Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

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Adults with Emotional Disorders

  • Recovery and rehabilitation of persons with severe mental illness: a vision: Although some progress has been made to counteract the myths, misperceptions, and stereotypes surrounding mental illness, stigma still prevents many people from seeking treatment and causes countless others to keep their conditions secret for fear of losing their jobs, health insurance, or homes.
  • Chartbook on Mental Health and Disability: The Chartbook on Mental Health and Disability in the United States is an online reference manual on disability and mental health in the United States, created for both non-technical and technical audiences. The book is a resource for agencies, employers, organizations, policymakers, researchers and others concerned with the relationship between mental health and disability. An excellent source for information and statistics on adults with emotional disabilities.

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Advocacy Information

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Throughout the evaluation process, parents should be directly involved and ask many questions. It's important to make sure you understand the results of the evaluation, your child's diagnosis, and the full range of treatment options.
  • Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights: PACER was developed by parents for parents to help them become effective advocates for their children.
  • Accessing parent groups: Families with a child who has a disability have special concerns and often need a great deal of information: information about the disability of their child, about school services, therapy, local policies, funding sources, transportation, medical facilities, and much more. Many families find it very useful to join a parent group, where they can meet other families with similar needs. Parent groups can serve many purposes, but primarily they offer parents a place and a means
  • Parent information: If your child is diagnosed with an emotional disability you'll have lots of questions: Which one does your child have? What can you do to help your child? What are your rights as a parent? There are plenty of techniques and research on how to deal with and overcome emotional disabilities. These steps will help you get started on your information search.

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Anxiety Disorders

Specific Conditions (Anxiety Disorders)

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
  • Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
  • Social Phobia - Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others?or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.
  • Functional Neurologic Disorder/Conversion Disorder  - Conversion disorder is a type of somatoform disorder. Somatoform disorders are characterized by physical symptoms that suggest a medical condition. But a thorough medical evaluation doesn't reveal any underlying medical cause for the physical symptoms (Mayo Clinic).

Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

  • Treatment of Anxiety Disorders - Effective treatments for each of the anxiety disorders have been developed through research. In general, two types of treatment are available for an anxiety disorder—medication and specific types of psychotherapy (sometimes called "talk therapy"). Both approaches can be effective for most disorders.
  • Anxiety Disorders: The Role of Psychotherapy in Effective Treatment  - An article by the American Psychological Association.
  • Medications - A very detailed summary that describes mental disorders and the medications for treating them -- includes a comprehensive list of medications.

Coping (Anxiety Disorders)

Organizations (Anxiety Disorders)

Children and Anxiety Disorders

Teenagers and Anxiety Disorders

  • All about Anxiety (Nemours Foundation) - Anxiety is a natural part of life, and most of us experience it from time to time. The word "anxiety" usually refers to worry, concern, stress, or nervousness. For most teens, anxiety is limited to particular situations such as tests, important dates (like the prom), or driving lessons.  This article is written with teens in mind as the target audience.
  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder - To your dismay, your daughter has started to complain more and more about the appearance of her eyelids. She grudgingly compares them to those of her classmates. You frequently catch her standing before a mirror, scrutinizing their appearance. When you try to discuss your concerns, she becomes defensive. To make matters worse, you've observed her reading materials about cosmetic surgery.

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Assessment of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

