Behavior disorders are a group of mental health conditions that affect the way a person interacts with the world around them. Many affect the ability to process information and learn, communicate, and think effectively. They’re often diagnosed in childhood and may persist into adulthood.
At Memphis Neurology, our team of expert neurologists diagnoses and treats patients from infants to adults who have a variety of behavior disorders at our offices in Germantown, Tennessee, and Southaven, Mississippi. As parents and caregivers may not know how to help their loved one manage a behavior disorder, the team has put together this guide with recommendations on how best to proceed.
Common behavior disorders
We see many different behavior disorders here at Memphis Neurology. They include:
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is a relatively common disorder that affects both children and adults. According to psychiatry.org, about 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults will be diagnosed with the condition. It’s often first identified in school-aged children when their behavior disrupts the classroom or when they have difficulty staying on task with schoolwork. It’s also more commonly diagnosed in boys than in girls.
ADHD comes in three forms:
- Inattentive: trouble staying focused or paying attention to detail
- Hyperactive/impulsive: fidgety, always talking, difficulty waiting their turn
- Combined: characteristics of both other types
Doctors make a diagnosis based on symptoms over a six-month period.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD contains two elements: intrusive, obsessive thoughts; and ritualized behaviors designed to “banish” those thoughts. If the person is unable to complete the compulsive behavior, it can throw them into a panic, fearing that something terrible will happen. Researchers believe there’s a strong genetic component to the disorder, and it affects about 2.3% of the population globally.
There’s no cure for OCD, but there are treatments available, such as medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and exposure and response prevention.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
People on the autism spectrum may have problems with social, emotional, and/or communication skills. Signs typically develop during early childhood and last throughout a person’s life. They include:
- Having difficulty relating to others
- Avoiding eye contact
- Wanting to be alone
- Not wanting to be touched, or cuddling only when they want to
- Seemingly unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other noises
- Not understanding social norms
- Repeating words or phrases said to them
There’s no cure for ASD, but research shows early intervention can improve behavior by teaching important social and communication skills.
A mood disorder affects a person’s emotional state and their ability to deal with routine activities, including work, relationships, and school. Two of the most common mood disorders are major depressive disorder (overwhelming sadness and despair) and bipolar disorder (extreme highs together with extreme lows). Symptoms vary, depending on which mood disorder you’ve been diagnosed with.
Helping a loved one with a behavior disorder
Support from family and friends is critical to helping someone living with a behavior disorder, and the support forms a foundation of practical and emotional strategies. Some guidelines to point you in the right direction include:
- Learn about the disorder, its signs and symptoms
- Learn about how treatments work so you know what side effects to watch for and improvements you may see
- Encourage treatment: offer to make the first appointments with a doctor to get the ball rolling and accompany the person to their appointment
- Help the person set specific goals that are realistic and can be approached one at a time
- Don’t assume you know what the person needs: ask what they need, how you can help, and listen closely to the response
- Remind them they’re not responsible for the disorder
- Offer hope for the future, especially when it comes to treatment options
Ultimate responsibility for the outcome lies with the person living with the disorder, but your supporting role can make all the difference in their treatment.
If someone you love is struggling with a behavior disorder, help them take the first step of coming into Memphis Neurology for an evaluation by one of our neurologists. To get started, give us a call at either of our locations, or book your appointment online today.