Reasons I Give Psychiatric Medication to My Child with DMDD
Controversy surrounds a parent's decision to give psychiatric medication to their child with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)--or any other mental illness. Few question parents who medicate children with diabetes or other potentially life-threatening conditions. Yet they will absolutely question those of us whose children have potentially life-threatening mental illnesses. Parents don't take this decision lightly, though, and we know psychiatric medication for a child is not an easy fix.
First off, I'm not endorsing specific medications or treatments in this article. I just feel it's important to understand parents' decisions to give psychiatric medication to their child before judging families who choose it.
The Journey to Psychiatric Medication for My Child
My son was six when he started medications. He'd barely made it through kindergarten that year. He was learning, the teacher said, but his behaviors weren't typical. She said his emotional development was equivalent to a two-year-old's. He'd spend time in the principal's office weekly. He was banned from field trips for being a danger to himself.
At home, he couldn't concentrate long enough to get dressed on his own. I'd take him to his before-school program, and he'd run after me, screaming. There'd be mornings I'd do the equivalent of pointing, shouting, "What's that?" and taking off running when he looked away. He wouldn't stay there otherwise.
His pediatrician suggested a common stimulant medication. The first day he took it, he put his shoes on himself, and I nearly cried. First grade went slightly smoother. Sure, the medications didn't help everything. In fact, his mood disorder became so disruptive that, at age seven, a doctor told us to put him on an antidepressant or he would find a way to end his life.
We put him on an antidepressant.
Balancing the Good with the Bad
On his first stimulant, my son stopped eating, so we switched to another one. On that one, he became psychotic. One afternoon, he questioned the lunch I made, saying I was an imposter mom trying to poison him. Later that day, he attacked me in the car, and it was the first time I called children's crisis. He was seven, and we immediately switched to a different stimulant.
The psychosis went away, but with stimulants, kids can grow a tolerance. As a result, my son goes off the stimulant every summer when he's not at school. This year, we did it the week before school ended because he was developing a tic, and the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) immediately went out of control. He had to leave school twice in the last week, and he's been suspended from his summer program now twice.
To help, our doctor put him on a non-stimulant ADHD medication. For the next two weeks, my son was so tired, he'd fall asleep standing. It was awful to see. When he first went on the antipsychotic last year that manages his disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), the same thing happened. He'd practically drag himself into his bed at night in what is a heartbreaking sight for a mom.
Benefits of Psychiatric Medication for My Child
Yes, my 10-year-old is on an antipsychotic. My child is on psychiatric medication. I can practically hear the gasps when people read that. He's also not having as many outbursts, destroying property, or hurting himself. Yes, he's on ADHD meds, but he can pay attention enough in school. This year, his test scores soared compared to this time last year, right before his hospitalization.
My son still has friends. Without medications, I can't imagine him managing his moods enough to respond appropriately to everyone around him. For the first year ever, he's made it through soccer practices and enjoys games without melting down.
So judge me all you want for medicating my child, but he is alive and happier, and I'm not as afraid.
David, M. (2017, July 24). Reasons I Give Psychiatric Medication to My Child with DMDD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2017/07/medicating-my-child-with-mental-illness