HONEY BOO BOO is having a MAJOR meltdown – and a child welfare expert believes it’s because her redneck family is “exploiting” her to cash in on her sudden fame!

During a series of recent media ap­pearances, 7-year-old Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson has been mis­behaving and throwing tantrums. She even tried to slap TV’s Dr. Drew!

And the pint-size star of TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” could be at risk for future problems with sex, drugs and alcohol if her family doesn’t lay off her, says the expert.

“Honey Boo Boo is having a meltdown, and it’s not surprising,” clinical psychologist Dr. Judy Kuri­ansky told The ENQUIRER. “Her family is exploiting that child for TV fame, which could have devastating results for her development.”

During a recent appearance on “Dr. Drew,” Alana moaned and then pretended to fall asleep – even faked snoring – when the host tried to ask her a few ques­tions. When she finally “woke up” after being prodded by her mother, June “Mama” Shannon, Alana took a swing at Dr. Drew!

When Dr. Drew asked her if she likes being on TV, Alana screamed: “No! Because fans come up to me and I hate it! Yes, I do!”

“Mama” June also failed to keep her daughter’s bratty behavior in check dur­ing an interview with Los Ange­les TV station KTLA, where Alana ig­nored questions, kept in­terrupt­ing , bounced around in her chair, and sang loudly.

“I have no doubt that she DOES hate being on TV and being inundated by fans,” Dr. Kuriansky continued. “She just wants to be a little girl. She is in tremendous con­flict, and it could erupt at any time into an explosion of rebellion, like it did on Dr. Drew’s show.”

The ENQUIRER recently revealed that the child pageant star is still wear­ing diapers – despite being in the second grade.

Dr. Ku­riansky explained that’s a clear sign she’s regressing back to “an infant stage, where she was tak­en care of and not asked to perform, and didn’t have all these demands placed on her.

“The stresses on her are just too extreme, and behaviors of regress­ing to infancy, like wearing diapers and thumb-sucking, would be a normal reaction. It’s a child’s way of pleading, ‘Stop the world – I want to get off!’ She definitely could have a breakdown.”

Dr. Kuriansky believes the family is risking Alana’s well-being for profit by pushing her into show business.

“The way she is going now, she could end up being vulnerable to ad­dictive behavior with sex, drugs or alcohol. She is behaving in a very un-childlike manner, and her peers will not understand her and may make fun of her as she gets older.

“She could be vulnerable to bul­lying or to all kinds of anti-social, self-sabotaging behaviors.

“She needs time off to just be a lit­tle girl. It’s a very sad situation.”