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Introduction

What are behavioral disorders?

Behavioral disorders typically develop in childhood or adolescence. While some behavioral issues may be normal in children, those who have behavioral disorders develop chronic patterns of aggression, defiance, disruption and hostility. Their behaviors cause problems at home, school or work, and can interfere with relationships. Children with behavioral disorders may develop personality disorders, depression, or bipolar disorder as adults.

Children with behavioral disorders may throw frequent and extended tantrums, hurt themselves or others, get involved in criminal activities, lie, smoke, use alcohol or drugs, be openly defiant, or engage in early sexual activity. They may skip or fail school. They also have a higher than average risk of suicide.

Although the cause of behavioral disorders is not known, risk factors have been identified, such as family history of mental illness or substance abuse, exposure to tobacco or illicit drugs during fetal development, abuse, stress, lack of supervision, and inconsistent but harsh discipline. Children with behavioral disorders may have other mental, emotional or behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There may also be overlap with developmental delay. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening for developmental delay as part of routine well-child examinations.

Severe or long-standing behavioral disorders can be difficult to treat; however, early recognition and intervention can be quite helpful. Treatment often focuses on skill development for the child and parents. Involvement of a health care professional is often necessary. Educational, community and social programs may also be available.

Violent, destructive and risky actions can be part of behavioral disorders and can lead to serious harm or legal problems. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your child is engaging in threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior, or if your child has suffered a serious injury, has overdosed on drugs, has alcohol poisoning, or has any other conditions that require emergency attention.

Seek prompt medical care if your child gets into trouble frequently, has significant mood swings, engages in harmful or destructive behaviors, uses alcohol or drugs, has problems sleeping, or is having other issues that cause you concern.


Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 23, 2013

© Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. Patent US 7,752,060. All Rights Reserved. Third Party materials included herein protected under copyright law. 

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