DMDD: Treatment

DMDD is treatable, usually with behavioral therapy or a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.

Psychotherapeutic: The goal in DMDD treatment is to help children learn to regulate their emotions and avoid extreme or prolonged outbursts. A combination of dialectical behavior therapy for children (DBT-C) and parent management training has been found to be very effective in treating disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.

In DBT-C, instead of dismissing a child’s emotions, the therapist validates those emotions and then helps the child develop skills to cope when her feelings become too intense or unmanageable. The child learns mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Parents, too, learn these skills, both to help their child and to use in managing their own emotional response to their child’s outbursts.

In parent management training, parents are taught specific strategies they can use when responding to a child’s disruptive behavior, to avoid reinforcing outbursts and instead reward desired behaviors.

Pharmacological: Medication can be prescribed when therapy and parent training are not available, or not effective alone. Stimulant medication, which helps kids rein in impulses, and an antidepressant with mild side effects, like SSRIs, are usually a first step when medication seems necessary. If that combination doesn’t work, or if there’s an urgency to the situation, a low dose of an atypical antipsychotic such as Risperdal can be prescribed.