Overview of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

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Emotional and behavioral disorders are a set of mental health disorders that interrupt an individual’s normal functioning of emotions and behaviors and are very easy to observe. They negatively affect all the aspects like cognition, physiological and psychological development of an individual’s life. An individual with emotional and behavioral disorders can have physical and mental outbursts at any point of time and even in normal conditions, due to which people around them and their relationships suffer a lot. Also, if these disorders are left untreated or given no chance to improve, they can lead to severe other mental and physical problems in later life.

These disorders are more common in childhood due to many prevailing factors and leads to failure in learning, create problems during developing into healthy and mentally strong adolescents, employment and to live a healthy social life.

What Are the Causes of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders?

There is no single cause but a large number of factors that could lead to emotional and behavioral disorders:

1. Biological Factor:

  • An individual can be affected when his mother suffers problems during pregnancy like problems with delivery, substance abuse by the mother or mental trauma suffered by the mother can affect the child negatively leading to emotional and behavioral disorders.
  • Any brain injury can lead to chemical imbalance or any other complications in brain which sooner or later can cause mental health issues. Also, some prolonged serious illness can affect the mental health of an individual if right kind of support is not provided.
  • Malnourishment can not only affect physical health but can also leads to some serious emotional and behavioral problems.

2. Developmental Factor:

Human development is a lifelong process that includes growing and attaining maturity at various aspects of life. If at any stage, the development is being altered than it could lead to physical as well as mental health problems including emotional and behavioral problems. Also the type of environment in which one live including home, school and work and influence of peers also plays a vital role in determining the mental health of an individual.

  • Lack of attachment with the caregivers or over attachment with the caregivers can affect the emotional and behavioral levels of a child at certain stages of their development.
  • The failure to build trust during early stages of development results in fear and mistrust and failure to show competence leads to inferiority, the more developmental problems a child face, the more is the risk of emotional and behavioral problems in his later life.

3. Other Significant Factors:

  • Abusive upbringing of the child, violent relationship of caregivers, distant parents, lack of parental love or very authoritative parenting style can also leads to emotional and behavioral disorders.
  • Pessimistic and negative approach in the immediate surroundings, punishment approach towards wrong actions, general dysfunction at home, acting out to get attention can also increase the risk of emotional and behavioral disorders.

Symptoms of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

  • Aggressive nature or constant angry mood
  • Short term attention
  • Arguing
  • Learning problems
  • Withdrawal
  • Blaming others
  • Difficulty or refusal towards authority rules
  • Pervasive unhappiness
  • Age inappropriate behaviors
  • Identity crisis
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Throwing tantrums to make things happen according to them
  • Difficulty in building social relationships

Types of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
  • Conduct disorders
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorders
  • Eating disorders

Emotional and behavioral disorders are psychiatric problems that affect the functioning of brain, so the people suffering with these disorders are unknowingly complicating the things and lives of those around them. It is very important to provide them the right support and positive environment so that these people can grow positively and see a different shade of life.

Read about Mindfulness exercises to help reduce anxiety

How to Overcome Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT, also known as Talk Therapy is the most commonly used short- term intervention to deal with emotional and behavioral disorders. In this, the therapist engaged the patient into a deep level to understand the emotions, feelings and the negative thoughts that are hampering his/her life. Patients are taught to deal with their negative thoughts and mechanisms to cope with their destructive mindsets and impulses.

Group Therapy

In addition to CBT, group therapy can also be used, in which therapist under suitable environment make two or more patients interact with each other and talk about their problems and journey. This approach is very helpful as it helps in reducing the factor that they are not alone in this world suffering with these disorders.

Family/ Parenting Skills

Sometimes parents/caregivers or family therapy is also advised. Tips and drills are given to the family and parents on how to cope with the patient and what are do’s and dont’s that are to be taken care of while the patient is trying to heal himself and meanwhile counseling is also given to the family, as they also go through their own kind of exhaustion and stress while coping with patient so it is very important to boost their mental health and enthusiasm.

“Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open.” — Steven Aitchison

As no illness should be ignored be it physical or mental and since mental health symptoms are something that you can only notice if paid close attention. One should seek help and be ready to confront the issues and the family, friends and the closed ones should provide the much needed support. Your little concern and support can do magic in someone’s life. Also one must realize and take the responsibility to change the situations he is in to overcome the suffering and pain he is dwelling into and for that awareness camp and community support system should be formed in schools, work-places, public parks and community centers so that more people can seek help and others can reach out to help.


APA (American Psychiatric Association). 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

WHO (World Health Organization). 2005a. Atlas of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Resources. Geneva: WHO.