In this section
Behavioral illnesses of childhood
In this section:
- Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Conduct disorder (CD)
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- Cutting and other self-harm
- Teen suicide
- Temper tantrums
It is normal for your child or teen to sometimes misbehave, not listen, talk back, or act rebellious. These behaviors are part of the normal process of growing up. However, some children and teens start to show more difficult, dangerous, or disruptive behaviors that don't get better or go away with time. These behaviors can affect their home life, school performance, friendships, and safety. They can cause problems for youth as they grow into adults.
Types of behavioral illnesses
The three most common types of behavior illnesses are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and conduct disorder (CD). Other behavioral disorders include temper tantrums, and self-harming behaviors, such as cutting one's own body.
Symptoms of a behavioral illness
Some of the signs of childhood behavioral illnesses may be:
- Problems paying attention or completing daily tasks
- Irritable mood, argumentative most of the time
- Breaks rules without a known reason
- Difficulty slowing down, no "off" button (hyperactive)
- Acts without thinking (impulsive)
- Acting out, fighting, bullying, cruel behavior towards people or animals (aggressive)
- Self-harming (cutting, burning)
- Not interacting socially with others (withdrawal)
- Skipping school
- Excessive or inappropriate crying, poor coping skills
- Temper tantrums
- Learning difficulties (performing below grade level)
- Alcohol or drug use (with other signs above)
Causes and treatment of a behavioral illness
No one knows exactly what causes behavioral disorders in children and teens. It is likely that a number of factors, such as genetics, diet, stress, overall health, and family functioning play a role. There is no "one" cause and there is no "one" treatment for a behavioral disorder. A mental health provider can help properly diagnose and treat a behavioral disorder. Treatment may include talk therapy, medications, coordination with school, and connecting with community resources.
Need someone to talk to? Crisis mental healthcare hotlines are available in English or Español.
Looking to find a mental health provider? Learn more about our specialists.
To make an appointment, call the Psychiatry and behavioral medicine program.
For new referrals or new patient appointments, please call (414) 266-3339.
Help is available immediately if your family is experiencing a mental health crisis.