What is Emotional Disturbance?
Emotional disturbance is a somewhat nebulous term that many people may assume is just another term for a mental health condition, and while it is related to mental health, emotional disturbance is quite different and specific.
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Defining Emotional Disturbance
The US government created IDEA, which stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This describes emotional disturbance as any one or more of thirteen different categories. These categories dictate eligibility in special education programs among other things, and can also impact children (or adults) in a number of other ways as well.
Characteristics of Emotional Disturbance
While these characteristics do not happen for every case of emotional disturbance, one or more of them are often indicative of something going on. These can include:
While not all people living with these issues will display all of these signs or symptoms, they will generally display one or more at various times, especially during their developmental period.
So far, despite rigorous research, researchers have been unable to determine any single cause of emotional disturbance thus far. That being said, there are several factors that may be causes of emotional and behavioral disorders. These factors include:
SYMPTOMS OF EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED STUDENTS
The signs of emotional disturbance in adults can be much different than the characteristics of emotional disturbance in children or students. The factors that many emotionally disturbed children or students will display include:
Specific Emotional Disturbances
Since “emotional disturbance” is such an overarching, and somewhat outdated, term that covers a significant number of issues, it’s often helpful to take a look at common examples. Below are some of the most common disorders that may qualify someone as being emotionally disturbed.
Anxiety is a feeling that many people encounter sporadically, but for children or students specifically, anxiety can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It can be excessive and feel like a constant state of panic, even involving fear of many aspects of daily life. Chronic debilitating anxiety and panic are often simply termed “anxiety disorders.”
Bipolar disorder is identified by cyclical highs and lows, where the individual will feel manic and stimulated, followed by deeply depressive or hopeless feelings. There may be significant normality between each cycle, or they may be constant, depending on the individual.
Conduct disorder is sometimes the designation given to children that have significant challenges following rules or adhering to social norms and expectations. This can include aggression toward people or animals, damaging property, and the tendency to lie or steal. It is one of the more difficult diagnoses to treat, though therapy and problem-solving skill development are common routes.
Disordered eating is relatively to diagnose, particularly in children who aren’t in charge of their diets. They will either be eating too little or too much relative to their recommended caloric intake. As they age, they may also develop anxiety or even distress about their body type, shape, weight, or individual aspects of their body. This is far more common in women, though men can develop it as well.
Obsessive-Compulsive disorder (OCD)
OCD is a subtype of anxiety disorder where the individual has recurring obsessions or compulsions. The most common include doing tasks a specific number of times, checking something over and over, such as checking the stove knobs several times before leaving the home even if the stove was not used that day, and compulsive hand washing.