Behavioral disorders are patterns of disruptive behaviors that start in childhood or adolescence and last for at least six months. They cause problems in school, at home, and in social situations. Every person displays some of these behaviors some of the time, but behavior disorders are more pervasive and serious.
Depending on the specific disorder, symptoms may involve:
- Defiant behavior
- Drug use
- Criminal activity
Here at Memphis Neurology, with locations in Germantown, Tennessee, and Southaven, Mississippi, Dr. Shiva Natarajan and the rest of our expert team treat behavior disorders in patients of all ages using a holistic and integrative approach. Keep reading to learn more about the disorders and how we can help you or your child take back your life.
The nature of behavior disorders
Behavior disorders affect your ability to learn, communicate, and think clearly. They may be diagnosed when disruptive behaviors are severe, uncommon for the child’s age, and/or persist over time. Since the group of disorders involves acting out and demonstrating unwanted behaviors toward others, they’re sometimes referred to as externalizing disorders.
Behavior disorders are more common among children aged six-11 than in children who are either younger or older.
There are a number of different kinds of behavior disorders; we’ll discuss a few of the most common here:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a mental health disorder that causes above-normal levels of inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and/or hyperactive behaviors. According to the CDC, 9.4% of children two-17 years old (approximately 6.1 million) receive an ADHD diagnosis, and the condition can last through adulthood.
Boys receive an ADHD diagnosis more than twice as often as girls, perhaps because boys are more likely to demonstrate the hallmark hyperactivity symptoms. While girls can display hyperactivity symptoms, they’re more likely to daydream and be hyper-talkative rather than hyperactive. Both children and adults with ADHD may have trouble focusing on a single task at a time or sitting still for long periods.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes ADHD, other than that there’s probably a neurological component to it, and that genetics factors in as well. Children of parents with ADHD are more likely to be diagnosed themselves.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
ASD is both a neurological and developmental disorder that can begin as early as infancy and lasts throughout a person's life. It affects how the individual acts and interacts with others, learns, and communicates.
It’s referred to as a "spectrum" disorder because people can display a range of symptoms. They may have problems talking with others, including not looking them in the eye when they speak. They may have limited interests and repetitive behaviors. They may repeat a sentence over and over or spend a lot of time putting things in a particular order. Often, they appear. to be in their "own world."
Again, the causes of this disorder aren’t clear, except that it’s most likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
Oppositional behavior is a normal developmental stage, especially for two-three-year-olds and early adolescents. Openly uncooperative and hostile behavior becomes a concern, though, when it’s so frequent and consistent that it stands apart from other children’s behavior at the same age, and when it affects the individual’s family, social, and academic life.
Symptoms of ODD may include:
- Temper tantrums
- Excessive arguing with adults or authority figures
- Often questioning rules and refusing to comply with them
- Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset others
- Blaming others for their behavior
- Mean, hateful speech when upset
- Spiteful attitude and revenge-seeking
The causes of ODD are unknown, but many parents indicate their child was more rigid and demanding than his or her siblings from an early age. Children with ODD symptoms should receive a comprehensive evaluation to look, in part, for comorbid disorders such as ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. You may not be able to treat the ODD without first treating the coexisting disorder.
Other behavior disorders of note include mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance abuse.
Treatments for behavior disorders
The Memphis Neurology team starts by recommending medications, psychotherapy (talk therapy), or a combination of both. We may also recommend alternative therapies, such as stress management techniques, behavioral interventions and cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups.
For young children, the best evidence-based treatment is behavior therapy training for parents. In this technique, a therapist helps parents learn effective ways to strengthen the parent-child relationship and to respond to the child’s behavior. For school-age children and adolescents, training, and therapy that includes the child, the family, and the school are often effective.
Do you think your child has a behavior disorder? Contact Memphis Neurology to learn more about the condition and the treatment for it. Call us at either location or schedule a consultation online today.