  • Why functional assessment of behavior is important: Educators have long understood that behavior difficulties can keep students from functioning productively in class. Many school personnel have been considering the effects of behavior on learning for some time. The 1997 Amendments to the IDEA take that consideration one step further: the relationship between behavior and learning must not only be considered but acted upon.
  • Behavioral recording : Another method of evaluating a student's behavior that provides you with a very precise picture of its severity is behavioral recording.  The professional or aide observes the student directly and records how long or how often a certain behavior occurs. Using this method, you can compare the degree of occurrence of the behavior with the degree to which it is exhibited by other students.
  • Conducting a functional behavioral assessment: Identifying the underlying causes of behavior may take many forms; and, while the Amendments to IDEA advise a functional behavioral assessment approach (which could determine specific contributors to behavior), they do not require or suggest specific techniques or strategies to use when assessing that behavior. While there are a variety of techniques available to conduct a functional behavioral assessment, the first step in the process is to define the behavior in concrete terms. In the following section we will discuss techniques to define behavior.
  • Sociograms: A sociogram is a professional-made device that is used to provide additional information regarding a student and how s/he interacts with peers.   It is a valuable tool for determining how a student is viewed by his/her classmates.  Students respond to a professional-provided direction such as "List the two classmates with whom you would most like to sit", "Write the name of  the person with whom you would enjoy working on a project.", "If you were going on a vacation, which of your classmates would be nice to have along, and why?"
  • Manifestation determination: It is a process conducted by the IEP team (along with other necessary qualified personnel) to investigate whether there is a relationship between the student's action(s) of concern and his/her disability.  The team must decide whether the student's action(s) were a reflection of his/her disability or perhaps the result of it.

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Assistive Technology

  • Technology solutions for students with emotional and behavioral disorders: Motivating students to learn in any environment can be a challenge, but that challenge is compounded in self-contained classrooms for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Not surprisingly, many students with emotional disability experience poor academic results. They fail more courses, earn lower grade point averages, miss more days of school, and are retained more than students with other disabilities.

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Bipolar Disorder

Overview-Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder - A general overview of bipolar disorder from the NIMH.
  • Overview  (Psych Central ) - Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings. This condition is also called manic-depressive illness. It may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Diagnosis/Symptoms-Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder - Signs and Symptoms (Mental Health America) - Bipolar disorder is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. It causes a person to have a high level of energy, grandiose thoughts or ideas, and impulsive or reckless behavior. These symptoms may feel good to a person, which may lead to denial that there is a problem.

Treatment-Bipolar Disorder

Prevention/Screening-Bipolar Disorder

  • Mood Disorder (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) - Marked by changes in mood, depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) are both highly treatable, medical illnesses. Unfortunately, many people don't get the help they need because of the misunderstanding surrounding the illnesses or the fear associated with stigma.

Coping-Bipolar Disorder


Organizations-Bipolar Disorder

  • BPChildren - A source of vital information on Pediatric Bipolar Disorder, resources at your fingertips, and a network of parents and experts who can help.
  • BPKids - A site devoted to bipolar kids and adults who need to lose weight..
  • Depression and Bipolar Alliance - The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is the nation’s leading patient-directed organization focusing on the most prevalent mental illnesses – depression and bipolar disorder. The organization fosters an understanding about the impact and management of these life-threatening illnesses by providing up-to-date, scientifically-based tools and information written in language the general public can understand.
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families. Founded in 1979, NAMI has become the nation’s voice on mental illness, a national organization including NAMI organizations in every state and in over 1100 local communities across the country who join together to meet the NAMI mission through advocacy, research, support, and education.
  • National Institute of Mental Health - The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is one of 27 components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Federal government's principal biomedical and behavioral research agency. NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Mental Health America - Mental Health America (formerly The National Mental Health Assosciation) is the country's oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and mental illness. With more than 340 affiliates nationwide. MHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans, especially the 54 million individuals with mental disorders, through advocacy, education, research and service.

Children and Bipolar Disorder

  • Child and Adolescent Bipolar Disorder (NIH) - One of the biggest challenges has been to differentiate children with mania from those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Both groups of children present with irritability, hyperactivity and distractibility.
  • Child and Adolescent Bipolar Disorder: An Update from the National Institute of Mental Health - Research findings, clinical experience, and family accounts provide substantial evidence that bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, can occur in children and adolescents. Bipolar disorder is difficult to recognize and diagnose in youth, however, because it does not fit precisely the symptom criteria established for adults, and because its symptoms can resemble or co-occur with those of other common childhood-onset mental disorders.

