Mental health disorders are a group of disorders that affect one’s thinking, emotions and behavior. Behavioral disorders are a subset of mental health disorders and usually begin in childhood.
Mental Health Behavior Disorders
Behavioral disorders usually begin as behavioral symptoms that are unusual, repetitive and often embarrassing or inappropriate. Surprisingly, only 30% children are actually diagnosed with behavioral disorders and a lot many times, it goes undiagnosed. In children, behavioral symptoms are usually an indication of a disorder. Although kids show sudden and erratic behavior once in a while, the persistent nature of these symptoms indicates a behavior disorder.
However, adults can develop behavioral disorders as well. In most cases, untreated behavioral disorders during childhood result in behavioral issues in adults and give rise to a host of other mental health problems. An untreated behavior disorder negatively affects the individual’s ability to maintain relationships, find a job and lead a normal life.
Mental health disorders and problems impede a person’s thinking, reasoning and rationalizing ability. This affects the way they perceive and behave with the rest of the world around them. In a way, mental disorders reduce the individual’s capacity to cope with regular and ordinary demands of life. Even though behavioral disorders are different from other mental health disorders, having good mental health and behavioral capabilities are important to lead a normal, healthy and balanced life. A clear lack of awareness about behavioral disorders is the main cause of the rising number of cases of undiagnosed individuals.
Difference between Mental Health and Behavioral Health
Mental health and behavioral health are linked to each other, but they are quite different in nature. Behavioral health refers to our daily habits and behaviors and how they affect our well-being, physical, mental and spiritual health. Though it is commonly used as an alternative for mental health, behavioral health also includes our drinking habits, eating habits, preferences and choices. Having good behavioral habits means maintaining a good balance of habits that enables one to maintain an ideal mental and physical health balance such as exercising, eating healthy, sleeping on time, etc.
On the other hand, mental health is a part of the larger behavioral health umbrella and refers to an individual’s mental state. It basically refers to how we act and feel.
Types of Behavior Disorders
Behavioral disorders can be grouped into the following types:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Disruptive Behavior Disorders
- Dissociative Disorders
- Emotional Disorders
- Developmental Disorders
It is absolutely okay and normal to feel anxiety in certain situations. We all feel this emotion at many points during our lives. However, an individual is said to suffer from an anxiety disorder when there is more than the normal amount of anxiety felt by an individual.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
Some common types of anxiety disorders include:
- Post-traumatic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Generalized Anxiety
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety
- Selective Mutism
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
- Uneasiness or excessive fear
- Feelings of panic, danger or doom
- Sleep problems
- Inability to stay calm
- Sweaty fingers and toes when in uncomfortable situations
- Increased heart rate and breathing (hyperventilation)
- Dryness of mouth
- Tense muscles
Disruptive Behavior Disorders
People with disruptive behavior disorders typically exhibit uncooperative and disruptive behavior to others around them. This ends up impacting their everyday life.
Types of Disruptive Behavior Disorder
Disruptive Behavior Disorders are most commonly of two types:
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Conduct Disorder (CD)
Individuals with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) show recurrent negative, disobedient and hostile behavior in front of authoritative figures. This usually lasts for around 6 months. Not surprisingly, kids too can be diagnosed with ODD. To be diagnosed with this condition at an early age, a child must show symptoms more commonly than other children their age. Children with Conduct Disorder (CD) show more aggressive behavior towards other people and even animals.
Symptoms of Disruptive Behavior Disorder
Common symptoms of disruptive behavior disorder include:
- Defying authoritative figures
- Sudden outbursts due to anger
- Lying, stealing and other antisocial behaviors
Dissociative disorders are characterized by breakdown or loss of memory, identity, awareness and perception. An individual forgets things as having a defense mechanism. These disorders usually develop after an individual has suffered from trauma and finds it difficult to remember old memories.
Types of Dissociative Disorders
There are 3 types of Dissociative Disorders:
- Dissociative Amnesia
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Depersonalization or derealization disorder
Symptoms of Dissociative Disorder
Common symptoms of dissociative disorder include:
- Memory loss or amnesia
- Feeling detached from themselves or their feelings
- Forgotten or blurred sense of identity
- Problems in relationships
- Distorted perception of reality
Emotional disorders affect a person’s ability to control their emotions and be happy.
Symptoms of Emotional Disorder
Common symptoms of emotional disorders include:
- Wrong or inappropriate emotions in normal situations
- Learning difficulties that are not mapped to any other factors
- Difficulty in maintaining personal relationships with friends, siblings or even teachers
- A generalized feeling of sadness or depression
- Fear or anxiety related to school matters
- Some people tend to feel numb as they are under severe stress
The treatment outcomes of emotional disorders are usually positive. However, in some cases, emotional disorders like anxiety and depression co-exist, making the prognosis and treatment outcome complicated.
