top of page
  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Meltdown vs. Tantrums

Meltdowns and tantrums can happen to anyone, autistic or not, child or not. But, there are differences between them that can help you better understand what you're dealing with and act accordingly. PsychologyToday posted "What is the Difference Between a Meltdown and a Tantrum," an article written by Sarah Nannery, an autistic parent to an autistic child and part of the neuro-diverse couple that wrote the book, What to Say Next:Successful Communication in Work, Life, and Love - with Autism Spectrum Disorder. "Any child can experience the sensory and emotional overload that may lead to a meltdown, and adults (not just autistic adults) can experience meltdowns as well." Autistic people may experience meltdowns more frequently, however, because they are more susceptible to encountering triggers. Children are less experienced with self-regulation so these experiences are even more likely for them. So, what is the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum? A tantrum has triggers which are usually indicative of something that the person wants or needs. "In reality the person having the tantrum is also probably on shaky ground already, perhaps hungry or tired or overstimulated, and so the loss of control about getting the thing they wanted sends them over the edge." The person having the tantrum is likely overwhelmed by all the emotions they are feeling but they will be able to retain some of their control because they are aware of the motivation. Because of this, they are able to self-regulate enough to stop the tantrum by using some of their own will-power. Meltdowns can be a little more difficult to handle because their is hardly ever just one trigger that leads to the experience. A person having a meltdown is doing so because they are experiencing overload and they have likely little to no control over their emotions and their body in that given moment. "The motivation behind a meltdown is not conscious, it is a physical and mental shutdown. A person experiencing a meltdown may inadvertently injure themselves and others, as they do not have control or awareness of their actions and consequences." A meltdown can only be stopped by force or will. Time is often the only resolution for a meltdown as the person experiencing this moment needs to be made to feel safe and relaxed; the triggers need to pass and the energy needs to be diverted. "One of the most important distinctions to keep in mind between the two is that a meltdown is out of the person's control, driven by physical shutdown, while a tantrum is, to a certain extent, driven by will." While the two can look very similar, if you know the person well enough, the differences will be easily decipherable.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page