Teenagers and Bipolar Disorder

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Books and Publications

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Borderline Personality Disorder

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Causes of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

  • Why kids misbehave - This page presents four views on how to figure out why a youngster is misbehaving.   The first model represents the views of Rudolph Dreikurs.  The second represents the views of behaviorists who advocate for the process and procedures of applied behavior analysis.  The third involves discussion with the student.  The fourth is a procedure known as "Functional Behavior Assessment".
  • Your guide to causes of mental illness: Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors.

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  • Anxiety disorders - A brief overview of anxiety disorders.
  • Possible alternate assessment strategies - This initial discussion is not intended to provide a complete course of training, but to offer an overview of some of the techniques involved. Further, one philosophical base is not advocated over another. Rather, a combination of techniques is promoted to address behavioral, cognitive, and affective functions of a student’s behavior and advocate the development of positive behavioral interventions and supports that tap each of these areas as well.

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Classroom Management

  • Behavior management checklist - Research shows that while a punitive, coercive approach toward behavior management may gain superficial compliance, students  feel alienated from those teachers (and school in general), lose motivation to achieve, and resist changing the undesirable behavior.
  • Managing group behavior- Use these suggestions as a checklist to determine your skill in managing the behavior of groups of students.
  • Helping kids develop self management - These simple techniques (so simple that a lot of teachers don't believe that they'll work until they give them a try) are nice things to try before going to your penalties for non-compliance and misbehavior.
  • Addressing skill deficits - If the student does not know what the behavioral expectations are, the plan can be formulated to teach expectations, and would include the supports, aids, strategies, and modifications necessary to accomplish this instruction, with expectations explained in concrete terms.
  • Giving and getting respect- When students feel valued, respected and welcomed in their classroom, they are more likely to behave better and demonstrate respect toward you.  Here are a few tips for creating the optimal classroom environment.
  • Token economies - A token economy involves awarding tokens, chips, stickers, check marks, points, or other items/markings to students who demonstrate desired behaviors identified by the teacher.
  • Addressing performance deficits - If a functional behavioral assessment reveals that the student knows the skills necessary to perform the behavior, but does not consistently use them, the intervention plan may include techniques, strategies, and supports designed to increase motivation to perform the skills.
  • Primer on behavior management - how well you manage student behavior is crucial to your success as a teacher.  The behavior that is exhibited in your classroom affects how administrators, colleagues, kids, parents, and YOU view your competence as a teacher.
  • Primer for beginning professionals - Our first year of teaching has a tremendous impact on our personal and professional life.  A positive experience leads to a long and rewarding career.  A negative one promotes feelings of frustration, embarrassment, and isolation.  The greatest threat to a long and successful teaching career is student misbehavior.  Teachers report it to be their primary source of career-based stress, and former teachers report it to be the number one reason that they left the field.  Nationally, over 1/5 of new teachers leave the profession in the first three years (the rate is higher in low income urban areas).
  • Ways to catch kids being good- The most effective behavior management technique is the easiest to implement..."catching 'em being good".  Research shows us that the quickest and most effective way to promote the display of appropriate behaviors is to reward them (e.g., touch, a smile, a "thank you", praise, points, food,...whatever would be reinforcing to those youngsters).  We all like to have our efforts acknowledged, and will show more of that behavior if it brings us rewards.
  • How your teaching style affects the managing of behavior - A great deal of misbehavior occurs because the students are not interested in the lesson.  Kids who are bored will create their own entertainment.  Here are some ways to engage youngsters in your lessons.
  • Promoting positive peer pressure - This page contains ideas that bring about cooperation on the part of your class and promote "positive peer pressure" (students motivating others to behave appropriately).
  • Assertive discipline - Lee and Marlene Canter, when consulting for school systems, found that many teachers were unable to control undesirable behavior that occurred in their classrooms.  The Cantors, rightfully so, attributed this to a lack of training in the area of behavior management.  Based on their research and the foundations of assertiveness training and applied behavior analysis, they developed a common sense, easy-to-learn approach to help teachers become the captains of their classrooms and positively influence their students' behavior.  Today, it is the most widely used "canned" (prepared/packaged) behavior management program.  Assertive discipline has evolved since the mid 70's from an authoritarian approach to one that is more democratic and cooperative.
  • Cooperative learning - Cooperative learning is not having students merely sitting together, helping the others do their work.  Having students who finish their work first assist others is also not a form of cooperative learning either.  Neither is assigning a group of students to work together without assuring that all contribute to the product.
  • Differential reinforcement procedures - DR interventions are structured versions of "catching ‘em being good".  Instead of punishing the "bad behavior" to decrease it's occurrence, you get rid of it by using positive reinforcement in a structured manner.
  • Schedules of reinforcement - Given the precise and structured nature of the procedures of applied behavior analysis, you can be sure that any self-respecting behaviorist would make sure to "catch kids being good" only under certain circumstances (like in the Differential Reinforcement procedures) and on a particular schedule.  By implementing a certain schedule when first building a behavior, and later changing to other schedules, you can promote stronger, more ingrained versions of appropriate behavior while "weaning" kids from rewards.  Here, you'll find information on the different schedules and when you might make use of them.
  • Shaping - The practice of shaping (also known as "successive approximation") is not, in and of itself, a method for managing inappropriate behavior.  Instead, it is a method that assists you in setting goals for the behavior of a certain student.  Shaping will provide guidance and direction for your behavior change program, and will help you assess its effectiveness.  It can assist you in changing an aberrant behavior or creating an appropriate behavior that is not yet in the student's repertoire.
  • Task analysis - Many of the day-to-day behaviors in which we engage without even thinking about them are really quite complex, comprised of many smaller, discrete, singular, specific sub-behaviors that we perform in a certain order.
  • Time out - An intervention in which you remove a misbehaving youngster from a situation or environment that is reinforcing the inappropriate behavior.
  • The really big list of classroom management resources - A collection of classroom management and discipline websites from Edutopia.
  • Council for children with behavior disorders - The Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders (CCBD) is the official division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) committed to promoting and facilitating the education and general welfare of children and youth with emotional or behavioral disorders.

