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Problem behaviors are those that aren’t considered typically acceptable. Nearly everyone can have a moment of disruptive behavior or an error in judgment. However, problem behavior is a consistent pattern.
Problem behaviors can vary in terms of severity. They can occur in children as well as in adults. People with problem behaviors often require medical intervention to improve their symptoms.
Problem behavior can have many symptoms, including but not limited to:
Problem behavior can range from the absence of emotions to aggressive emotions.
According to the Merck Manual, behavior problems often show themselves in different ways among girls and boys. For example, boys with problem behavior may fight, steal, or deface property. Girls with problem behavior may lie or run away from home. Both are at greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse.
There are multiple causes associated with problem behavior. A psychiatric, mental health, or medical professional should evaluate a person with problem behavior to determine the cause.
Causes of problem behavior can be a life event or family situation. A person might have a family conflict, struggle with poverty, feel anxious, or have had a death in the family. Aging can also lead to dementia, which affects a person’s behavior.
Common conditions related to problem behavior include, but aren’t limited to:
People with chronic and mental health conditions are at greater risk for problem behavior than those who don’t have these conditions.
Some problem behaviors have a genetic link. According to the Merck Manual, parents with the following problem behaviors are more likely to have children with problem behavior concerns:
However, people with problem behavior may also come from families with little history of problem behavior.
Problem behavior can be a medical emergency when the behavior includes the following:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you or a loved one experience the following symptoms:
People with problem behavior may feel different from others, like they don’t fit in. Some may have emotions they don’t understand or can’t identify. This can lead to frustration and more problem behavior.
A doctor or mental health specialist can evaluate problem behaviors. They’ll likely start by taking a health history and listening to a description of an adult or child’s symptoms. Some questions a doctor may ask include:
Doctors can use this information to pinpoint the behavior’s possible cause and diagnosis.
Doctors treat problem behavior by diagnosing its causes. People who are at risk for harming themselves may require an inpatient stay at a hospital for their personal safety.
Additional treatments for problem behavior can include:
Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
Medically reviewed on: May 07, 2015: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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