difficult to control as toddlers. And by the time kids reach elementary school, they’re still throwing tantrums that aren’t appropriate in terms of development.

Children must show symptoms well before the age of ten to be evaluated for a DMDD diagnosis under DSM-5 criteria, but they should not be classified before the age of six or after the age of eighteen. The below clinical signs must be present at least a year prior to diagnosis:

  • Three or more serious temper tantrums each week are out of character for the environment and the age of the child.
  • Amid tantrums, constant irritability, or furious emotions with no continuous moments of relief.
  • There are no signs of hypomania or mania.

Many of the symptoms of DMDD are similar to those of other mental illnesses, including oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Anxiety disorder and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two more psychiatric illnesses that are frequently connected to DMDD diagnosis. When signs of these concomitant psychiatric disorders are present in people with DMDD, clinicians must carefully consider DMDD therapy choices.

Here’s a vital observation to make as a parent to see if your child is experiencing irritability at an unusually high rate. Keep an eye out for:

  • At least three tantrums per week.
  • Even between tantrums, there is a lot of impatience and an angry mood.
  • Difficulty operating in a variety of settings, such as at home, at school, at daycare, with friends, and so on.
  • When they’re frustrated or can’t obtain what they want, they’ll explode.
  • The temper outburst appears to be out of proportion to the situation.

In parent training sessions, if you are worried about your child’s temper tantrums, rage, and/or irritation, you can work together on a behavioral plan to handle your child’s tantrums and offer support for the entire family.

If you have a kid with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), you know how difficult it is to be a parent of a DMDD child. Children with DMDD tend to be irritated and angry all of the time, which can make caregiving difficult.

Raising a DMDD child has its own set of challenges. Due to chronic irritability and anger, a kid with DMDD is likely to have multiple temper tantrums every week. This is difficult to witness as a parent since it covers the overall family; nonetheless, stopping these outbursts often feels unattainable.

In The Throes Of A Rage

It may feel as if there is nothing you could do if your DMDD kid is having an emotional or aggressive outburst. Instead of just waiting for it to end, there are a few things you may do, such as isolate yourself and seek treatment. The most important thing is to keep a child who is having a full-fledged outburst (and others around her or him) safe. Determine a safe area for your child to go to during the outburst, like a bedroom. They will be willing to ride out the tantrum without injuring themselves or others in this manner. A safe location should be kept minimal and free of any potentially dangerous objects.

The Aftereffects Of A Rage Outburst

After an emotional tantrum, it’s difficult to know whether to punish or console your child. After they have calmed down, children with DMDD often feel remorse. And as a parent, witnessing your kid go through the experience of outbursts might bring up a range of emotions. Although there is no “correct” or “false” answer here, it is critical for your child to know why the outburst behavior is inappropriate and to learn how to change it in the future. Speak to your child, pardon them, and explore alternative methods to display emotion with him or her.

Other Parenting Advice for Your DMDD Child

Identify your kid’s mood shifts — assist your kid in recognizing and being aware of his or her emotional changes. Encourage your kid to keep track of his moods and write them down (on a phone, in a journal). This is a means for both you and your kid to discover about their moods, as well as any trends, catalysts, or other factors that may influence them.

Allow for pause — Teach your youngster that it’s okay to “pause” when they’re feeling overwhelmed emotionally. In order to restore a feeling of tranquility, he or she may have to leave the room, a discussion, or a circumstance.

Reduce poor behavior by establishing penalties with your DMDD child before it arises. As a result, your child will have a greater awareness of the consequences of their actions. When your child understands the repercussions, he or she may make an informed decision about their actions.

Keep an eye on the surroundings — a child’s surroundings can have a significant impact on levels of stress and angry outbursts. Develop routines at house, school, and programs to help your child create consistency.

Self-care is important when you have a DMDD child. To successfully assist your child, you must first assist yourself. Self-care (balanced nutrition, exercise, and seeking out your own support) is critical to your child’s happiness and success.

Knowing why you’re using DMDD to discipline your child will help you design your strategy. When a child or adolescent has DMDD, the main purpose of discipline is to assist them to learn to regulate their emotions. They can’t seem to manage their reaction to emotions, emotions, and triggers if they don’t have this (when they have emotion dysregulation). They will keep yelling and acting aggressively until they have mastered the necessary skills.

Discipline and DMDD both necessitate a set of skills and tactics. The following strategies have proven to be effective:

  • Establish clear guidelines, limits, and boundaries for your child and make sure he or she understands them.
  • Have logical implications in effect, and make sure your child is aware of them.
  • Implement your repercussions to your rules and restrictions on a regular basis.
  • Be consistent in your attitude in supervision as well as in your everyday life. Lack of consistency and uncertainty is extremely frustrating to a kid with DMDD and can lead to temper tantrums.
  • Positive activities should be rewarded. This is just as critical as enforcing penalties for verbal and physical hostility.
  • Create and stick to daily routines for all you do.

It’s also vital to teach children skills that can help them regulate their emotions. Assist your youngster in recognizing their emotions and mood changes.

Observe them, notice nonverbal signs, and then repeat them again to your child to give them words. “I realize that wasting your time on the TV is difficult for you and that you are impatient,” you can add. You’ll get your time soon, I promise. Do you want to pass time playing with your vehicles or draw pictures while you wait?” Then, if they choose a pastime to undertake until it’s their turn, thank them for their good behavior.

