Behavior Disorders

Behavior disorders (sometimes referred to as disruptive behavior disorders) are the most common reasons children are referred for mental health evaluations and treatment.

Many types of behavioral disorders require clinical care by a physician or other health care professional. Here are the most common behavior disorders:

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder - Also called ADHD, this is usually first diagnosed in childhood. It is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and, in some cases, hyperactivity. These symptoms usually occur together; however, one may occur without the other(s). The symptoms of hyperactivity, when present, are almost always apparent by the age of 7 and may be present in very young preschoolers. Inattention or attention-deficit may not be evident until a child faces the expectations of elementary school.

Conduct Disorder - Sometimes diagnosed in childhood, this disorder is characterized by antisocial behaviors which violate the rights of others and age-appropriate social standards and rules. Antisocial behaviors may include irresponsibility, delinquent behaviors (such as truancy or running away), violating the rights of others (such as theft), and/or physical aggression toward animals or others (such as assault or rape). These behaviors sometimes occur together; however, one or several may occur without the other(s). 

Oppositional Defiant Disorder - This is also usually diagnosed in childhood. It is characterized by uncooperative, defiant, negativistic, irritable, and annoying behaviors toward parents, peers, teachers, and other authority figures. Children and adolescents with ODD are more distressing or troubling to others than they are distressed or troubled themselves.

Treatments

Treatment of ADHD may include:
  • Psychostimulant medications. These medications are used for their ability to balance chemicals in the brain that prohibit the child from maintaining attention and controlling impulses. They help "stimulate" or help the brain to focus and may be used to reduce the major characteristics of ADHD.
  • Psychosocial treatments. Parenting children with ADHD may be difficult and can present challenges that create stress within the family. Classes in behavior management skills for parents can help reduce stress for all family members. Training in behavior management skills for parents usually occurs in a group setting which encourages parent-to-parent support. 
Treatment of conduct disorder may include:
  • Cognitive-behavioral approaches. The goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to improve problem solving skills, communication skills, impulse control, and anger management skills.
  • Family therapy. Family therapy is often focused on making changes within the family system, such as improving communication skills and family interactions.
  • Peer group therapy. Peer group therapy is often focused on developing social skills and interpersonal skills.
  • Medication. While not considered effective in treating conduct disorder, medication may be used if other symptoms or disorders are present and responsive to medication.
Treatment of oppositional defiant disorder may include:
  • Individual psychotherapy. Individual psychotherapy for ODD often uses cognitive-behavioral approaches to improve problem solving skills, communication skills, impulse control, and anger management skills.
  • Family therapy. Family therapy is often focused on making changes within the family system. These changes include improving communication skills and family interactions. Parenting children with ODD can be very difficult and trying for parents. Parents need support and understanding as well as help in developing more effective parenting approaches.
  • Peer group therapy. Peer group therapy is often focused on developing social skills and interpersonal skills.
  • Medicine. While not considered effective in treating ODD, medicine may be used if other symptoms or disorders are present and responsive to medicine.
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Symptoms and Screenings for Behavior Disorders

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Causes and Preventions for Behavior Disorders

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Education and Resources for Behavior Disorders

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Support groups for Behavior Disorders

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Learn More about Behavior Disorders

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