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DSM-5

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Severe recurrent temper outbursts manifested verbally (e.g., verbal rages) and/or behaviorally (e.g., physical aggression toward people or property) that are grossly out of proportion in intensity or duration to the situation or provocation.

B. The temper outbursts are inconsistent with developmental level.

C. The temper outbursts occur, on average, three or more times per week.

D. The mod between temper outbursts is persistently irritable or angry most of the day, nearly every day, and is observable by others (e.g., parents, teachers, peers).

E. Criteria A-D have been present for 12 or more months. Throughout that time, the individual has not had a period lasting 3 or more consecutive months without all of the symptoms in Criteria A-D.

F. Criteria A and D are present in at least two of three settings (i.e., at home, at school, with peers) and are severe in at least one of these.

G. The diagnosis should not be made for the first time before age 6 years or after age 18 years.

H. By history or observation, the age at onset of Criteria A-E is before 10 years.

I. There has never been a distinct period lasting more than 1 day during with the full symptom criteria, except duration, for a manic or hypomanic episode have been met. (Note: Developmentally appropriate mood elevation, such as occurs in the context of a highly positive event or its anticipation, should not be considered as a symptom of mania or hypomania.)

J. The behaviors do not occur exclusively during an episode of major depressive disorder and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, persistent depressive disorder [dysthymia]). (Note: This diagnosis cannot coexist with oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, or bipolar disorder, though it can coexist with others, including major depressive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and substance use disorders. Individuals whose symptoms meet criteria for both disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and oppositional defiant disorder should only be given the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. If an individual has ever experienced a manic or hypomanic episode, the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder should not be assigned.)

K. The symptoms are not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical or neurological condition.

Differential Diagnosis

Because chronically irritable children and adolescents typically present with complex histories, the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder must be made while considering the presence or absence of multiple other conditions. Despite the need to consider many other syndromes, differentiation of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder from bipolar disorder and oppositional defiant disorder requires particularly careful assessment.

Bipolar disorders

The central feature differentiating disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and bipolar disorders in children involves the longitudinal course of the core symptoms. In children, as in adults, bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder manifest as an episodic illness with discrete episodes of mood perturbation that can be differentiated from the child's typical presentation. The mood perturbation that occurs during a manic episode is distinctly different from the child's usual mood. In addition, during a manic episode, the change in mood must be accompanied by the onset, or worsening, of associated cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms (e.g., distractibility, increased goal-directed activity), which are also present to a degree that is distinctly different from the child's usual baseline. Thus, in the case of a manic episode, parents (and, depending on developmental level, children) should be able to identify a distinct time period during which the child's mood and behavior were markedly different from usual. In contrast, the irritability of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is persistent and is present over many months; while it may wax and wane to a certain degree, severe irritability is characteristic of the child with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Thus, while bipolar disorders are episodic conditions, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is not. In fact, the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder cannot be assigned to a child who has ever experienced a full-duration hypomanic or manic episode (irritable or euphoric) or who has ever had a manic or hypomanic episode lasting more than 1 day. Another central differentiating feature between bipolar disorders and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder is the presence of elevated or expansive mood and grandiosity. These symptoms are common features of mania but are not characteristic of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder

While symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder typically do occur in children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, mood symptoms of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder are relatively rare in children with oppositional defiant disorder. The key features that warrant the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder in children whose symptoms can also meet criteria for oppositional defiant disorder are the presence of severe and frequently recurrent outbursts and a persistent disruption in mood between outbursts. In addition, the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder requires severe impairment in at least one setting (i.e., home, school, or among peers) and mild to moderate impairment in a second setting. For this reason, while most children whose symptoms meet criteria for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder will also have a presentation that meets criteria for oppositional defiant disorder, the reverse is not the case. That is, in only approximately 15% of individuals with oppositional defiant disorder would criteria for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder be met. Moreover, even for children in whom criteria criteria for both disorders are met, only the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder should be made. Finally, both the prominent mood symptoms in disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and the high risk for depressive and anxiety disorders in follow-up studies justify placement of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder among the depressive disorders in DSM-5. (Oppositional defiant disorder is included in the chapter "Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorder.") This reflects the more prominent mood component among individuals with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, as compared with individuals with oppositional defiant disorder. Nevertheless, it also should be noted that disruptive mood dysregulation disorder appears to carry a high risk for behavioral problems as well as mood problems.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and autism spectrum disorder