Teach your kids to take a breath before acting on their emotions. Instruct them to count back from ten to one. Teach them how to take deep breaths as a coping technique. Also, let them know that it’s fine to take a break from a stressful situation to relax. Working together with your child’s school will ensure that they are aware of the requirement.

Developing discipline skills and educating your child or teen on their coping strategies will help them progressively gain control over their intense, negative emotions. Expert advice is needed because DMDD has such a severe impact on people’s life.

DMDD treatment seeks to assist young kids in better understanding and coping with their emotions. Pursuing DMDD treatment can help children cope with the behavioral and emotional symptoms that keep them from partaking in their normal activities. With the aim of boosting a child’s normal function treatment plan for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder could include therapy, medication, or a mixture of the two.

Psychotherapy

DMDD therapy is considered a first-line remedy it should be the first step in a child’s treatment plan. Most types of therapy have been shown to be effective in the treatment of DMDD, including:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment option for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. CBT for DMDD focuses on issues with emotion regulation and social behavior, and it teaches children how to manage and modify their attitudes, feelings, and behaviors. 

DBT-C (dialectical behavioral therapy for children) is a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance-based practices. This DBT technique can assist youngsters in recognizing and accepting frustrations and pressures, as well as developing strategies for reducing negative responses to these experiences.

Medication

Medication for DMDD may be prescribed in some cases. The incidence of any co-occurring mental health disorders, like anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is frequently used to assess the necessity for DMDD medication.

The following medications may be used to treat DMDD:

Stimulants, like Ritalin, are sometimes prescribed to treat emotional responses. These drugs can help a youngster recover control over his or her emotions, allow people to express things in a more acceptable manner. Notably, instead of DMDD, this medication is administered for children who have an overlapping diagnosis of ADHD.

Antidepressants, like SSRIs, may be administered to alleviate the aggressive symptoms that are typical in DMDD. This drug can help with a variety of symptoms associated with DMDD. Antidepressants are usually administered only when DMDD is combined with another psychiatric disorder, such as ADHD.

Antipsychotic medicine, like Aripiprazole or Risperdal, is frequently administered in young persons diagnosed with bipolar illness. Because bipolar disorder or DMDD have symptoms that are similar, parents may question if this drug can benefit their children with DMDD.

While there is some evidence that low-dose Risperdal can help with restlessness, there are also worries regarding the medication’s negative effects in young individuals.

Medication for DMDD must not be regarded as the first line of treatment because there is limited evidence that medications for DMDD are effective when used without therapy. For children with diverse mental health disorders, medication, in conjunction with therapy, maybe a better alternative.

Computer-Assisted Learning

Children with DMDD have benefited from computer-based training to help them learn new abilities and improve their symptoms. Children with DMDD, for instance, are more likely to misinterpret neutral expressions as hostile. As a result, they are more inclined to become irritable.

Children with DMDD may benefit from computer-based training to help them process facial emotions more accurately, which may lessen the irritation. To assist children to learn new skills and improve their quality of life, these tactics could be used in conjunction with other therapy.

Parental Education

Behavioral parent coaching is commonly used to treat ADHD, but it may also help children with DMDD. The goal of DMDD parent training is to break the cycle of bad encounters between children and their parents by teaching parents how to respond to their children correctly.

A parent, for example, may learn to reward or discipline positive or proper conduct while ignoring or disciplining problematic behavior such as tantrums or outbursts. This form of skill development can help parents feel more prepared to deal with their child’s tantrums or outbursts. Parent education can also assist parents in acting as coaches or providing support to their children as they learn new mood and behavior management skills and approaches.

Coping with a DMDD teenager can be a great struggle for even the most dedicated parents. It’s critical that you offer as much assistance and advice as possible. Here are some suggestions that will benefit both you and your young teen:

  • Learn more about DMDD so you could be more empathic and aware of what your teen is going through.
  • Stay patient, particularly if your symptoms worsen.
  • Pay special attention to rage triggers, and also behavioral and mood patterns. This will allow you to spot early warning signals and either reroute and avert the triggering scenario or assist your teen in dealing with it more successfully.
  • Assist your kid in learning to self-regulate strong emotions; don’t presume he or she can manage them on his or her own.
  • Assist your teen in finding healthy, pleasant methods to manage, unwind, and deal with stress, and set an example by handling your own stress in a healthy manner.
  • Pay close attention to your children’s negative self-statements (for example, if he or she frequently says he or she is dumb) and assist or substitute them with more positive self-statements.
  • In the home, establish discipline, regularity, and structure.
  • Instead of condemning or pointing out poor habits, focus on praising and highlighting positive activities.
  • With your teenager, establish tough, unambiguous boundaries and rules.
  • Provide consistent and predictable consequences for incorrect behavior so your teen knows what’s coming.
  • Don’t nag or lecture your teen.
  • As much as possible, keep stress and over-stimulation to a minimum at home.
  • Be ready and open to listening to your adolescent.
  • Make sure that any alcohol, medications, or firearms in the house are kept in a secure location.
  • Make a serious effort to spend more quality time with your teenager one-on-one.
  • No matter how upset or frustrated you are, try to maintain your composure.
  • Actively involved in your teen’s therapy and treatment.

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