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Mood Disorders

Redefining Mental Health

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is a relatively new diagnostic category introduced in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to describe children who experience severe and persistent irritability and temper outbursts.

Symptoms of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder:

  • Chronic Irritability: Children with DMDD exhibit chronic and severe irritability that is present most of the time and across multiple settings. The irritability is disproportionate to the situation and is characterized by frequent, intense, and recurrent temper outbursts.

  • Temper Outbursts: Temper outbursts in DMDD are grossly disproportionate to the situation, intensity, or provocation. These outbursts are often manifested as verbal or physical aggression, such as screaming, tantrums, destroying property, or physical aggression towards others.

  • Mood between Outbursts: Children with DMDD experience persistent irritable or angry mood in between the temper outbursts. The irritability is observed most of the day, nearly every day, and is noticeable to others.

  • Duration and Onset: The symptoms of DMDD typically emerge before the age of 10 and are present for at least 12 months. There must be a significant impairment in at least two settings (e.g., home, school, or with peers).

Causes and Risk Factors:

  • Neurobiological Factors: Some research suggests that neurobiological factors, such as abnormalities in brain circuits involved in emotional regulation and impulsivity, may contribute to the development of DMDD. Genetic factors and alterations in neurotransmitter systems may also play a role.

  • Environmental Factors: Environmental stressors, such as adverse family circumstances, inconsistent parenting, or exposure to chronic conflict, may increase the risk of developing DMDD.


Diagnosis and Treatment:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of DMDD requires a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional, typically a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist. The assessment involves gathering information from multiple sources, including parents, teachers, and the child, to establish the presence of symptoms, duration, and impairment.

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can help children with DMDD learn skills to regulate their emotions, manage anger, and improve problem-solving abilities.

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): PCIT focuses on improving the parent-child relationship, enhancing parenting skills, and reducing negative interactions.

  • Medication: Medication may be considered in severe cases or when symptoms significantly impair the child's functioning.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or atypical antipsychotics may be prescribed under the guidance of a child psychiatrist.

  • School-Based Interventions: Collaborating with schools to implement behavior management strategies, provide academic support, and foster a supportive environment can help improve the child's functioning and reduce distress.

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