DMDD Signs, Symptoms & Effects

When a child or adolescent has a history of presenting with excessively irritable behavior before the age of 10 (but is under the age of 18) and continues to display outbursts of anger and aggression, that young person may be suffering from disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

Understanding DMDD

Learn about DMDD

Also referred to as DMDD, this mental illness is a new addition to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but it is also believed to be a common problem among youth all across the United States. Oftentimes, this illness is mistaken for severe temper tantrums that are normal for childhood. However, the symptoms of DMDD are actually anything but normal. Children and adolescents who meet diagnostic criteria for this disorder typically have a hard time functioning well at home, at school, or when they are with their friends when they begin displaying fits of seemingly unprovoked anger. In many instances, a young person is unable to succeed academically, maintain healthy relationships with peers, or avoid conflict with their loved ones when they react in an excessively irritable manner to only minor triggers.

However, if you suspect that your child is grappling with the symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, know that help and hope are within your reach. By being your child’s greatest ally and getting him or her the professional mental health treatment that he or she needs right now, you can help your child develop the confidence and skills needed to manage the symptoms and effects of this illness. In doing so, it’s quite possible that your child will be able to do well in school, form positive bonds with his or her peers, improve his or her relationship with you, and avoid the detrimental effects associated with battling untreated DMDD symptoms.


DMDD statistics

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is a common diagnosis among children and adolescents grappling with mental health concerns; however, the exact percentage of youth with DMDD is still unknown. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, experts believe that this disorder impacts between two and five percent of young people in the United States, with more male children and adolescents presenting with symptoms of DMDD than their female counterparts.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for DMDD

Experts in the field of mental health continue to work on isolating the exact causes and risk factors for why a child or adolescent struggles with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. The following, however, are findings that researchers agree upon that could explain why your child is suffering from DMDD:

Genetic: A young person’s genetic history is the strongest determining factor that could cause the onset of DMDD. In fact, among children and adolescents who meet criteria for this illness, all typically have a family history of depression, anxiety disorders, or substance use disorders in their backgrounds. Additionally, an irritable personality, which is said to be heritable, is an example of another way that genes can influence the onset of this disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Being of school-age
  • Family history of anxiety, depressive, or substance use disorders
  • Possessing a history of having an irritable temperament before the age of 10

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of DMDD

Because DMDD is a newer clinical diagnosis, you may not know if your child is in fact battling the symptoms of this illness. However, if you’re curious if this disorder is what’s causing your child to behave and react in the manner that he or she is, note the presence of the following symptoms and seek an assessment with a mental health professional as soon as possible:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Angry outbursts / periods of rage
  • Fits of aggression towards others or property
  • Behavioral problems in school or at home
  • Bouts of physical violence
  • Verbal aggression

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Increased heart rate during temper outbursts
  • Elevated blood pressure

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to self-regulate emotions
  • Inability to refocus attention

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Extreme irritability
  • Anger
  • Oscillating moods that are unpredictable


Effects of DMDD

When young people continue to grapple with the symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, a variety of unpleasant effects are bound to occur. Some effects can be temporary adversities, while others can be long-lasting. However, if you advocate on your child’s behalf and get him or her into effective and comprehensive treatment, the following can be prevented:

  • Family conflict
  • Disturbed peer relationships
  • Poor school performance
  • Low participation in enjoyable extracurricular activities, which could affect social development
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Increased need for inpatient hospitalization

Co-Occurring Disorders

DMDD and co-occurring disorders

If your child suffers from DMDD, you should know that it’s possible for him or her to struggle with other disorders at the same time. What you should also know is that if you help your child get treatment, services can be received for DMDD and one or more of the following disorders at the same time:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Major depressive disorder

It was devastating watching our little girl battle her issues and not knowing how to help her. We were referred to Longleaf and it’s truly amazing the difference we’ve seen in just a short time.

– Anonymous Patient
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