Symptoms of Mood Dysregulation Disorder

Mood dysregulation disorder is, according to NCBI, “a syndrome defined to capture the symptomatology of children whose diagnostic status with respect to bipolar disorder is uncertain.” It is a syndrome that occurs, usually in children, who exhibit persistent irritability. While the disorder is defined mostly by that characteristic, it is also defined by the lack of “well-demarcated periods of elevated or irritable mood characteristic of bipolar disorder.”

It is also sometimes referred to as:

  • Severe mood dysregulation
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder

Why Does Mood Dysregulation Disorder Occur in Children?

Children who experience extreme irritability and tantrums that do not correlate in their extreme and violent intensity with the situation at hand may be sufferers of mood dysregulation disorder. Sometimes, children with mood dyregulation disorder will become very angry, irritable, or throw a tantrum over something very minor. This behavior is persistent and chronic.

Although mood dysregulation disorder does not seem to occur often enough in the same family as bipolar disorder, it does seem that irritability “may be significantly influenced by genetic factors,” according to the NCBI study. However, not much is known about the cause of mood dysregulation disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Mood Dysregulation Disorder?

mood disorders in children

Very irritable children may be suffering from mood dysregulation syndrome.

The common symptoms of mood dysregulation disorder are:

  • Frequent, severe tantrums and outbursts
  • Outbursts not being proportionate in either length or intensity to the situation which seems to have caused them (IE a child cannot play outside and, therefore, throws an extreme fit to the point of screaming and kicking)
  • Tantrums and outbursts occurring “at least ‘a few times a week'”
  • Being especially “angry or resentful” toward others including parents, peers, and teachers
  • Being angry or resentful must also occur at least a few times a week
  • Being irritable and easily annoyed most of the time, a mood which “must be observable to others” (CU-Bolder)
  • Symptoms which should have become noticeable in the child “before 10 years” old (ICTS)

Many times, these issues occur in children who are too old to throw tantrums of this magnitude. Another critical factor is that these symptoms should have been going on for at least a year before the child is diagnosed with mood dysregulation disorder.

CU-Bolder states that these symptoms must be “present in at least two settings (at home, at school, or with peers)” in order to be considered mood dysregulation disorder and that it must be “severe in at least one setting.” Parents who are concerned that this may be an issue for their child should stay in touch with teachers and observe their children with friends as to help narrow down the possibility.

Other Considerations

Among children who were diagnosed with mood dysregulation disorder, “86.3% met criteria for lifetime ADHD” while “58.2% met criteria for a lifetime anxiety disorder” (ICTS). There are often other issues concurrent with mood dysregulation disorder, and they should be discovered and diagnosed too in order for the child to receive treatment. Mood dysregulation disorder can be very difficult for children as well parents and others who interact with them. Discovering the symptoms of mood dsyregulation disorder is important and can lead to a much happier child.


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