Your teen has been acting out a lot recently. You know that occasional bad behavior is not uncommon, but this has been going on for several months. You are planning to talk with a health care professional, but you would like to have some information before you go. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Below is a list of common behavior disorders, as well as some of the treatment options available to you and your teen.
Common Behavior Disorders
Behavior disorders are not typically diagnosed unless the behavior has been severe, consistent, and present for six months or more.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by difficulty maintaining attention, hyperactivity (as the name implies), and impulsive action.
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is characterized by irritability and hostility toward authority, including argumentative behavior and grudge holding/revenge seeking.
- Conduct Disorder (CD) is characterized by the violation of another person’s basic rights or commonly accepted social rules. Conduct Disorder can manifest itself in causing harm to other people or animals, property damage or theft, deceit, and the breaking of major rules at home or at school. It can also include premature sexual activity.
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is characterized by explosive outbursts of anger and violence which are out of proportion to the situation at hand, such as screaming, verbal and physical aggression.
- Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is characterized by the use of one or more substances (drugs, alcohol, or nicotine) to the point of clinically significant impairment.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Formerly known as “talk therapy,” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on helping your teen change unhealthy thoughts and actions through conversation. A therapist will guide your teen to recognize self-defeating ideas and behavior, measure them against a rational point of view, and replace them with more positive thoughts and actions. Sometimes a therapist will request that parents or an entire family participate in CBT.
Group therapy can help teens feel like they are not alone with their behavior disorder. Hearing other teens talk about relatable experiences and victories can give your teen confidence to make progress. Knowing that he or she has peers with similar issues can help your teen feel more positive about his or herself. Group therapy is also an opportunity for your teen to strengthen his or her social and communication skills, practice managing emotions and participating in positive behavior.
Medication is sometimes given in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or group therapy if therapy alone does not help enough. Medication works by changing the chemistry of the brain, which can positively influence mood and support the development of new thought and behavior patterns in therapy. It is important to remember that medication cannot cure behavior disorders, but it can reduce symptoms and improve your teen’s quality of life.
As a parent, you want to understand your teen and help them as best as you can. There are programs offered for parents to learn more about teen behavior disorders and how to manage them. These programs can show you what to look for in your teen’s behavior, how to set realistic rules and goals for your teen’s progress, how to support your teen in reaching those milestones, and what to do when your teen behaves inappropriately. Some programs can connect you with other parents going through similar issues. Having a support network is important for teens and their parents alike.
Whether your teen is hyperactive, defiant, or experiencing other symptoms of behavior disorder, you are not alone. Your health care professional can help you find the right treatment options for you and your teen, whether it simply be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or a combination of therapy and medication. For teens in the Juneau School District, learn more about the before and after-school therapy offered by Juneau Youth Services.