Behavioral disorders involve a pattern of disruptive behaviors that can have negative effects on the individual and for those around them. There are a number of conditions that fall under the larger umbrella of behavioral disorders. Behavior disorders are a broad classification of varying disorders with numerous different subtypes. To name a few there are; Depressive, Mania, Bipolar, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Conduct Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Dissociated Personality Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), mood disorders, and eating disorders.
The causes for each behavior is different for each condition. However, for most conditions, the disorder may develop in childhood and last into adulthood. Some underlying causes could be:
- Unresolved trauma
- Physical illness or disability
- Brain damage
- Hereditary factors
- Chemical brain imbalance of neurotransmitters
The signs and symptoms of each behavior disorder vary depending on the condition.
- ADHD – aggression, excitability, fidgeting, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, lack of restraint, persistent repetition of words or actions, absent-mindedness, difficulty focusing, forgetfulness, problems paying attention or short attention span, anger, anxiety, boredom, excitement, or mood swings, depression, or learning disability.
- Bipolar – Manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.
- PTSD – Symptoms may include nightmares or unwanted memories of the trauma, avoidance of situations that bring back memories of the trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, or depressed mood.
- Eating Disorders – Anorexia nervosa will have caloric, vitamin, and mineral deficiency, anxiety, and benign S3 heart sound upon cardiac auscultation during a physical exam. For Bulimic patients, there are signs of enlarged parotid glands and eroded enamel due to frequent vomiting.
- Depression – Changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.
- Anxiety – Hypervigilance, irritability, restlessness, lack of concentration, racing thoughts or unwanted thoughts, fatigue, sweating, anxiety, excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, or trembling.
- Conduct Disorder – Aggressive behavior, such as cruelty to animals, fighting and bullying. Destructive behavior, such as arson and vandalism.Deceitful behavior, such as shoplifting and lying. Violation of rules, which may include truancy and running away from home.
History of behavior illness can include some of the following:
- Stressful life situations, such as financial problems, a loved one’s death, or a divorce
- An ongoing (chronic) medical condition, such as diabetes
- Brain damage as a result of a serious injury (traumatic brain injury), such as a violent blow to the head
- Traumatic experiences, such as military combat or assault
- Use of alcohol or recreational drugs
- A childhood history of abuse or neglect
- Few friends or a few healthy relationships
- A previous mental illness
A primary care physician, or psychologist, may be able to diagnose some behavior disorders during a physical exam upon reviewing the patient’s medical history. Many cases may require the attention of an expert in mental health or childhood development, depending on the disorder.
Behavior disorders can usually be treated through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or taking medication.
Behavior disorders are complex in their pathology. There is no evidence of ways to avoid developing these disorders entirely. However, it is possible to try and manage symptoms. Be conscious of certain triggers that might elicit a response or exacerbate symptoms, and create a plan of how to avoid them.
Leaving behavior disorders untreated can lead to poor quality of life for the patient as well as those closest to the patient. Conditions can worsen without seeking proper treatment or rehabilitation.
Behavior disorders consist of a broad category of varying disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to bipolar and schizophrenia, along with many more. Each disorder has numerous sub-categories with specific corresponding treatments.