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  • Definition of emotional disturbance - Many terms are used to describe emotional, behavioral or mental disorders. Currently, students with such disorders are categorized as having a serious emotional disturbance, which is defined under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as described here.

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  • Depression: A Treatable Illness - A fact sheet that describes the symptoms and types of depression and effective treatments.
  • Overview of Depression - An overview of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health
  • Depression (National Institute of Mental Health) - Clinical depression is very treatable, with more than 80% of those who seek treatment showing improvement.  The most commonly used treatments are antidepressant medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two.  The choice of treatment depends on the pattern, severity, persistence of depressive symptoms and the history of the illness...
  • JAMA Patient Page: Depression (American Medical Association) - A person who feels sad all the time, has unexplained crying spells or loses interest in usual activities may have major depression, a serious medical illness that should be distinguished from normal temporary feelings of sadness after a loss, such as the death of a relative or friend.


  • Depression: Electroconvulsive Therapy (Depression Treatment Centers) - It is believed that ECT works by using an electrical shock to cause a seizure (a short period of irregular brain activity). This seizure releases many chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, deliver messages from one brain cell to another. The release of these chemicals makes the brain cells work better. A person's mood will improve when his or her brain cells and chemical messengers work better.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy May Relieve Severe Depression, Other Disorders (Mayo Clinic) - In certain cases ECT may be the best treatment option, sometimes offering fast and dramatic benefits. In severe depression, for instance, the risk of suicide may be high, requiring treatment that can quickly alleviate symptoms. And for some people, antidepressant medications aren't effective.
  • How to Find Help Through Psychotherapy (American Psychological Association) - Millions of Americans have found relief from depression and other emotional difficulties through psychotherapy. Even so, some people find it hard to get started or stay in psychotherapy. You can find articles, tips, and links to research to better understand psychotherapy and how you can get started. 
  • Suicidality in Children and Adolescents Being Treated with Antidepressant Medication  - as of 02/05/2018, the FDA is announcing a request to the manufacturers of ten antidepressant drugs that they strengthen the "Warnings" section of the package insert to encourage close observation for worsening depression or the emergence of suicidal thinking and behavior in both children and adolescent patients being treated with these agents, particularly for depression but also for other psychiatric and nonpsychiatric disorders.
  • Types of Treatment - If you or someone you know may benefit from a counselor or mental health center, here are some questions and guidelines to help you find the right care.

