A Diagnosis for Temper Tantrums, WHAT?!?!?

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. 

2 Replies to “A Diagnosis for Temper Tantrums, WHAT?!?!?”

  1. Outrageous! I am actually having a hard time finding what to say about this! One thing is for sure…parents need to get 2nd opinions if their child is diagnosed with this disorder. As a mother of 4, and working with children on a daily basis in school, most of what I see from my experience is that it is a phase and yes it can be a long phase, but not one that should be diagnosed with medication but rather looked at with concern and love….maybe something called “discipline”!! I could go on and on about discipline but I won’t. I think that if there is a real issue at hand with a child its definitely not a tantrum disorder, but highly likely something else going on!
    Thanks Drew for seeing this “new disorder” as absurd as well! 🙂

  2. Oh my word drew!! Jim and I are just dying! He and I are thinking, where is the “my kid just need a swift kick in the rear” diagnosis? Honestly, I do agree lots of kids just need better parenting and also maturity. Bless those little ones who are drugged for something that learning better skills can help.

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