A new diagnosis that would give the name "disruptive mood dysregulation disorder," or DMDD, to severe and recurrent temper tantrums is the source of hot debate in the medical community in the wake of the announcement Monday of a number of changes to the manual psychiatrists use to diagnose mental health issues. The announcement also revealed the American Psychiatric Association's decision to drop "Asperger's disorder" as a diagnosis distinct from "autism spectrum disorder."
"Although detailed criteria for the diagnosis have not been released, an APA statement said the condition could apply to "children who exhibit persistent irritability and frequent episodes of behavior outbursts three or more times a week for more than a year." The addition is intended in part to reduce the number of kids misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder, who may be treated with powerful drugs.
But some experts say the new condition was added to the manual too soon.
"I think it's premature to put it in as a full diagnosis," said Dr. David Axelson, an associate professor of psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, referring the condition's inclusion in the front of the manual with other well-accepted diagnoses, rather than in the appendix, which includes provisional diagnoses requiring further research.
Some are concerned that a label of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder would turn normal kid behavior into a medical condition.
But Axelson said the diagnosis requires severe and frequent behavior problems, and if properly applied, kids without a true mental condition would be unlikely to be diagnosed. In addition to frequent outbursts for more than a year, children need to be at least 6, but younger than teenagers, to be given the diagnosis, according to early versions of the criteria.
However, parents might overestimate how often their child behaves badly, because they focus on recent outbursts, and inaccurately reporting behavior to a mental health professional may lead to mislabeling, Axelson said."
Image: Child having tantrum, via Shutterstock