Behavior Changes: Introduction
Behavior changes or changes in behavior are general terms for an abnormal condition in which a person's behavior is altered to a degree that is not typical or usual for that individual. Behavior changes can result in problems in many areas, such as at work and school, in relationships, and in the ability to function independently.
Behavior changes can occur in any age group or population and can be a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Behavior changes can result from such general processes and conditions as infection, intellectual decline, trauma, mental health disorders, addiction, malignancy, genetic disorders and brain tissue necrosis.
Depending on the cause, behavior changes can be short-term and disappear relatively quickly, such as when they occur due to a neurological disorder called a transient ischemic attack or a minor head injury. However, repeated mild concussions and other head injuries can result in ongoing problems with behavior changes.
Behavior changes can also can be chronic and ongoing over a longer period of time, such as when they are due to serious diseases and conditions, including Alzheimer's disease or a brain tumor. Sudden behavior changes, such as may occur during a stroke or a subdural hematoma in the brain, can also be serious, even life-threatening.
Intellectual decline can also result in behavior changes. Mental health disorders that can result in behavior changes include psychosis, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Behavior changes can also be due to drug addiction, and the use of alcohol and street drugs, including LSD, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, crack, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
Behavior changes can be the result of a wide variety of other conditions, diseases or disorders that directly or indirectly affect the functioning of the brain and nervous system. These include hypoxia, anemia, atherosclerosis. Causes also include meningitis, bacterial diseases, and chronic pain. For more details about causes, see causes of behavior changes.
There are many symptoms that can occur with behavior changes. Symptoms vary depending on the disease, disorder or condition that is at the root of the behavior changes. Common coexisting symptoms include hallucinations, anxiety, restlessness, withdrawal, depression, irrational thoughts, paranoia, increasing forgetfulness, confusion, disorientation and irritability.
Diagnosing behavior changes and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination, including a neurological examination. Drug screening and alcohol tests on blood and urine may be performed if behavior changes are suspected to be due to alcoholism, or alcohol use or drug abuse.
A mini-mental state examination (MMSE) can be used to assess mental and cognitive function if certain neurological conditions, such as intellectual decline or Alzheimer's disease, are suspected causes of behavior changes. In the MMSE, a health professional asks a patient a series of questions designed to test a range of everyday cognitive skills.
In addition to a primary care provider, making a diagnosis of the root cause of behavior changes may involve evaluations by multiple specialists, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist and/or psychologist. Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose the underlying disease, condition or disorder causing the behavior changes. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include blood tests, lumbar puncture, urine tests, and imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans and MRI.
A diagnosis of behavior changes and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because behavior changes may be mild or transient and not last long. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of behavior changes.
Treatment of behavior changes involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing the behavior changes. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of behavior changes. ...more »
Behavior Changes: Treatments
Treatment plans for behavior changes are individualized depending on the cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying or associated cause and helps to moderate behavior so a person can function effectively and lead ...more treatments »
Behavior Changes: Misdiagnosis
Diagnosing behavior changes and its cause may be delayed or missed because the behavior changes may be subtle or progress slowly.
In addition, many people assume that mild behavior changes are a normal part of aging. However, behavior changes can be associated with serious conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Sudden behavior changes are usually due to a serious, even life ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Behavior Changes
Read more about symptoms of Behavior Changes
Home Diagnostic Testing
Home medical testing related to Behavior Changes:
- Child Behavior: Home Testing
- Mental Health (Adults): Home Testing
Wrongly Diagnosed with Behavior Changes?
Causes of Behavior Changes
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More information about causes of Behavior Changes:
Behavior Changes: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Behavior Changes
Undiagnosed stroke leads to misdiagnosed aphasia: BBC News UK reported on a man who
had been institutionalized and treated for mental illness
because he suffered from sudden inability to speak.
This was initially misdiagnosed as a "nervous...read more »
Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for
a patient to show mental decline to dementia.
Whereas this can, of course, occur...read more »
ADHD under-diagnosed in adults: Although the over-diagnoses of ADHD
in children is a well-known controversy, the reverse side related to adults.
Some adults can remain undiagnosed, and indeed the...read more »
Bipolar disorder misdiagosed as various conditions by primary physicians: Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder)
often fails to be diagnosed correctly by primary care...read more »
Eating disorders under-diagnosed in men: The typical patient with
an eating disorder is female.
The result is that men with eating disorders often fail...read more »
Depression undiagnosed in teenagers: Serious bouts of depression can be
undiagnosed in teenagers.
The "normal" moodiness of teenagers can cause severe medical...read more »
Undiagnosed anxiety disorders related to depression: Patients with depression (see symptoms of depression)
may also have undiagnosed anxiety disorders (see ...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Behavior Changes
Behavior Changes: Research Doctors & Specialists
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Hospitals & Clinics: Behavior Changes
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Behavior Changes: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
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