Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD) is mental health condition impacting children, but that does not extend into adulthood. Adult mood disorders that may follow a childhood lived in the struggle with DMDD are major depressive disorder, anxiety, or other disorders that may have originated in DMDD as a childhood condition that possibly could have led to the adult disorder exhibited by some mental health patients.
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What is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder?
DMDD is a childhood mood condition affecting children. Young children or adolescents affected by DMDD experience irritability, frustration, or anger throughout most of each day and extreme temper tantrums several times per week. DMDD symptoms don’t describe a typical moody young child or adolescent. The symptoms show evidence of a severely disaffected mood condition requiring clinical diagnosis and treatment.
DMDD has only recently been diagnosed and labeled as part of a class of mood disorders that includes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.
Why Discuss DMDD in Assessing Adult Mood Disorders?
Pathways do not offer treatment for children with DMDD, but information about the condition can be helpful for adults with mood disorders that may have started with DMDD. Being aware of this childhood mood disorder may enable insights to be gained from parents, physicians, teachers, or other adults who can offer information about the behavioral history of a person suffering from this disorder as a child.
If you think you may have had undiagnosed DMDD as a child, that is important information to provide to your family medical care provider and your mental health care provider. DMDD can grossly undermine a child’s quality of life. It can cause great difficulty in functioning successfully at school and negatively impact relationships with family members and peers, which means the disorder may be a precursor to various adult mood and social disorders.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder Symptoms
Symptoms of DMDD usually start before a child reaches age 10. However, to date, the diagnosis is not being considered for children younger than age 6 or adolescents of age 18 or older. To receive a diagnosis of DMDD, the symptoms must be consistently present for at least a year. Children’s DMDD symptoms can include:
- Feeling angry or being in irritable moods during most waking hours almost every day
- Exhibiting extreme verbal or physical outbursts of anger 2 to 3 times per week on average that are beyond any normally triggered responses
- Difficulty functioning due to irritability at school, with peers, and at home
Risk Factors for DMDD
There is no clear data yet on how common DMDD is in the general child population, but the condition is common in children examined in pediatric mental health clinics. Currently, research on the disorder's risk factors and brain mechanisms is in progress.
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder Treatment
Children suffering from DMDD might have difficulty participating in activities or making friends. They may also be at increased risk of developing adult mood disorders such as depression or anxiety disorders. Current treatment for DMDD symptoms can include:
- Psychological treatments
- Parent training
- Computer-based training
Medications You May Have Been Prescribed as a Child
Antidepressants and atypical antipsychotic medications have been commonly used to decrease irritability or aggressive behavior in children with ADHD and, more recently, for DMDD treatment. Being prescribed antidepressants may have led to suicidal thoughts in some children and teens. Atypical antipsychotic medication side effects include suicidal thoughts or acts, weight gain, hormone changes, and other issues. All of these may or may not cause the overall childhood experience of DMDD to lead to adult depression and other potential mood disorders.
Adult Mood Disorders Stemming from Childhood DMDD
Clinicians work to teach children with DMDD to self-regulate their moods and develop a greater tolerance for frustration. Children’s DMDD therapy also helps kids build coping skills for managing anger and tactics for identifying and re-interpreting their perceptions of other people’s ambiguous facial expressions that trigger outbursts.
The NIMH is directly sponsoring research studies to better understand the causes of disruptive mood dysregulation and effective treatment for children. As answers to mysteries surrounding DMDD are uncovered over the coming months and years, new knowledge about this childhood disorder may help advance research on related adult mood disorders.
If you suspect that your childhood struggles with frustration, anger, or irritability may have been due to undiagnosed DMDD, be sure to discuss your thoughts about that possibility with your family doctor or mental health provider and your Pathways treatment team.
This information may offer valuable insights into the origins of your mood regulation challenges today, which may help in weighing potential adjustments to your treatment plan.
Help from Pathways for Adult Mood Disorders in Sandy Utah
Pathways mental health treatment professionals in our inpatient treatment center in Sandy, Utah, and outpatient programs work closely with you to custom design a mood disorder therapy program uniquely suited to your specific needs.