What You Need to Know about ADHD and Mood Swings

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ADHD and mood swings can exist for some families as almost two sides of the same coin. Sound familiar?

Does your child have fits of uncontrolled tantrums and meltdowns? Do they get explosive angry outbursts of rage over small infractions?

Have you nearly reached the end of your rope trying to deal with it on your own?

While explosive outbursts and changes in mood don’t materialize in every child with ADHD, they can present an issue to some families. If your child exhibits dramatic mood outbursts, what can you do about it?

The Prevalence of Comorbidity Disorders

First, you need to know that you are not alone. Many children with ADHD show symptoms of other disorders.

Doctors call these disorders identified alongside ADHD comorbidity disorders. Comorbidity is simply a term used to describe two disorders diagnosed at the same time.

Diagnoses related to ADHD occur more frequently than you might think. Between 60% and 80% of the population of people diagnosed with ADHD has comorbidity disorders. These range from learning disorders to mood disorders.

When it comes to ADHD and mood swings, you need to understand several possible issues. For instance, how do you know that the seemingly violent mood swings are not an occasional occurrence? Or, could it not be bipolar disorder?

To begin, let’s look at bipolar disorder and ADHD more in depth.

Bipolar Disorder and ADHD and Mood Swings

At one time, doctors often identified bipolar disorder alongside ADHD due to the mood swings exhibited by children. Unfortunately, the difficulty of correctly identifying bipolar disorder led to much over diagnosis. Regrettably, this over diagnosis created further issues.

For starters, not all the ADHD children manifested all the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Additionally, most of the children diagnosed with both ADHD and bipolar disorder did not show bipolar disorder when they grew into adulthood.

In the end, these issues led doctors to rethink the association between bipolar disorder and ADHD. Ultimately, many researchers discovered that ADHD and mood swings were one of the symptoms being regularly misdiagnosed. Resultantly, researchers worked to create a new more fitting diagnosis.

A New Diagnosis for ADHD and Mood Swings

Due largely to the concerns of the over diagnosis of bipolar disorder for children, researchers identified a new diagnosis for explosive behavior. They called this diagnosis disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD).

DMDD manifests as chronic sever temper outbursts that don’t match the situation at hand. Doctors and researchers seek to separate this diagnosis from bipolar disorder as this diagnosis does not share all of the characteristics of bipolar disorder.

Comparing mood dysregulation versus bipolar disorder, several differences appear. First, DMDD differs from bipolar disorder in that it tends not to manifest as episodic mania. Secondly, DMDD usually shows itself in  30 minute outbursts.

Additionally, DMDD seems to differ from bipolar disorder in the presence of a relatively consistent irritability. As you may can tell, the differences provide clear need for different diagnoses.

Still, if your child shows signs of ADHD and mood swings, how can you be sure it is DMDD? And if you know for certain, what can you do about it?

Identifying and Treating Mood Dysregulation

Resolving ADHD and mood swings starts with correcting identifying and treating mood dysregulation. If you have concerns, you should first consult with a medical professional.

Some things you need to know in advance include that DMDD appears in children between 6 and 18. Furthermore, children typically show symptoms before age 10.

Specific symptoms to look forward include the following:

  • Three or more excessive or severe tantrums each week that appear inappropriate to the child or environment
  • No episodes of mania
  • A prevailing irritability even in periods without tantrums

After identifying these symptoms, talk with your doctor to discuss the next steps and specific concerns for your child. In most instances, your doctor might consider using a stimulant as a treatment, but there may be other options to pursue. Consult with your doctor and work to determine a best course of action.

Addressing ADHD and Mood Swings

ADHD and mood swings present unique issues for families to address. Again, we want to stress that if you experience this with your child, you are not alone. Be optimistic that others have gone through this before.

ADHD and mood swings might seem impossible to resolve in the moment, but they don’t have to be. Consult with your doctor and determine the right course of action. Working together, you can implement a plan that will work for your situation.