Parenting Teens with Behavioral Disorders

Parenting Teens with Behavioral Disorders

The stresses associated with managing a child who has behavioral disorders is often poorly understood by those who have never experienced it. Bold claims about how they would handle a “misbehaving teen” abound, and yet they have no idea how teens who struggle with these genuine psychological conditions operate. They aren’t just “acting out”, but have a diagnosable disorder, one that impacts every person in their life from their family and friends, to their educators and doctors.

Research on the topic of behavioral disorders in 2005 found that 5% of children and teens between 4 – 17 were receiving medication for emotional or behavioral conditions. Programs to treat these disorders on a therapeutic level have become more popular. They are also becoming more necessary, as physicians attempt to step back from pills in the wake of an overmedication problem in America’s youth.

One of the first steps in correcting this problem, as well as the false perception about it by society at large, is to really understand the issue. People need to be aware of not only the challenges faced by teens suffering these conditions, but those who are parenting them. Once we get rid of the blind spot, we can begin to address the core elements that make up the whole.

For parents, it is important to know when your teen is acting out, versus when there could be a serious problem. Only a licensed professional can tell you for sure. But here are some things you should know.


Common Behavioral Disorders

There are two primary categories for serious behavioral disorders. They are:

Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) – A condition that manifests through a marked opposition to authority, and a defiance that goes beyond normal rebellion. Teens with ODD will often throw tantrums when they don’t get their way, refuse to follow commands or rules, and show themselves unwilling to admit responsibility for their mistakes or bad choices. This is considered the less severe of the two primary subtypes.


Conduct Disorder (CD) – A condition that manifests through more intense negative behaviors that have a lasting impact on both the child, and those around them. Teens with CD are often violent, aggressive, pathologically deceitful, angry, and could engage in criminal acts like stealing. Other behaviors, such as truancy, sexual promiscuity, and substance abuse are other potential symptoms of the disorder.


Other disorders exist, and can deeply impact teens and their ability to function on a day to day basis. These behavioral disorders include:


Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – The media portrays OCD as being an obsession with repetition or cleanliness. But it can manifest in multiple ways, including anxiety, depression, aggression, and hoarding. Any number of obsessions can develop due to OCD, and it has been linked to other problems, such as self harm and eating disorders.


Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) – ADHD and ADD are traditionally expressed through an inability to focus, and hyperactivity that causes the sufferer to have trouble sitting still. But it can also cause aggression, anger, oppositional attitudes, bullying, impulse control, and an inability to stop one from repeating actions or words.


Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) – Someone with RAD is more likely to have difficulty empathizing with others. They often have an undeveloped conscience, and act impulsively without thought to the consequences. Suffers may also react badly to being touched, and find themselves unable to give or accept affection.


Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) – Sometimes mistaken for basic anger, IED is a much more severe form of rage that can be triggered by little or no provocation. Small or perceived slights may generate an extreme, sometimes even violent, response. This is characterized by the sudden explosive bouts of anger that pass quickly, until the next time they are evoked. Between these outbursts, the sufferer can appear irritable and unpleasant, with a low threshold for frustration that most people would be capable of ignoring or coping with.


Parenting Teens With Behavioral Disorders

Parenting teens who struggle with these behavioral disorders is not about “curing” them. For many – though not all – this will be a lifelong struggle. Instead, it is up to you to help them learn to cope with and reduce symptoms, so they can live a productive and happy life. Some of those skills can be learned and implemented at home, if you know where to start.


Others may need to be guided by a trained professional. To find out more about helping your teen overcome the challenges of behavioral disorders, visit Parent Learning Center.

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