Module 9 - Challenging Behaviours

What Causes Challenging Behaviour?

Functional Behaviour

In some circumstances challenging behaviour can serve a purpose for the individual and be used as a means of getting what they want. For example self-harm may lead to increased positive interactions with staff members, or aggressive behaviour may mean that the person no longer has to go to a work placement that makes them anxious. This does not necessarily mean that the person is deliberately manipulating the situation, or has an awareness of the effects of their behaviour upon others. Physical Illness Challenging behaviours may occur as the result of physical disorders, especially those associated with pain.

Mental Illness

Challenging behaviour can be a result of mental illness. For example, psychosis can present with aggression when the person is responding to threatening hallucinations. Depression can present with increased irritability or self-harming behaviours.

Personality Disorders

People with personality disorder can present with a wide range of challenging behaviours. They may have difficulty in managing relationships and have recurrent interpersonal conflicts.  They may experience extreme mood swings and act impulsively resulting in self injurious behaviour such as cutting themselves or attempting suicide when they are upset. Autism Spectrum Disorders The deficits of autism can predispose people to present with challenging behaviours. For example, changes in routine can lead to anxiety in people with  autism, and this can result in them becoming aggressive. They may find that aggression helps them to avoid stressful situations, but this can then  mean they have fewer positive activities, and as a consequence they may eventually be engaging in aggressive or self-stimulatory behaviours to the exclusion of other activities unless this cycle is interrupted.

Syndromal Disorders

Lastly, some challenging behaviours are associated with certain causes of intellectual disability. For example people with Prader Willi syndrome have problems with appetite control and because they always feel hungry, eat much more than they need and as a result, become very overweight. The eating and food seeking behaviours which accompany the increased appetite can become a challenging behaviour e.g raiding the fridge in the middle of the night or breaking locks to get at the food in cupboards.
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