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Temper Tantrums - Symptoms

Usually, temper tantrums last 30 seconds to 2 minutes and are most intense during the first 30 seconds. During a tantrum, a child may:

  • Cry, scream, or shout.
  • Arch the back or tense the body.
  • Flail the arms.

Temper tantrums are most likely to occur when a child is afraid, overtired, or uncomfortable. Breath-holding spells may sometimes occur with tantrums.

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Difficult behavior that frequently lasts longer than 15 minutes, occurs more than 3 times a day, or is more aggressive may mean that a child has a medical, emotional, or social problem that needs attention. These are not considered typical temper tantrums. Difficult behaviors may include:

  • Kicking, hitting, biting, scratching, hair-pulling, or pinching other people.
  • Throwing or breaking things.
  • Head-banging or inflicting self-injury.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 20, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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