Temper tantrums, are believed to be a normal part of the growth process in toddlers. If you believe many of the headlines and reports, temper tantrums in children will now have a psychiatric diagnosis. Are temper tantrums a psychiatric disorder?
For several months I have been reading headlines regarding the upcoming fifth edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, the DSM-V. Headlines, such as this one published on Prevent Disease, are reading “Your Child’s Tantrums and Irritability Are Now Being Classified As Psychiatric Disorders.”
Because of the amount, frequency and continuation of stories such as this, you might be concerned. I know I was. My thoughts were that it was just another way for pharmaceutical companies to make more money on conditions that truly require no intervention through medication. It could also play into conspiracy theorists ideas of controlling the population through mood-regulating medications.
The DSM is not written by pharmaceutical companies, but doctors and experts in the psychiatric field. However, doctors in all fields including psychiatry have been accused of being in bed with the pharmaceutical industry for as long as I can remember. A study done by Harvard University shows that although the percentage is lower, doctors are still accepting pay-offs from drug companies, such as free medication samples, food and beverages, other reimbursements and even payments for services.
This information gives reasons for concern. Why would you want to medicate a toddler? Mood altering medications could have serious consequences on a developing brain. If temper tantrums were to be considered a psychiatric disorder, what would be next? This is a serious issues, and news reports would lead you to believe it is true.
Another concern is that the DSM is considered the standard for diagnosing in the medical profession, at universities and even in legal jurisdictions such as court and prisons. A psychiatric label is hard to reverse and can stick with someone for life.
I decided to look into the matter and am very glad I did. Reporters are so quick to get out a story and gain readership that they may not always get all of the facts before printing. Then again, they may not care as much about facts as sensationalism and headlines. Here you can read the suggested diagnosis for temper tantrums in the proposed DSM-V, to be labeled as Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria.
In the first section, you can read that for temper tantrums to reach a psychiatric diagnosis, they must be “inconsistent with developmental level”. Further down, you can also see that a child’s mood in between the tantrums is to be considered prior to making a diagnosis for a mental disorder. So, if your toddler is normally happy between tantrums, there is no reason for concern.
Keep reading and you will find more proof of sensationalized journalism and scare tactics in those news stories. In order to receive a diagnosis because of temper tantrums, the child must be over 6 years old, or “equivalent developmental level”. That rules out most toddlers that I’m aware of.
I would be more concerned if only a percentage of criteria would have to be met in order for a psychiatric diagnose for temper tantrums, leaving those of toddler age open to such labeling.
A bigger concern is over-diagnosis of temper tantrums as a mental disorder, such as with the case of Bipolar disorder and ADD diagnoses in children with the ensuing over-medication of these kids. Parents may push doctors into making a diagnosis so that medication can be issued to make the children “easier to deal with” as in the case of many diagnoses of ADD and Bipolar disorder.
Since this new criteria for labeling temper tantrums as a psychiatric disorder is meant to reduce the number of inaccurate Bipolar diagnoses in children, let’s just hope doctors won’t be swayed by parents who would rather have children compliant through medication rather than taking responsibility and a more active parenting role in their child’s behavior.
The next time you read a headline that temper tantrums will be labeled a psychiatric disorder, be sure the reporter is giving all the information and not resorting to headline sensationalism. There must be other behaviors present in order for temper tantrums to be diagnosed as a potential psychiatric disorder.
Jolynne M Hudnell; A Bipolar Diagnosis in Children Can Be Detrimental for Their Future; Associated Content/Yahoo!
Prevent Disease; Your Child’s Tantrums and Irritability Are Now Being Classified As Psychiatric Disorders
Eric G. Campbell, PhD; Physician Professionalism and Changes in Physician-Related Relationships from 2004-2009
DSM-V Development; Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria
American Psychiatric Association; Justification for Temper Dysregulation Disorder with Dysphoria