What is a Behavioural Disorder?

Behavioural disorders are conditions in which an individual experiences alterations in thinking and emotions that result in challenging behaviours. Challenging behaviours can include but are not limited to, temper tantrums, arguments, lying, cheating, stealing and even assaulting others. At times almost all children will naturally engage in these behaviours, but it is the prevalence and severity of these actions that lead to a clinical diagnosis of a behavioural disorder.

Parental Observation of Behaviours

Whether or not to seek professional advice regarding a child’s behaviour is usually the responsibility of a parent. This can be tricky, because many parents see challenging behaviours as just a phase or stage of development such as the “terrible twos”. Parents should watch their children for a period of time before seeking professional help, and particularly observe:

  • Which disruptive behaviours are engaged in.
  • When disruptive behaviours occur (time of day, week, month, etc.).
  • Where disruptive behaviours occur (school, church, home, etc.).
  • Who is around when the disruptive behaviours occur.
  • The intensity or severity of the disruptive behaviours.
  • If there has been a major lifestyle change for the child recently.
  • If there is an underlying medical or emotional condition in the child.

A good rule of thumb for parents is to ask themselves if, after having observed their child for several months, their child’s behaviour is causing persist stress and/or distress within the family? If the answer is yes, then parents may want to consider having their child seen by a specialist. Counsellors and therapists are a great support for children who may be just as miserable as their parents about their own disruptive behaviour. Remember, children may not understand their own behaviour and this can make them feel out of control and just as unhappy as those who have to cope with their challenging behaviours.

Formal Diagnosis and Treatment of a Behavioural Disorder

Formal diagnosis of a behavioural disorder will be carried out by a trained mental health professional. Obviously the “requirements” or symptoms will be different for diagnoses of different behavioural disorders, but for the most part a clinical diagnosis will take into account both the severity of the symptoms/behaviours and the consistency of the symptoms/behaviours. Treatment of particular disorders will be advised at the time of diagnosis, but treatment types may vary among children of the same diagnosis and over the course of one child’s treatment as well.

Living with a Behavioural Disorder

Living with a behavioural disorder takes a lot of work from the whole family. Individual treatment and education plans will vary per child, but those who have the support of family and friends tend to make the most improvement towards avoiding less socially accepted behaviours. Though it may not be possible to completely cure a behavioural disorder, a correct diagnosis and competent treatment plan provide a firm basis for children to work towards eradicating problem behaviours.

A range of different behavioural disorders exist, but for the most part these disorders are similar in that they result in challenging behaviours. Though all children will display challenging behaviours in certain circumstances, behavioural disorders are characterised by more consistent and severe disruptive behaviours. Parents who believe that their child may have a behavioural disorder should seek professional help and support before someone, including their child, gets hurt.

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