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Kid's Tantrums as Disorder Concern Doctors

Some doctors are concerned about new guidelines allowing children who frequently throw tantrums to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, arguing that normal kids can act this way, but also cautioning that such behavior could signal several other mental health conditions.


The new diagnosis of “disruptive mood dysregulation disorder” will appear in the updated version of the psychiatric handbook the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), to be published in May. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) approved the final version of the manual on Saturday (Dec. 1).


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.

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