6 Critical Signs of Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Teenagers

Behavioral and Emotional Disorders

Emotional and behavioral disorder is a blanket term for various conditions that occur independently or in unison. They include Anxiety Disorder, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, Manic-Depressive Disorder, and many more Behavioral and Emotional Disorders. 

People who experience emotional and behavioral disorders are also referred to as emotionally challenged or emotionally disturbed individuals. Depending on the condition, the person’s mental, social, physical, and cognitive skills are damaged.  

College students are the hardest-hit strata when it comes to psychological issues. In a survey conducted by the American College Counseling Association, 95% of the participating college directors were alarmed by the deteriorating mental health conditions of the students. The number of students showing one or many symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorders has become a matter of serious concern.

Various treatment interventions are available for curing issues that come under emotional and behavioral disorders. However, parents and teachers need to be able to identify the signs of these disorders and design suitable interventions if a student displays multiple signs of being psychologically disturbed. 

Emotional and behavioral disorders: Who to approach

The biggest hurdle in curing teens with various disorders is overall neglectful behavior. Most disorders and mental health issues go untreated without realizing that mental health issues don’t fix themselves and require interventions from qualified professionals. 

These professionals include counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, and mental health social workers. All these professionals gain proper qualifications before treating their patients. For instance, counselors have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in psychology with a counseling certificate. Similarly, mental health social workers often have a master’s degree in social work to be considered well-trained.

Demand for social workers and counselors is attracting many aspirants to these professions. The good news is that universities have also made their requirements less stringent to accommodate more students. For instance, you have online MSW no GRE programs. Yes, you heard it right! You don’t need GRE or attend on-campus classes. Qualified social workers need specialized skills and experience of working with troubled teens to run interventions. 

Now that you know who to ask for help look for the common signs mentioned below to ensure the mental issue plaguing your kid’s mind. 

Emotional and behavioral disorders: What to Look for

  • Emotional Imbalance/unsteadiness

Emotional imbalance is one of the signs of an underlying disorder in teens. It is often more serious than a push-and-pull between the mind and the heart. It is found that excessive worry about matters not in your hand, social phobias, and feelings of insecurity in social settings are ways in which emotional imbalance comes to the surface. 

Other ways to identify emotional imbalance include looking at the physical symptoms such as irritability, tense muscles, and stomach aches. Emotionally disturbed people find it hard to channel their emotions. Either they let emotions consume them completely or do not allow themselves to have any negative feelings. Furthermore, the outburst of sadness and depression cause them to withdraw from their current environment and display complete aloofness. 

  • Aggression or self-injurious behavior

In teens, aggressive and self-injurious behavior is often your cue to look for the denominating factors. It is one of the riskiest behaviors that teens can display. Aggressive and self-injurious behavior is characterized by teens harming themselves. Ways they can inflict self-harm include marking, cutting, branding, scratching, biting, head banging, hitting, and excessive body piercing, to name a few. In educational and social settings, kids with aggressive behavior may be more inclined to participate in brawls and generally act out. 

Some teens engage in such behaviors to deliberately defy their parents, show risk aversion, or merely do this to be accepted in a group they admire. Adolescents who have difficulty explaining themselves may show their physical and emotional tension, hate, fear, stress, and low self-esteem through such behavior. Often these adolescents hide their burns, injuries, and scars to hide their embarrassment or fear of receiving a reprimand. 

  • Immaturity 

Many teens display immaturity, characterized by frequent crying, tantrums, and poor coping skills. They may lack tolerance for stress and anxiety and rely on age-inappropriate defense mechanisms. When immaturity is a psychological condition displaying insufficient cognitive and emotional development, teens show sudden mood swings and impulsive behavior. Immature teens also show a tendency for self-harm. 

  • Inappropriate behavior

Displaying inappropriate behavior is another sign of behavioral and emotional disorder in teens. Such adolescents are less inclined to exhibit socially acceptable behavior. They may get involved in vandalism, taking out their aggression on children and animals, lying, deceit, and stealing. They may also show constant hostility towards figures in authority. 

Teenagers are not yet aware of making appropriate decisions for themselves. The part of their brain that controls decision-making hasn’t developed either. You may also find them continuously sulking about trivial matters—the persistent conduct of ill-behaving teens. Such behaviors are often rooted in the combined effects of a desire for autonomy and immaturity. So, they engage in self-injurious behavior such as unprotected sex, drinking and smoking, hostility, and defiance. 

  • Physical deterioration in health and appearance

Physical health is intricately linked with mental health. To explain the intertwined nature of physical and psychological health, the WHO states that being healthy is not just an absence of physical diseases. It combines mental, physical, and emotional health and well-being. Many people have misconceptions about mental health and fail to realize the connection between the two. 

In teenagers, poor mental health starts becoming visible as loss of appetite and malnutrition, high blood pressure and heart rate, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, weakened immune system, etc. The US Centers for Disease Control also states that stress and depression— the most prevalent mental health problems, are associated with a heightened risk of coronary diseases. 

  • Learning difficulties 

Learning difficulties are an expected sign of mental issues plaguing adolescents. It is not rare in American children. One in every five American kids has attention or learning difficulties. Experiencing issues like stress, anxiety, and displaying unproductive behaviors such as impulsivity, anger, and rebellion against authority cannot be helpful for teens’ studies. So it is likely that they perform below par in their class.  

The same facts are also corroborated by numerous studies which state that teens with a high rate of learning disabilities are beleaguered with mental health and behavioral issues. Moreover, more boys get diagnosed with learning difficulties than girls. Some experts also believe that boys show more disruptive behavior than girls when experiencing learning difficulties. Moreover, their learning difficulties are not related to their intelligence or IQ in such cases. 


Behavioral and emotional disorders center around tough mental and physical health conditions. The signs of these disorders are often visible in the form of psychological and physical health issues. Still, an outside intervention by qualified individuals is required for the complete cure and to dampen their harmful effects on life. 


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