Behavioral Disorders – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Behavioral disorders

Behavioral disorders – also known as behavioral problems – can indicate later mental illness in early childhood. Whether they are worth treating is another matter. During their lifetime, most people show certain behavioral disorders that are temporary in nature.

What are behavioral disorders?

The simplest definition of conduct disorder is that which does not characterize “normal” or inappropriate behavior. What is considered “normal” is problematic and ethnically diverse.

In Tibet people greeted each other with their tongues out until 1959, but here it was considered indecent and obscene. Certain behavioral disorders can be interpreted as warning signals or calls for help. Many behavioral disorders such as aggression, wanton destruction of objects, rampaging, hyperactive acting out, refusal, obscene behavior, screaming, excessive anxiety or inappropriate wetting without dementia are assessed differently.

Therefore, there are numerous more or less detailed definitions of behavioral disorders.


The causes of behavioral disorders are manifold. They can be of a familial nature and be based on the mother’s mental illness or the father’s alcohol-related violent tendencies.They can be due to school stress , constant failure, high expectations, a lack of recognition, a long illness, disability or bullying, they can represent inner rebellion against hierarchies or they can simply be triggered by lack of love.

Brain damage, trauma in childhood, suppressed fears , depressing loneliness, certain physical or mental illnesses also come into question. Parenting mistakes can also manifest as behavioral disorders. It follows that many behavioral disorders are easily treatable. They are often temporary in nature.

Others grow into a real problem that needs treatment. This includes, for example, cutting up one’s own body.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Behavioral disorders can occur at any age. Signs are by no means clear and allow for misinterpretations. Those affected direct their behavior against a common norm in their environment or in themselves. Many symptoms only appear temporarily. A difference to other mental illnesses cannot always be clearly determined.

Those affected usually suffer from internal conflicts. These are expressed, for example, in sudden and unexpected mood swings in relation to their environment. A basic aggressiveness is present. Even small mishaps or trivial everyday things are put in a negative light. In certain phases, people work hyperactively and extremely euphorically with others, while otherwise living in seclusion.

Women and men with a conduct disorder give the impression that they are not at peace with themselves. They often cannot find meaning in their lives and feel inferior. Fear of new things and changes characterizes their existence. Some of those affected sleep poorly, which is not surprising in view of the constant inner restlessness .

The abnormal behavior ensures that generally accepted standards are not observed. Eating disorders or excessive consumption of alcohol set in as a last resort. Some patients find it difficult to focus on achieving personal and professional goals.

Diagnosis & History

The diagnosis and course of behavioral disorders are usually relatively simple. Most behavioral disorders are public and can be seen by anyone. Others are carried out in secret, but eventually catch the eye.

From the classifications in the ICD-10 one can see how fluid the transition to a mental disorder can be. Mental and behavioral disorders are included in the diagnostic code in

  • organic and symptomatic-mental disorders
  • mental or behavioral disorders due to the use of psychotropic substances
  • schizophrenia or delusional disorders
  • mood disorders
  • neurotic, overuse or somatoform behavioral disorders
  • Behavioral problems accompanied by physical symptoms
  • personality or behavioral disorders
  • intellectual limitations
  • developmental behavioral disorders
  • early behavioral and emotional disorders
  • other mental disorders

broken down. Where behavioral disorders begin and when they are evaluated as a mental abnormality or illness varies. Many behavioral disorders are not perceived by those affected as suffering. Talking to yourself, for example, is now considered normal.


As a rule, behavioral disorders always have a very negative effect on the everyday life of the person concerned and can make it considerably more difficult. Especially in children, these disorders lead to a significantly delayed development and continue to cause problems in adulthood. Bullying or teasing can also occur and lead to psychological upsets or even depression.

Patients often suffer from feelings of anxiety, even ADHD or concentration disorders. Furthermore, there is often an inner restlessness, so that those affected are very irritable and appear restless and nervous. Mood swings or personality disorders can also occur as a result of the behavioral disorders. Parents are also affected by behavioral disorders from psychological complaints or depression and often also need treatment.

