Lecture – What Is Known About Irritability in Children and Adolescents?

Available with English captions.

Presented by Daniel P. Dickstein, MD, FAAP, McLean Hospital – McLean Forum

“Irritability is not just a kid thing,” says McLean’s Daniel P. Dickstein, MD, FAAP. “It’s across the life span. It’s across disorders. Together we can do a better job helping these folks to get the treatment they need.”

Dickstein discusses many aspects of irritability, a diagnostic symptom or associated feature of many psychiatric disorders. He reports that irritability is the most common reason children are brought to emergency departments and outpatient settings for psychiatric evaluation.

“There are multiple disorders, both for children and adults, for which irritability can be an actual diagnostic criterion or an associated symptom,” he says. Disorders related to irritability include manic episodes, major depressive episodes, PTSD, ADHD, conduct disorder, and more.

Dickstein examines the different expressions of irritability in children. He also explains why childhood irritability is often associated with substantial impairment in adulthood, including decreased financial attainment and suicide.

Watch this lecture to see:

  • A review of the psychological impact of irritability
  • A look at disorders related to irritability
  • A review of current research about irritability related to bipolar disorder in children and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)
  • A look at new ways of approaching irritability for the ultimate improvement in how we diagnose and treat people who struggle with irritability

Dickstein explores the many gaps in understanding irritability, particularly related to diagnosis and treatment. The talk also reviews efforts to use big data in research and other methods to further our understanding of irritability in children and throughout the life span.

The presentation also reviews studies on the relationship between irritability and related disorders, with a focus on research into bipolar disorder and DMDD.

During the lecture, Dickstein asserts that irritability “comes in many flavors.” This variety contributes to our inability to fully understand the symptom. However, he says, “It’s a great opportunity for clinical programs, researchers, and families to get together to work on this problem so that we can do a better job understanding the mechanisms underlying different expressions of irritability across different disorders and across development.”