Fear of dirt and contamination, difficulty tolerating uncertainty, obsession with things being prim and proper and symmetrical arrangement of objects are common symptoms in adults who suffer from OCD.
Passive Aggressive Behavior Disorder
Individuals with this disorder express negative feelings indirectly instead of addressing them directly. For example, passive-aggressive behavior is when an individual agrees to a person’s suggestion enthusiastically but misses the deadline or shows resentment by refusing to follow what is expected of them.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Symptoms include fear of being left alone, difficulty maintaining relationships, an unstable sense of self and impulsive behaviors. It is difficult to maintain a relationship with an individual displaying signs of borderline personality disorder. A test for borderline personality disorder can help in diagnosing the condition.
Attachment Disorder arises from a child’s failure to form an attachment to their parents or caregivers or when their basic needs for comfort and love are not met. Children show detached emotions and fail to interact with others. If untreated in childhood, an adult with attachment disorder shows similar symptoms and will fail to form a support system in their lives.
Causes, Signs and Symptoms of Behavior Disorders
Behavioral disorders can be caused due to biological, family and school-related factors.
Causes of Behavior Disorder
Biological causes include:
- Physical Disability
- Brain Damage
- Nutritional Deficiency
Environmental and familial causes are:
- Emotional Issues at Home
- Divorcing or Fighting Parents
- Unhealthy Discipline
- Compulsion from Parents
Symptoms of Behavior Disorder
Common emotional symptoms include:
- Getting Annoyed and Angry Easily
- Frequent Arguing
- Inability to Handle Frustration
- Refusal to Follow Rules
Physical symptoms of behavioral disorders include:
- Substance Abuse
- Wounded Fingers
- Bloodshot Eyes
- Shaking caused due to Anger or Frustration
Therapy for Behavior Disorders
There are two kinds of treatments for individuals suffering from behavior disorders:
- Counseling or Psychotherapy
Behavioral therapies vary for different disorders in children. Their primary focus is to reach the root of the problem and modify how these negative and unwanted thoughts hamper the child’s behavior and upbringing. The type of behavioral therapy chosen by the therapist varies based on the type of disorder they are dealing with. However, the commonality among all therapies for behavioral disorders in children is encouraging them to change their behavior and try a new approach in life. Therapists use a reward-based system to reward the desired behavior. This allows removing unwanted behavior associated with behavior disorder.
Medications are usually incorporated when the case is complicated, or the child suffers from more than one behavioral disorder, or the therapist feels the outcomes are not very favorable.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Treatment
Also called talk therapy, this is the most common treatment for different types of behavioral disorder. It is usually administered as long one-to-one talking sessions with a behavioral therapist. This treatment type is focused on getting to the root of the negative feelings and thoughts, and subsequently overcoming them after a heightened state of awareness. In CBT, patients are also taught how to cope with their feelings, thoughts and impulses by modifying their emotional and social behavior. CBT Trauma-Focused Therapy is used with patients who have undergone a traumatic experience in life and are finding it difficult to overcome their past traumatic events.
Other Therapies for Behavior Disorder
While CBT is the most common and effective counseling treatment for behavioral disorders, other therapies may be used including traditional psychotherapies and group therapy. Other psychotherapy treatments may be used if CBT is not as effective, or the therapist feels it will not bring about the required results.
The different types of psychotherapy used to treat behavior disorder include:
- CBT Therapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Psychodynamic Therapy
- Supportive Therapy
- Group Therapy
Group Therapy is a type of therapy conducted in groups of people with similar symptoms rather than a one-to-one interaction. This helps in improving social interactions, communication skills and reducing fear, anxiety and other symptoms gradually with time.
Counseling for Behavior Disorders
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of counseling for behavior disorders. Other counseling types that are effective for children and adults alike suffering from behavior disorders include:
Cognitive Therapy allows one to explore the connection between thoughts, feelings and behavior. It focuses on overcoming challenging situations by changing how you think about your goals and reacting accordingly.
Play Therapy is commonly used in children below 12 but can be used for older kids and adults. Involves playing with toys to allow the individual to express themselves and their feelings to help build healthy behavior.
Sand Therapy allows the individual to play in sand while acknowledging their feelings, memories, struggles and emotions. It is often used with clients who have gone through a traumatic experience in life.
In Animal-Assisted Therapy, patients are encouraged to work with domesticated animals like dogs, horses, cats and others to bring a sense of calm, love, attachment and comfort. Many studies have shown how animal-assisted therapy works wonders for patients with behavioral and other types of mental health disorders.
Stress Management Techniques
One must seek professional help to help deal with the different types of stress that are the cause for one’s behavioral disorder. Various techniques are suggested by identifying unhealthy response patterns.
Parenting Skills Training
If your child’s behavioral disorder results from parenting issues, you can take special support to improve the bond between you and your child. An integral part of being a good parent is to be flexible, understanding, patient and empathetic to your child’s present and future needs.