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How to Find Help Treating a Behavioral Disorder

Certain life events are likely to prompt people to exhibit periods of behavioral issues. For children and teens, parents divorcing, a death in the family, and the birth of a sibling are all common triggers for misbehavior. Some children suffer from emotional and behavioral disorders that require professional treatment. These children display a range of behavioral, emotional and social disabilities that often manifest in poor performance at school and eventually, frequent interactions with law enforcement.

Signs your child might have such a disorder include harming themselves or others such as pets, premature sexual activity, learning problems, depression, stealing, engaging in frequent tantrums and exhibiting hostility toward adults. A child exhibiting one or two of these signs might not necessarily have a behavioral disorder. However, a child exhibiting several of these signs, particularly when the behavior develops into a chronic pattern of aggression and defiance, should be examined by a mental health professional.

If you’re concerned your child might have a behavioral disorder, call us at . We can help you find the needed treatment to address the issue.

Understanding Behavioral Disorders

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates roughly 8.3 million children, or 14.5 percent of children ages 4 to 17 years, have parents who have consulted a healthcare provider or staff at a school about behavioral or emotional challenges. According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, the causes of behavioral disorders aren’t known. Researchers suggest the roots might lie in any combination of brain disorders, heredity, diet, family dynamics and stress, among other factors. They’ve also identified a number of risk factors, including exposure to drugs and tobacco during fetal development, abuse, family history of mental illness or substance abuse, lack of supervision, and pre-existing disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

How to Diagnose a Behavioral Disorder

Mental health professionals diagnose children with behavioral disorders after performing standardized tests, referring to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder and gathering information on the child’s behavioral history from family, teachers and others. They might also ask family members and teachers to keep a record of the child’s behavior for a time to track certain behavioral problems in particular.

How to Recognize a Disorder

While many signs of behavioral disorders are usually apparent, the following are among the more common:

Consider whether the child continues to misbehave with no sign of improvement. Evaluate the intensity of the behavior. For example, while it’s normal for most children to throw an occasional tantrum, do your child’s tantrums frighten you? Is the child too old to be throwing tantrums?

For more information about whether your child’s behavior is appropriate for their age or a sign of a behavioral disorder, call us at .

Steps You Can Take to Help Someone with a Behavioral Disorder

If you suspect your child has a behavioral disorder, you should remember they are probably as upset by the situation as you are. Offer to support by listening without preconceptions. Make an appointment for your child to see a physician and/or mental health professional. After the child has been diagnosed, explain the situation to other family members and the child’s teachers. Seek counseling for the child, yourself and your family.

Talking to Someone With a Disorder

Communication is difficult for children with behavioral disorders. You can communicate more effectively with your child by verbally reinforcing positive behavior and taking a break from talking if you find yourself and the child in conflict. Try to engage the child in conversation when he or she is having a good day, morning or afternoon. Make sure your child understands you care and are there for support.

Adolescents and Teens

Teens with behavioral disorders can be even more challenging than children with the diagnosis. Adolescents with behavioral disorders tend to ignore consequences, thrive on conflict and push their parents’ emotional buttons. Many teens with behavioral disorders are at a higher than normal risk for drug abuse and pregnancy.

If your teen’s behavior is escalating out of control, consult a counselor or doctor for help. In the meantime, approach your child during a period of calm and explain your boundaries and the consequences of violating them. Meanwhile, if your teen’s behavior is violent, reach for help immediately, even if it means calling the police.

Learning to Cope With a Behavioral Disorder

Children and teens with behavioral disorders are unlikely to improve without treatment. Those who go without treatment stand a greater chance of growing up to be adults with serious dysfunctions. The earlier a parent intervenes on a child’s behalf, the better. Once a child or teen enters treatment, they will likely require ongoing support in the form of therapy, social training and support groups. Most experts believe behavioral disorders are chronic conditions that require lifelong monitoring.

For information that will start your child on the road to healing, call us at .

How to Treat Behavioral Disorder

Behavioral disorders can be treated by mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists and psychologists; however, treatment will require participation from parents, siblings and teachers to truly be effective. Family members can find out how to work with the affected child in group therapy sessions. There, they can learn how to use positive reinforcement and rewards along with record keeping to help the affected child or teen improve.

Generally speaking, the more antisocial a child has been, the less likely group therapy will help them. These children tend to benefit more from one-on-one therapy in a far more structured environment. Treatment also involves teaching children and teens with behavioral disorders social, problem-solving and communication skills. Many of these children suffer from arrested development, which sets them back in all of the above areas.

Many children and teens benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. Over 10 to 35 weekly sessions, a therapist will work with a child using cognitive behavioral therapy to help free them from the negative thought patterns that cause acting out. These thought patterns can include overgeneralizing, exaggerating or viewing any unpleasant event as continued evidence that they are destined to lose in life.

Doctors can prescribe a wide range of medications for children and teens with behavioral disorders. These include antidepressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotics, among others. However, many mental health professionals urge non-pharmaceutical therapies, such as those described above, before resorting to medication.

Deciding Between Possible Solutions

Parents have the right to be active in their child’s course of treatment, beginning with deciding whether to have the child assessed for a behavioral disorder at all. It’s important to talk to a number of mental health professionals about treatment options to gain an understanding of the range of choices facing you and your child. You can also turn to a local community mental health center for additional insight. You should include your child in the process as much as they are capable of participating.

Remember you’re not alone in this situation. According to a report by the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, child behavioral disorders are the most common mental health disorders in childhood, with 7 to 25 percent of children suffering from a related condition, depending on which population is surveyed.

Where to Find Behavioral Treatment for a Friend or Family Member

If you need help finding treatment for your teen or child for a behavioral disorder, call us at . We can help you connect to the professional assistance your family needs.