Emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) refer to a disability classification used in educational settings that allows educational institutions to provide special education and related services to students who have displayed poor social and/or academic progress.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act an EBD classification is required if one or more of the following characteristics is excessively observed in a student over a significant amount of time:
• Learning challenges that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
• Trouble keeping up or building satisfactory relationships with peers and teachers.
• Inappropriate behavior (against self or others) or emotions (shares the need to harm others or self, low self-worth) in normal conditions.
• A overall attitude of unhappiness or depression.
• A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears related with individual or school issues.
A person with EBD with “internalizing” behavior may have poor self-esteem, suffer from depression, experience loss of interest in social, academic, and other life activities, and may exhibit non-suicidal self-injury or substance abuse.
Students with internalizing behavior may also have a diagnosis of separation anxiety or another anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), specific or social phobia, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and/or an eating disorder.
Teachers are more likely to write referrals for students that are overly disruptive. Screening tools used to detect students with high levels of “internalizing” behavior are not sensitive and are rarely used in practice. Students with EBD with “externalizing” behavior may be aggressive, non-compliant, extroverted, or disruptive.
Treatment for these types of behaviors should include the parents as it is evident that their parenting skills impact on how their child deals with their symptoms, especially when at a younger age.
Parents going through a parenting skills training program were reported a decrease in internalizing and externalizing behavior in their children post-training program. The program included learning how to give positive attention, increase good behavior with small frequent rewards and specific praise as well as learning how to decrease attention when the child behaved poorly.
In recent years, many researchers have been interested in exploring the relationship between emotional disorders and cognition. Evidence has revealed that there is a relationship between the two. Strauman (1989) investigated how emotional disorders shape a person’s cognitive structure, that is, the mental processes people utilize to make sense of the world around them.
He recruited three groups of individuals: those with social phobias, those with depression, and controls with no emotional disorder diagnosis.
He wanted to determine whether these groups had a cognitive structure showing an actual/ideal (AI) discrepancy (referring to an individual not believing that they have achieved their personal desires) or actual/own/other (AOO) discrepancy (referring to an individual’s actions not living up to what their significant other believes that they need to be).
He found that depressed individuals had the highest AI discrepancy and social phobics had the greatest AOO discrepancy, while the controls were lower or in between the two for both discrepancies.