Disappointing, disappointing, disappointing! Okay, we have turned a crazy and ridiculous page in the world of psychology/psychiatry. Let’s go ahead and diagnose temper tantrums as a mental illness, really? So, here is what you need to know…
The American Psychiatric Association has approved the DSM V, which is the updated version of mental health diagnoses. There are some good changes in this but some really absurd changes, as well. Specifically, they have added the diagnosis of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. The hope of adding this diagnosis is to move clinicians away from inappropriately diagnosing Bipolar disorder in children. Okay, I get that clinicians need to cool it on throwing around such a serious diagnosis but that is not grounds to diagnose temper tantrums.
Seriously, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder states , …”diagnose children who exhibit persistent irritability and frequent episodes of behavior outbursts three or more times a week for more than a year.” ( copied from: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/12/02/final-dsm-5-approved-by-american-psychiatric-association/) My concern is that children’s behavior that will either go away with maturity or reduced through improved parenting strategues will be chalked up to a mental disorder. What does that mean? Another label and medication. Giving someone more reason to prescribe unnecessary medication to children is inappropriate and maybe even reckless.
A friend and colleague, Chris Keenan, MD refers to working on problems as doing the “heavy lifting.” This is what parents and mentors of children ought to consider… don’t just drug up your child because there is now a diagnosis for it. If a parent is struggling with tantrums and behavior outbursts then help is close to you!!! At the same time, I do not want minimize that some children do need medication for actual mental health problems… but this should be a rarity.
If you are a clinician I invite you to carefully consider the negative effects of using this new diagnosis. If you are parent and a professional tells you this is the disorder that describes your child’s behavior, get a second opinion.