5 Categories of Meltdowns, Tantrums, and Outbursts Explained

Hi parents. I have wanted to dig into this topic for a long time because I have this conversation and provide this explanation to so many parents whose kids are struggling with what we lovingly call raging bull challenges. These can be a part of any number of diagnoses that fit the ADD, anxiety, OCD categories. 

We are not here to label and diagnose a kiddo. That’s just not how pediatric chiropractic or drug-free care works. We will categorize and understand the symptoms, then shift them into your understanding of what’s going on with your child’s nervous system. 

Then, most importantly, you will get a good dose of understanding what’s causing it within neurology and how to help, what to expect, and how long it would take pediatric neuro-focused chiropractic to help.

What Does “Raging Bull” Actually Mean?

First off, let’s just tackle the definition of the raging bull. Years ago, when we took care of kids in the clinic and chose this as our specialty, we found that the DSM diagnostic manual is taller than I am nowadays. There were so many different labels and diagnoses that parents were coming in with – ADHD subtype 3, Sensory Processing, Asperger’s or AST, all these different terms. 

We found that almost all of those kiddos struggled with the same two things. They had gone through the same case history, the Perfect Storm, which can include stress during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They were colicky kiddos, had frequent ear infections, were sick, had lots of antibiotics, etc. The same case history, which resulted in either an emotional level of a raging ball with anxiety or more of a school focus, behavior one with ADHD. 

In every raging bull, the root causes neurologically of their challenges is an overloaded and overstressed system. They have such a stressed-out fight-or-flight brain, body, and nervous system at all times that is just going too fast, too much, too soon. So the raging bull is a kiddo constantly on the gas pedal, even when they’re not in the middle of a meltdown, outburst, or tantrum. 

Five Things To Track That Make Up Our Categories 

Number one, when it comes to the tantrums, meltdowns, anxiety, and outbursts, – what’s the frequency / how often are they occurring?  You can use a daily or weekly metric. 

The second one I’ve nicknamed the decibels. We know that these raging bull kiddos are only one or two RPMs away from it even when they’re not in an outburst or tantrum. They’re idling at six instead of where they should be at zero or one. So you have no slack, and these kiddos’ red line and the red line is the anxiety, behavior, and meltdowns. What we also measure is how far down the red line they go. Is it 10 out of 10 and for how long? 

This leads us to the third action we measure. What is the duration

• How long do they stay stuck in that tantrum or meltdown? 

• Do you have to get them out of the store or restaurant? 

• Can you not attend a sleepover? 

• Do you deal with this every day, every day? 

• Do you know you’ve got no chance to get them out of it if it triggers? 

Number four, which usually comes after the meltdown or tantrum, is whether or not they can discuss what just happened? Is there remorse? Is there processing?

Some kids who struggle with sensory processing can’t even process the situation that led to the meltdown. This makes behavioral modification (reward charts, discipline, etc), completely useless when a child is in category three, four, five, or above because their nervous system blows its lid so much.

The part of the brain that deals with reason, processing, and understanding situational awareness, called the prefrontal cortex, is never even activated. 

The fifth one is that parental gut feeling. No doctor anywhere, no matter the specialty or degree, no psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatric chiropractor, or pediatrician knows your child as you do. That is the most accurate thing I have seen in 13 years, and I have read every research study there is. 

I know everything about the neurology behind these challenges, and I’ll never stop learning more, but I will also never stop leaning into what parents tell me over what science, research, or textbooks tell me because it’s your kid, and you are with them 24/7. You know what does or doesn’t trigger them, in your gut, what’s normal and what’s not. So if you get on Google and it’s tough to decipher what’s going on, or you go to the pediatrician or specialist, and they don’t give you a concrete answer. 

If your gut is telling you something’s wrong, something IS wrong, and you need a provider who will listen, lean in, link up with you and care for your child the way that you want them cared for.  

The Power of Insight Scans

Before we dive into the five categories, I want to tell you about a crucial part of neurologically focused chiropractic: the Insight Scans. These insight scans tell us all we need to know about these kiddos and how we can help them. They show us 50 to 60% of the sensory energy from the body that goes into the brain, which means over half of it comes just from the spine. That is why kids who have these challenges love big hugs, massages, weighted blankets or weighted vests because that is where the real base of their body’s stress that blasts their brain comes from. These kiddos can’t get their brain to calm down because their body can’t calm down.  

When I talk about care for these kiddos, we’re talking about our drug-free, neurologically focused, neurosensory derived care. Each adjustment is to calm that sensory system and activate the Vagus Nerve. We want to shift a kiddo out of sympathetic fight or flight, we just need to know how far in they are to know how much care they need. It’s wildly simple but profoundly scientific and we love it!

The Five Categories of the Storm

Category zero essentially means, there isn’t really a storm. There’s not much of a neurological challenge, it may just be the old terrible twos or terrible threes. There is some age category that we can start to work into this. If these terrible two tantrums stretch into age 3, 4, 5, 6 into preschool or kindergarten, then that’s a good sign that something may be wrong.

Category one is when the storm is just beginning. It’s when your mom and dad gut now and again goes, hmm, seems like they lose their cool a bit easier and lasts a bit longer than I’d like. Maybe you can get them to calm down by spending a couple of minutes on the side of the aisle in the store. You can eventually get them to redirect, even if it is starting to give you pause as a parent. These sorts of challenges will come naturally as kids experience growth spurts or seasonal changes or social, and emotional bursts that happen as they get into school.  

