Is My Child’s Misbehavior A Phase… Or A Problem? And, Could I Have Adult ADHD?
All children undergo rebellious or disobedient phases. (We’re not sure if that’s the good news… or the bad news? After all, they don’t call them the terrible twos for nothing! And, the teenage years are notoriously “pull-out-your-hair and rethink-why-you-had-kids-in-the-first-place” frustrating…)
But when is bad behavior in childhood indicative of a serious problem? Usually, “disobedient” or “volatile” conduct becomes reclassified as a “behavioral disorder” when the core symptoms of aggression or rule-breaking persist for longer than 6 months, escalate in intensity, or become abnormal for your child’s developmental stage.
But, what’s considered “abnormal”? The classic example is usually that of a toddler, who throws inconsolable tantrums when a parent or preschool teacher reinforces the world “No”. Nothing abnormal about that there! —in fact entire books are written on the subject. But, if your 9-year-old has developed a history of erupting into explosive outbursts of rage, then the behavior is considered atypical for your child’s peer group and has likely begun to result in problems at home or school, or during extracurricular activities.
You might also be wondering: What if my or my child’s behavior—the patterns of spaciness, distractibility, hyperactivity, or impulsivity—isn’t something that we choose? For adults and children who become diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, this is exactly the case. Problems with neurological dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex—or planning area—of the brain make paying attention to a dull lecture and sitting quietly in your seat seem like an impossible feat. Fortunately, as is true with all behavioral disorders—therapeutic interventions exist that can improve your emotional regulation and enhance your ability to concentrate!
Listed below are the ten telltale signs of the three most common behavioral disorders: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Conduct Disorder (CD).
10 Signs & Symptoms of Behavioral Disorders
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Adults & Children)
- Inattentiveness: Persistent episodes where your mind ping-pongs aimlessly like a pinball from disconnected thought to arbitrary distraction, despite concentrated efforts on your part to harness your attention;
- Patterns of disorganization, poor listening skills, detail neglect, procrastination, & difficulty meeting deadlines that adversely affect your academic or occupational functioning
- Hyperactivity: Constant fidgeting like being in the throes of a sugar rush or on a four-day espresso bender; Inability to remain seated or engage in activities silently
- Impulsivity: Verbal diarrhea or blurting disease, in which you interrupt others to interject solutions to schoolwork, unrelated thoughts, or inappropriate comments; Chronic impatience and restless energy that make waiting your turn in line seem intolerable
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (Children, Adolescents, Teens)
- Hostility: Irritability, resentment, and explosive anger, including temper tantrums in all but very young children (The terrible twos while still TERRIBLE unfortunately don’t count…)
- Age Inappropriate Rule Breaking: Cursing like a sailor at age 3; Smoking or drinking alcohol at age 8; Spending your elementary years in in-school or out-of-school suspension for conduct offenses; Skipping school or staying out until midnight at age 11, etc.
- Disregard for Authority: Deliberate (and borderline aggressive) disrespect for authority figures, including parents, teachers, principals, guidance counselors, law enforcement officials, etc.
- Vindictive Behavior: Acts of calculated revenge (For example: Destroying another child’s property after having a disagreement; Using social media to bully an attractive peer because of personal jealousy)
Conduct Disorder (Children, Adolescents, Teens)
- Cruelty: Deriving pleasure from torturing animals, younger children, or peers; Bullying, inciting fights, or committing acts of physical or sexual assault; Using actual—or fashioning homemade—weapons to intimidate another person
- Juvenile Delinquency: Truancy (skipping school); Arson (setting fires); Vandalism (destroying property); Shoplifting; Breaking and Entering; Running away from home; Lying; etc.
- Absence of Remorse: Conspicuous lack of empathy or regret for the suffering caused to others
How Can Counseling & Therapy For Behavioral Disorders Improve My Child’s or My Condition?
Although “bad” habits and aggressive actions can be difficult to undo—fortunately—a vast assortment of innovative and effective interventions exist that can retrain your child’s behavior and re-harness your concentration so that you both can excel in at work or in school. Depending upon your specific therapeutic needs, your therapist may recommend a combination of:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Can be used to address thought processes that enable unhealthy behaviors (such as distractibility, hyperactivity, hostility, aggression, or defiance) to flourish; replacing these destructive cognitions with self-affirming and empathetic views allows for the development of more advantageous and compassionate behaviors
- Anger Management: Supports children, adolescents, and teens with oppositional defiant or conduct disorders to acquire skills for emotional regulation that minimize angry outbursts, defiant behaviors, and violent or vindictive tendencies
- Skills Development: Equips children and adults with ADHD with mechanisms to improve attention, reduce impulsivity, and avoid “waiting-until-the-last-minute” procrastination
- Medication Management: Our Lifeologie counselors practice in conjunction with several area physicians to prescribe and monitor medication use for ADHD, ODD, or CD
- Play Therapy: For smaller children with ADHD, ODD, or CD, structured play therapy can be used to encourage your child to communicate honestly and creatively about their condition and can offer opportunities to practice implementing attention skills
- Family Therapy: Addresses family dynamics that may contribute to your child’s behavior and offers support to parents who are at their wit’s end
- Trauma, Abuse, & Neglect Recovery: For children, adolescents, and teens with ODD or CD that stems from an incident of trauma, abuse, or neglect; examines how trauma can warp behavior and assists your child to break the “aggression” cycle
- Alternative Therapy: Therapeutic techniques such as psychotherapeutic yoga, mindfulness, meditation, guided imagery, equine therapy, and expressive arts that reinforce self-soothing, emotional regulation, concentration, and creative expression