Alternative Therapy-Depression

Research on Adolescence and Depression-Depression

    Organizations Involved With Depression

    Children and Depression

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    • Childhood anxiety disorders - PDF file.  After attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional-defiant disorder, the anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in children and adolescents. As many as 3-5% of children suffer from anxiety disorders, not counting obsessive-compulsive disorder which affects another 0.5-1.0% of children.
    • Dual Diagnosis and Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders - A dual diagnosis occurs when an individual is affected by both chemical dependency and psychiatric/emotional illness. Both illnesses may affect a person physically, socially, psychologically, and spiritually. Each illness has symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively. 

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    Eating Disorders

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    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    • FAQ about attachment disorder - An attachment disorder is a mental and emotional condition occurring in the first two years of life that causes a child not to attach, to bond, or to trust his primary caretaker.
    • FAQ about child bullying, school bullying and bullycide - Frequently asked questions about bullying and bullycide from bullyonline.org
    • FAQ about suicide - Attempts at suicide, and suicidal thoughts or feelings are usually a symptom indicating that a person isn't coping, often as a result of some event or series of events that they personally find overwhelmingly traumatic or distressing.
    • FAQ about the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health - Former President George W. Bush established the Commission by presidential Executive Order 13263 on April 29, 2002.  This President's Commission was the first comprehensive study of the nation's public and private mental health service delivery systems in nearly 25 years.
    • FAQ About Anxiety in Children and Adolescents - Anxiety disorder is a real emotional disturbance; it's not just simply worrying, and it can be treated to help a person have a healthy and full life. From time to time, everyone worries about his or her health, family, money, and school. However, when a person has anxiety, they worry all the time, even when nothing is wrong. A person with anxiety always expects the worst will happen, can't relax, and feels tense most of the time.

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    History of the Field

    • The History of Mental Health Care: What is striking in looking at the history of mental health care is that at periods through the centuries, indeed through the millennia, there has been an accepted way of dealing with people with mental health problems, conventional for the time, that, however well-intentioned, has more often than not been inhumane, punitive, and largely unsuccessful, while alongside the orthodox practitioners there have been others with more enlightened approaches, attempting to do things differently.
    • History of modern mental health policy: An excellent history of mental health policy in the United States in the first half of the 20th century.
    • History of Occupational Therapy in mental health: The history of Occupational Therapy (OT) had it's origin in the 1700's during Europe's "Age of Enlightenment". At this time, radical new ideas were emerging for the infirm and mentally ill.

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    Medical Issues/Medication

    • Mental Health Medications - This chart lists the common medications used with children and adolescence with emotional issues. It provides the brand names, generic names and approved ages for the medications.
    • Children and medications - One in ten of America's children has an emotional disturbance such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression or anxiety, that can cause unhappiness for the child and problems at home, at play, and at school. Many of these children will be taken by their parents to their family physician or pediatrician, or, in many cases, a specialist in child mental health. The child will be carefully evaluated and may begin some type of therapy.
    • Psychopharmacologic Medication: What Teachers, Clinicians, and Parents Need to Know - "The use of psychopharmacology in treating children and adolescents with a variety of problems and psychiatric diagnoses has increased significantly in the 1990s (Campbell & Cueva, 1995). For example, Safer (1995) found that the use of stimulants has increased dramatically between 1990 and 1995. This increase is attributed in particular to the expansion of the definition of attention-deficit disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV; 1994) to include individuals without impulsivity or hyperactivity."

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    Parent Information

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    • The Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders- Few families in the United States are untouched by mental illness. According to current estimates, at least one in five people has a diagnosable mental disorder during the course of a year. This includes adults as well as children. The prevalence of mental health disorders is defined as the number of people with a disorder that are present in the general population.
    • Alcohol and Drug Abuse Statistics -  People often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, and "According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.1"  

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