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Signs Of Emotional Disturbances


By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.

Signs Of Emotional Disturbances | Special Education Resource

As humans, we have a tendency to act badly and display poor behavioral choices once in a while, and children are certainly no exception. As they learn how to navigate the turbulent waters of the world, they will realize that life isn’t always roses; there will be difficult times, too. It’s natural for children to act out due to frustration, stress or anxiety. If these actions continue for a longer-than-usual period and don’t improve with behavior modification techniques or professional intervention, your child might be experiencing what we know as an emotional disturbance.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 defines an emotional disturbance as “a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

Emotional Disturbances Can Also Be Defined As:

  • An inability to learn that can’t be explained by any extraneous factors such as physical or sensory disorders
  • The child cannot maintain a healthy relationship with teachers or others of his peer group
  • Inappropriate feelings or unusual behavior under otherwise normal circumstances
  • An always-present feeling of depression or general unhappiness
  • Developing certain fears or physical symptoms that are directly related to factors at the school

According to IDEA, an emotional disturbance also includes a diagnosis of schizophrenia but that doesn’t necessarily apply to children who are not well adjusted on a social level unless they’ve received an official diagnosis of having an emotional disturbance.

Some Of The More Common Signs Of An Emotional Disturbance Are:

  • Aggression – this can come in the form of hitting, pushing, yelling, throwing objects or trying to injure pets or other people
  • Hyperactivity – this is usually classified as an inability to focus or sit still for long periods of time
  • Withdrawal – symptoms may include displays of anxiety or the fear of other people or situations that may occur
  • Impulsivity – this is characterized by acting first before thinking it through
  • Immaturity – when a child shows emotion at an inappropriate time, like laughing at a sad moment
  • Difficulty learning – the child will be working below their grade level and peers

The human mind is a tricky thing and can often wreak havoc on our daily lives. Emotional disturbances can be triggered by any number of events of outside influences, or they can be built-in to the brain’s normal function. Specific emotional disturbances – those that can be clinically diagnosed by a qualified medical professional include:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorders
  • Psychotic Disorders
  • Conduct Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Of course, these are just a few of the many signs, symptoms and diagnoses for an emotional disturbance. Use this article as a guideline to help you better understand your child’s behavior, but always seeks professional help if you feel your child might be suffering from an emotional disturbance of some sort.

If you have additional questions or searching for guidance, please contact us for a free consultation. Supplemental learning through special education tutoring is a proven way to assist children with special needs. Especially in children who show signs of emotional disturbance, this technique of one-on-one learning can help your child get back on their path to excellence. A special education tutor takes the curriculum your child is currently learning in school and molds it to fit their specific learning needs.

Above all, educate yourself in all aspects of special education. As a parent, it’s your duty to advocate the best possible academic future for your child.

This entry was posted on Saturday, November 8th, 2014 at and is filed under Special Education Categories and tagged as . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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4 Responses to Signs Of Emotional Disturbances

  • Michele Bagby says:


    I run a Family Support Organization and a parent who has raised a youth with SEBD. I am interested in your information in order to share as a resource and learning material. I would like to know if this is possible to share what I learn on here with others and how to do get material to share?

  • JoAnne Nowlan says:

    My son needs help with the one on one special education tutor. He has no attention to do his class assighnments. Please contact me and let me know wjere I can get this tutor for him. Aready he is fallimg behind and at risk of being dropped. Thankyou.

  • Lois Ojo Otoikhian says:

    Your writeups are really educative and informative. Thank you so much for your relentless efforts.

  • rajvi shah says:

    very well stated.thanks for sharing suzie.

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