Often, our kiddos in category one will already be under wellness care. Maybe we’ve adjusted them since pregnancy, as a baby, and parents will let us know things are just a little off. We’ll run a scan, see where they’re at, and handle it using boost care. Maybe up them to twice a week for a little bit just to get that stress out of there. And it’s super easy to do.

Category two is when the storm is picking up and you’re starting to see these challenges happen more often. You’re starting to see them go down that RPM or decibel scale. It’s lasting longer; you’re having a harder time redirecting and helping your kiddo get through it and calm down. And you can’t quite get them to connect as well or discuss and understand it. 

That’s a key to discipline, behavior and kids growing up as they go through these experiences, they start to understand the situation and see it coming better the next time. They can remember if they had good or bad responses last time because that’s how the brain works. Good and bad, it’s constantly learning. They may still show remorse and comprehension, it’s just a little bit more difficult.

In category two, it takes us about two to four months of frequent neurosensory focused chiropractic care to get that kid to calm, clear, reset and out of that challenge. 

Category number three is when you know there is definitely a problem. The challenges are happening nearly every day, multiple times per day. In 90% of cases, unless they’re on medication, our scanning technology, those neurosensory EMG findings, match with the severity. The more severe the tantrums and meltdowns, the more frequent, the longer the duration – the more they light up that scan like a Christmas tree. Category three is when it becomes harder and harder to get this kiddo to redirect and comprehend. They don’t understand or show remorse. These category three cases take us about three to six months to release and get rid of the stress that’s built up in that central and autonomic nervous system.  

The term we teach in the Perfect Storm is called Dysautonomia. That’s about how long it takes to turn the tide and get them out of these frequent long, loud, meltdowns.

At category four you’re dealing with constant challenges, crazy, large decibels, long durations, you can’t go anywhere, and it’s nearly impossible to redirect this case. With these kiddos, we need to remember that nothing is a cure, medicine doesn’t cure, and chiropractic doesn’t cure the nervous system. However, the body can cure if it isn’t subluxated, stuck, and stressed 24/7. We just need to help it do that. These kids need six to eight months, sometimes even a bit more when we’re in category four. 

Category five may trip you up a little bit, because a kiddo in category five does not have a lot of stress on their scans. That is because it’s gone into chronicity, which exhausts the nervous system. The nervous system can only be on sympathetic adrenal overload for so long before it wipes itself out completely. So the reason we might not see a lot of color and stress on a category five kiddo’s scan, is by the time we see them for chiropractic care, they’re already on medications that mute, cover-up and suppress the stress on the nervous system. That is exactly what it’s supposed to do. You may think we’re super anti-medicine, but we’re not at all. 

We are super what helps these kids get out of this storm and on their way to better health and healing and the highest quality of life they can have. 

Sometimes when that lid has blown and there’s violence and aggressiveness, thank goodness for medication to put the fire out and give that family a life preserver. Then hopefully they find us and start to work on truly clearing that stress, releasing that tension, and getting it all out of there. These kids have often tried multiple meds like the Zolofts or Prozacs that are muting and suppressing the brain and the body’s stress to give them a chance not to be so riddled with these challenges, which leaves them unable to do anything in life.  

These cases make up about 20% of our kiddos, which used to be 80% ten years ago, but now parents find us much earlier. So about 20% of our cases have already been medicated, which simply means we have more work to do. With these kiddos it can take a year or more. 

When I’m making these categorizations, this is something we have seen. These are the results and timelines we have seen in our office. Now running for 12 years, we have trained over 1400 other chiropractors on our perfect storm care plans, and they’ve seen similar results. They are not coming out of a large randomized clinical trial meta-analysis. Unfortunately, drug-free-based care, whether it’s chiropractic or something similar, is entirely woefully underfunded because there are not big groups of shareholders and massive trillion-dollar companies who get a lot of good stuff out of it when kids get better without drugs. We call parent-based, practice-based evidence-based research, which is two out of the three arms that healthcare is based. 

If you’re reading this and you want your child to try a drug-free approach, that is YOUR choice. When we talked about the parent’s gut, what should you do? What do you want to do? You should do what is congruent and aligned with your family.

If you need more answers to understand how pediatric neurosensory, neuro-focused chiropractic works, then get to one of your local Perfect Storm Workshops. You can find a local PX Doc near you, and a lot of them offer their own Perfect Storm Workshops.  We go deep into the science. We show a lot of case studies and research that connect all the dots. We restore hope and answer all of your questions at a Perfect Storm workshop.  

If you don’t want to wait for the next Perfect Storm workshop, call us, and we’ll walk you through it. 

If you’re ready to get in and see these scans and see where your child is, then reach out to your local PX Doc and get started.  

Just keep this in mind, a category one often becomes a category two and then a three as the stress of school, social, and life comes at them. Traditionally neurology ramps up as they go through life. 

When they go through life with us, neurology winds and calms down because that is the basis of what we’ve put together with our care and training chiropractors worldwide. We know how to release and dissipate that neurosensory stress called Subluxation.  

We can’t wait to restore your hope. We can’t wait to give you the answers and, most importantly, the action steps of a specific, personalized, customized care plan for your kiddo.

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