What is a behavioral disorder?
A behavioral disorder can be defined as a psychological disorder linked to social or cultural circumstances. There’s no precise scientific definition because we always need to refer to behavior, which is a way of acting in a specific society. For a behavioral disorder to be diagnosed, there needs to be a significant deterioration in the social, educational, and professional life of the person suffering from it.
Behavioral disorders can occur at any time in a person’s life. They’re multifactorial, as they can be linked to 🤔:
- A genetic predisposition (if there are several cases of depression in the family),
- An emotional shock (violence, separation, bereavement, etc.)
- An accident with physical damage (a head injury),
- Another illness (in which case the disorder is a symptom),
- A brain tumor,
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are distinct mental disorders and not behavioral disorders. For example, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), drug and alcohol addiction, or even phobias, although they affect behavior, have their origins in anxiety.
What are the different types of behavioral disorders?
It’s difficult to define behavioral disorders precisely, since other disorders such as anxiety can also affect behavior. Nevertheless, there are at least 3 distinct types of disorders that can be distinguished and are identified as behavioral disorders. Here they are 🧐 :
These disorders disrupt mood, meaning that they have an impact on emotions and generate more negativity. There are real neurobiological alterations in the brain, which cause the mood disorder 🤕. Obviously, there are consequences, and people who suffer from this type of disorder often find it hard to fulfill their obligations because it impacts their lives so much.
Common mood disorders include 👇:
- Depression: characterized by negative emotions and constant suffering.
- Bipolar disorder: characterized by periods of depression and hypomania with euphoria and impulsive behavior.
- Dysthymia: characterized by persistent chronic depression of low intensity.
- Seasonal affective disorder: characterized by depression linked to winter and the lack of light.
- Personality disorders: there are around ten of them, ranging from schizophrenia to borderline or histrionic personality.
Eating disorders (EDs) are linked to eating, but this is a significant consequence of the perception of weight and body appearance. In fact, the reason eating disorders exist is because of the standards and stereotypes linked to the “perfect body” conveyed by our society 😔. There are several types of EDs:
- Anorexia: the most well-known, where the person tries to eat as little as possible and makes themselves sick in order to weigh as little as possible,
- Bulimia: an uncontrollable intake of food, meaning the person can’t stop eating. Once the crisis has calmed down, the person will use a compensatory mechanism to avoid gaining weight by making themselves sick.
- Hyperphagia: this is the same as bulimia, but there’s no compensatory mechanism, which leads to weight gain.
👉 Please note: orthorexia is increasingly considered to be an ED, given the extent to which the person’s life is disrupted.
Sexual behavior disorders
Sexual disorders, also known as paraphilias, refer to atypical sexual behavior or fantasies. Disruption of an individual’s sex life, such as a lack of desire, isn’t a sexual behavior disorder. This is usually part of an anxiety disorder related to the pressure of sexual performance 😥. When it comes to paraphilia, it’s a disturbing, worrying, or widely punishable behavior as a crime in the eyes of the law.
This may therefore involve sex addiction, voyeurism, fetishism, or even exhibitionism. As long as consent is given, the problem is limited to disruption of the person’s life. However, from the moment the paraphilia turns into repeated and intense impulses, involving objects, suffering, humiliation or worse, children or other non-consenting people and living beings, it becomes very serious and becomes a collective problem. Here we’re talking about pedophilia, zoophilia, sexual sadism, etc.
How do you treat a behavioral disorder?
Let’s put aside acts of paraphilia, which are punishable by law, since these fall within the remit of prisons and major psychiatry. In the case of other behavioral disorders, such as mood disorders or eating disorders, it’s necessary to talk about them. It’s never easy to do this, as I can testify, because it took me years to open my eyes to my ED 😞. The same goes for loved ones with a mood disorder; you need to be genuinely aware of the difficulties you’re facing.
Once this awareness has been established, the first step is to consult a psychiatrist in order to obtain a proper diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the illness, the psychiatrist may suggest a course of medication, as well as psychological treatment (in addition to psychiatric treatment).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often proposed, as it helps patients to change their way of thinking, emotions, or behavior by focusing on the interconnection between these three aspects. Depending on the origin of the disorder, it’s also possible for patients to undergo EMDR therapy, which is adapted to trauma. Even if the disorder can be very intrusive, these solutions can help you rediscover a more peaceful life.
Editor’s note: The hardest step
The most difficult thing about suffering from a behavioral disorder is recognizing it. It’s the most delicate stage, and one that very often prevents you from getting on the road to recovery. You can’t force someone to seek help until they consciously realize it. However, once there’s an awareness, the treatment will be simpler, even if it’s no shorter. If you’re at the realization stage, perhaps you need to talk about it before consulting a psychiatrist or your doctor? If so, our psychologists are here to help you.
🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!
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