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Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder is a new disorder that addresses the over-diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children. Since the early 1990’s, the rate of Bipolar Disorder in kids has multiplied by five, and mood stabilizing medication prescriptions (which can carry unpleasant side effects) have risen as well. Before the introduction of this new diagnosis, children who had an irritable mood and regular anger outbursts were frequently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder even though they may not have had manic or hypomanic episodes.
A new diagnosis is more fitting for this group of kids because they do not grow into adults with Bipolar Disorder. Instead, these children usually have depressive and anxiety disorders as adults, which is why this new disorder fits in with depressive disorders.
These children have a persistently irritable mood and significant difficulty regulating their emotions in frustrating situations. Minor annoyances can easily set off sudden instances of uncontrolled verbal and physical violence, and this happens four times a week on average. This leaves parents, siblings, and peers exhausted and on edge, nervous about what might trigger the next one.
But what’s the difference between these anger outbursts and standard, childhood temper tantrums? Temper tantrums last a few minutes, have a gradual rise and fall of anger and frustration, and appear in all children up to age 4. In contrast, the anger outbursts characteristic of this disorder last longer (up to 30 minutes) and are much more intense. The onset of the child’s rage is much more sudden and slowly declines afterward.