Excessive Temper Tantrums May Point to Later Disorders
> 12/26/2007 3:09:41 PM

Temper tantrums are one of the most trying (and universal) parenting experiences, and they always seem to happen at the least convenient moments: a three-hour drive to grandma's, the first day of preschool or any number of family outings. But kids who cry, whine and stew a little more than usual may be displaying a prediliction toward damaging chronic conditions.

Parents are well advised to expect a good bit of fuss in children under the age of 3; all young kids, excepting the very rare girl or boy whose considerable sense of self-restraint defies all logic, go through a phase in which they throw such fits with some regularity for any number of reasons. They're most common among kids aged 1-4; approximately 80% have some sort of tantrums, with 20% of 2 year-olds and 10% of 4 year-olds throwing fits on a daily basis. While not getting their way is certainly a common cause, illness, lack of sleep, hunger/poor nutrition and anxiety over unfamiliar situations may all prove to be significant contributors.

Certain sobbing episodes are clearly designed to elicit attention and sympathy from parents or other caregivers (for evidence of this behavior consider the child who falls and waits for a nearby adult to notice before he or she begins crying), but most tantrums begin subconsciously, and many young children, contrary to popular belief, truly cannot contain themselves. Parents of disturbingly fussy young ones may breathe a sigh of relief as their kids' behavioral difficulties are most likely not evidence of their own shoddy parenting. But they may be a sign of less fortunate things to come. Most episodes are short and isolated, occurring over a period of 2 minutes or less before dying off as a child loses energy or conviction, but some last far longer, and some may become aggressive as a child attempts to take his or her frustrations out on themselves, parents and caregivers or innocent bystanders. One should not underestimate the fury of a vexed 2 year-old; for children who are seemingly unable to contain themselves and whose tantrums may lead them to hurt themselves or others, these outbursts can be signs of illness or a heightened risk of significant problems later in life. Depression, autism, ADHD and other panic disorders: the list of conditions that may produce excessive tantrums is considerable. Fits as long as 2-3 hours in length have been observed among kids with bipolar disorder.

Researchers summarizing their experiments in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the behaviors of 279 children aged 3 to 6, mixing control subjects with those with pre-existing conditions and dividing the larger tantrum phenomenon that they observed into five distinct categories: those in which children hurt themselves, those in which they hurt others, tantrums lasting longer than 25 minutes, tantrums occurring more than 5 times a day, and those in which children can't calm themselves without outside help. Because tantrums usually grow far less frequent past the age of 3, most of the anxious children involved in the study were exceptions to the rule, and many of those included had already been diagnosed with some form of mental or behavioral disorder. Any of these behavioral variations, if they occur repeatedly, should be considered grounds for a visit to the pediatrician. But self-harm incidents are particularly distressing, and they're far more common among kids who've been diagnosed with (or will eventually be diagnosed with) depression and bipolar disorder.

Temper tantrums are never a welcome development, and they may lead parents to remember with fondness the first months of life when children weren't quite as insistent with their sobs. But if they're not abnormally frequent and don't fit into one of the five categories described above, researchers assure parents that they are most likely not cause for concern or protective hypochondria. Temporary loss of sleep and sanity are, unfortunately, extremely common side-effects.


I have a relative who has a problem controling her temper. She is about 57 years old.Recently she seems to have lost it as temper flare almost everyday. She has problem at work almost everyday. As she is a director in a company, almost every morning her staff at work will get it from her. At home, her husbands, children, mother, father, in-laws and relative are also not spare. She seems to lose her temper very easily, quickly and it last for several hours. However, after 4 hours, she forgets about it completely and pretend that nothing has happen.These problems has been like that for many years but recently it got worst.I hope to ascertain weather these signs are sign of mental disoder. Thanks
Posted by: mccoy 1/4/2008 10:17:07 AM

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