Saturday, May 18, 2013

Temper Tantrums Are Now A "Disorder" (...or, "Are You S***ting Me?")

Earlier this year, I posted a piece here regarding some aspects of mental health related to behavioral, mostly as it relates to how we tend to over-diagnose children and teens in America. Most of the observations I made were based on reason my personal experience in working with (in some cases, so-called) “at-risk” kids. Fast forward to earlier this week.
I’m watching the news the other day, and the subject were the upcoming changes in the mental health profession’s “bible,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-V). In addition to expanding the scope of some mental disorders like autism, the revision of the DSM has redefined other well-known emotional and behavioral “maladies.” One of revisions that was brought up on the news segment was recognition of “Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder” (DMDD), better known as “extreme temper tantrums.”
As in the case of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and many cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (see previous posting: “ADHD, ODD, & Other Assorted Bull****!”), this “recognition” is not without its critics, both within and outside the mental health profession (see: “Critic Calls American Psychiatric Assoc. Approval of DSM-V “A Sad Day for Psychiatry”). And even without professional criticism, such an asinine move on the part of mental health professionals only goes to further malign the profession as a whole by laypeople. By this, I mean that many aspects mental health as a field of medicine as well as psychology in general already have their detractors, who question whether private and/or public resources should be diverted to addressing mental health concerns of those in need of such services. The insanity of calling modifiable behavior a “disorder” can go a long ways toward forcing those on the fence into likewise questioning the legitimacy of someone who is mentally unwell. This could conceivably affect public funding for these services that others who are genuinely in need of them could benefit from.
More to the point, calling a child’s temper tantrum a “disorder” is yet another way of absolving lazy parents of their hand in their child’s behaviors. This new “diagnosis” would be given to children (as well as and adults) who are not able to control their emotions, and who “have” frequent temper outbursts during inappropriate situations. To say that recognizing this behavior as a “disorder” goes well beyond bovine excrements. Kids (as well as people) don’t “have” temper tantrums in the same way that people “have” a seizure, or a migraine headache. Tantrums are a willful action on the part of those who engage in exhibiting them. They are simply the result of the lack of emotional training…there is nothing “abnormal” or involuntary about them.
In the same vein, I’m of the mindset that there are individuals who do in fact suffer from very real symptoms of ADHA and other true mental disorders—some. But in other cases like ODD, and temper tantrums, such diagnoses are just another potential opportunity for abuse by irresponsible parents and educators looking for an easy fix for plain old bad behavior, which will no doubt come in the form of psychotropic medicines. And such a predictable outcome is almost expected. Given how badly parents have had their disciplinary hands tied and their traditional (read: Old School) disciplinary attitudes watered down by New Age “experts” and others, who’s distorted perceptions blind them to the difference between “abuse” and discipline, there are few disciplinary options between the “time-out” and police involvement. Simply put, the fact that one parent, a policeman, or some other individual can handle an emotional tantrum while the primary parent cannot seems to indicate that it was not beyond the child’s ability to control himself, but rather, he chose to be a brat with the parent but, not another individual.

If more parents were responsible, took more of a (literal) hands-on approach in not tolerating their child’s bad behaviors, and if the police and other authorities would learn to stop taking such liberal attitudes toward parent’s who opt to use Old School disciplining techniques in rearing their children, it’s more likely we will see a reduction in “disorder” diagnoses like DMDD, and have the resources to divert to those who truly have emotional and/or mental issues. Not every behavior a child exhibits is an example clinical “problem.” Many are just parents who lack organic insights into raising a child, and teaching him/her proper emotional control and appropriate behavior as well as the recognition of boundaries. Stop the madness people! Temper tantrums are not a “disorder,” but a need for a parent to remind a child of his/her place!