However, the further course depends very much on the exact disorders and their severity. In serious cases, however, the treatment of behavioral disorders is carried out in a closed clinic. There are no complications from the treatment itself. The symptoms can be solved with the help of various therapies or medication. A complete cure cannot be predicted.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who consistently show abnormal behavior should consult a doctor to monitor and assess the situation. Problems in social interaction, inappropriate reactions or recognizable emotional overload are signs of health impairment. If those affected and their relatives feel clearly overwhelmed when dealing with each other, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Help is needed for self-destructive actions, permanent conflict situations in everyday life, insults or concentration problems. If no regular daily routine can take place, social obligations are not met or if the person concerned shows an excessively careless and dangerous demeanor, a doctor should be consulted.

Tantrums, severe tearfulness, poor hygiene and a lack of empathy indicate a disorder. Loss of control, breaking existing rules and agreements that serve to improve organization in everyday life, and language problems are also complaints that should be examined.

If there are disturbances in voluntary movement or sleep, this is to be understood as an alarm signal from the organism. If the abnormalities occur suddenly, there are usually acute problems with a need for action as quickly as possible. Since it is one of the characteristics of behavioral disorders that the person affected is not aware of his own actions, relatives and people from the social environment are often obliged to get help.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of behavioral disorders always depends on the disorder. Dealing with ADHD children is different than dealing with a highly aggressive man who resists treatment or an alcoholic woman who uses fecal language while intoxicated and has occasional delusions.

Talk and behavioral therapy offer good approaches for many behavioral disorders. The underlying cause of the behavioral problems must be found if the measure is to be successful. In some cases, drug treatment is required. In others, drug or alcohol rehabilitation in an appropriate clinical setting is the appropriate treatment approach. The behavioral problems often go away when the cause is treated.

Aggression by children after the parents’ divorce or because of latent mental disorders in the caregiver can, for example, be brought under control with family therapy . In the family structure, there are many things that must not be said, there are taboos and things that are difficult to suppress, which can trigger behavioral disorders. In the safe space of family therapy, however, such things can be addressed.


A healthy, open atmosphere in which everyone can express themselves helps to prevent behavioral disorders . When behavioral disorders occur, you can investigate the causes and try together to solve the underlying conflicts. The person exhibiting behavioral problems can learn other ways of dealing with their conflicts and problems. Children with behavioral disorders are no longer described as difficult to raise. The problems often lie deeper.


Behavioral disorders are a broad field and the aftercare must therefore be individually tailored. In most cases, however, it is very important because behavioral disorders often cannot be completely eliminated by therapy and what has been learned must always be integrated into everyday private and professional life.

Follow-up care can be arranged in cooperation with a psychologist or family doctor and requires the active cooperation of the patient. Visiting a self-help group with like-minded people is often helpful. The exchange of experiences in a safe environment reduces fears and can give those affected valuable tips for overcoming their behavioral disorders.

It is often the social contact that helps with behavioral disorders. Friends, colleagues and neighbors can be important in the follow-up care, so communication and other contact should not be neglected. In a sports club or in a community college course, people with behavioral disorders discover opportunities to discard unfavorable behavior and gradually integrate new behavior patterns into their lives.

What is learned from the therapy is consequently put into practice. The behavioral disorders can be further reduced and new self-confidence can be gained through a sense of achievement from social contacts. If behavioral disorders are also linked to inner restlessness, relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training or yoga, which are best learned in the course, often help.

You can do that yourself

Patients with behavioral disorders are often severely restricted in their everyday life by the disease. In some cases, it is no longer possible for those affected to continue their professional activity and pursue a regular everyday life. They often depend on the help of relatives.

In the case of behavioral disorders, it is particularly important that those affected have a regular daily routine. Strictly adhering to wake-up and bedtime times and regular mealtimes is recommended. Those affected should avoid alcohol and highly caffeinated beverages. Nicotine consumption should be reduced if necessary. A balanced diet rich in vitamins and low in sugar is also important . Regular exercise can also be helpful. Daily morning jogs, walks or swimming are recommended. Relaxation techniques like yoga can also be effective.

Those affected should never retreat into solitude. Social events such as family celebrations should be attended if the patient can. In some cases, however, it is advisable to let relatives and friends know about the disease. Those affected and their relatives can also get help in self-help groups or in Internet forums for people with mental illnesses.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.