Unlike children diagnosed with bipolar disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, a child whose symptoms meet criteria for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder also can receive a comorbid diagnosis of ADHD, major depressive disorder, and/or anxiety disorder. However, children whose irritability is present only in the context of a major depressive episode or persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) should receive one of those diagnoses rather than disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder may have symptoms that also meet criteria for an anxiety disorder and can receive both diagnoses, but children whose irritability is manifest only in the context of exacerbation of an anxiety disorder should receive the relevant anxiety disorder diagnosis rather than disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. In addition, children with autism spectrum disorders frequently present with temper outbursts when, for example, their routines are disturbed. In that instance, the temper outbursts would be considered secondary to the autism spectrum disorder, and the child should not receive the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

Intermittent explosive disorder

Children with symptoms suggestive of intermittent explosive disorder preesnt with instances of severe temper outbursts, much like children with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. However, unlike disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, intermittent explosive disorder does not require persistent disruption in mood between outbursts. In addition, intermittent explosive disorder requires only 3 months of active symptoms, in contrast to the 12-month requirement for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Thus, these two diagnosis whould not be made in the same child. For children with outbursts and intercurrent, persistent irritability, only the diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder should be made.

Related Criteria

Manic Episode

These full criteria (excluding duration) must have never been met:

A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased goal-directed activity or energy, lasting at least 1 week and present most of the day, nearly every day (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).

B. During the period of mood disturbance and increased energy or activity, three (or more) of the following symptoms (four if the mood is only irritable) are present to a significant degree and represent a noticeable change from usual behavior:

  1. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity.
  2. Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep).
  3. More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking.
  4. Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing.
  5. Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli), as reported or observed.
  6. Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation (i.e., purposeless non-goal-directed activity).
  7. Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).

C. The mood disturbance is sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features.

D. The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, other treatment) or to another medical condition. (Note: A full manic episode that emerges during antidepressant treatment [e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy] but persists at a fully syndromal level beyond the physiological effect of that treatment is sufficient evidence for a manic episode and, therefore, a bipolar I diagnosis.)

Hypomanic Episode

These full criteria (excluding duration) must have never been met:

A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased goal-directed activity or energy, lasting at least 4 consecutive days and present most of the day, nearly every day.

B. During the period of mood disturbance and increased energy or activity, three (or more) of the following symptoms (four if the mood is only irritable) are present to a significant degree and represent a noticeable change from usual behavior, and have been present to a significant degree:

  1. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity.
  2. Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep).
  3. More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking.
  4. Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing.
  5. Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli), as reported or observed.
  6. Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation.
  7. Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).

C. The episode is associated with an unequivocal change in functioning that is uncharacteristic of the individual when not symptomatic.

D. The disturbance in mood and the change in functioning are observable by others.

E. The episode is not severe enough to cause marked impairment in social or occupational functioning or to necessitate hospitalization. If there are psychotic features, the episode is, by definition, manic.

F. The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, other treatment). (Note: A full hypomanic episode that emerges during antidepressant treatment [e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy] but persists at a fully syndromal level beyond the physiological effect of that treatment is sufficient evidence for a hypomanic episode diagnosis. However, caution is indicated so that one or two symptoms [particularly increased irritability, edginess, or agitation following antidepressant use] are not taken as sufficient for diagnosis of a hypomanic episode, nor necessarily indicative of a bipolar diathesis).