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Symptoms of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Knowing the symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder can help you recognize if your child may be struggling with this disorder.

Symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder are markedly different than the “typical” moodiness or irritability experienced from time-to-time by many children.  The symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder in children are much more severe and have a far greater impact on quality of life and functioning.  Symptoms of DMDD typically begin before the age of 10 and are almost always present for the child.

What are the Symptoms of DMDD?

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is part of a cluster of mental health diagnoses referred to as depressive disorders.  In general, depressive disorders are characterized by mood disturbance (i.e. – sadness, irritability, feelings of emptiness, etc.).  Because DMDD is such a new disorder, much of what is known about it is based on research on individuals with severe mood dysregulation (a diagnosis from which disruptive mood dysregulation disorder evolved); many of the symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder are similar to those of severe mood dysregulation (Can an Adult Be Diagnosed with DMDD?).  Looking at historical data of reported symptoms, many children would have likely met criteria for DMDD, if the diagnosis had existed at the time.  Nonetheless, DMDD is a true diagnosis today, and the symptoms of DMDD are challenging to live with for both the child and the parents (Life with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).

  • Anger/temper outbursts – these are significant and may be verbal (yelling, screaming) or behavioral (physical aggression towards others or objects).  Typically, the outbursts are grossly out of proportion to the triggering event or circumstance and tend to not match the child’s developmental level.  Commonly (and for diagnostic purposes), the outbursts occur at least three times per week and in multiple settings (school, home, etc.).  The outbursts come on quickly, sometimes even without an identifiable cause or trigger.
  • Persistent negative mood – one of the central symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is the experience of sadness, anger, or irritability nearly every day, for most of the day.  Even when a child with DMDD is not experiencing a temper outburst, it is common to feel persistently angry and/or irritable.  This ongoing moodiness can be difficult to understand for those around him or her, as like with a temper tantrum, there is usually no specific trigger or cause to the moodiness.   
  • Trouble functioning – this symptom of DMDD refers to functional impairment at school, home, and/or in social situations.  This impairment is typically due to the persistent irritability experienced by the child.  One of the most difficult symptoms to manage in DMDD is the functional impairment, or limitations that occur in at least one area of life, such as basic living skills (i.e. - brushing teeth), instrumental daily living skills (i.e. – money management) or functioning in other major contexts (i.e. – social, educational, or occupational areas).

Symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder must be present for at least one year and for diagnostic purposes, the symptoms are not better explained by a different medical or psychiatric condition (DMDD Diagnosis: DSM 5 Criteria for Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).  This is pertinent, as the symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder can look similar to those present in other child psychiatric disorders, such as pediatric bipolar disorder, depression, or oppositional defiant disorder.  Because of this, it is especially important a child receives a thorough assessment and evaluation by a mental health and/or medical professional, prior to being assigned a diagnosis.

article references

APA Reference
Jarrold, J. (2018, July 22). Symptoms of Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/dmdd/symptoms-of-disruptive-mood-dysregulation-disorder

Last Updated: May 24, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD