Definitions of child psychiatric disorders

Child psychiatric disorders often share symptoms that may overlap or occur in combinations.

Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (proposed) — Severe, recurrent outbursts of anger; persistent, severe irritability and negative mood beginning before age 10. Treatment: Not yet defined.

Conduct disorder — Persistent behavior that violates the rights of others, such as bullying, aggression, breaking rules, deceitfulness or theft. Treatment typically includes behavioral and psychotherapy and possibly medications to treat inattention, impulsivity or depression.

Oppositional defiant disorder — Recurrent pattern of defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures. Treatment may include parent management training programs, psychotherapy, social skills training and medication to treat any symptoms of inattention, anxiety or depression.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — Persistent inattention and/or hyperactivity, impulsivity and distraction that are more frequent and severe than is typical for the child’s age. Treatment usually includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, parent education, modifications to education program and stimulant medication.

Depression — Frequent sadness and crying, decreased interest in activities, low energy, social isolation and irritability that interfere with a child’s ability to function. Treatment typically includes cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, family therapy and medications such as SSRI antidepressants.

Bipolar disorder — Severe changes in mood from happy and silly to extremely angry and irritable. Also includes unrealistically high self-esteem, rapid speech patterns and risk-taking. Treatment typically includes mood-stabilizing and antipsychotic medications, psychotherapy and family education.

Sources: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; American Psychiatric Assn.


Shari Roan