Stubbornness/Violence in children as sign of mental illness – By Adeoye Oyewole, Consultant Psychiatrist - Welcome to Julia Blaise Blog


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Stubbornness/Violence in children as sign of mental illness – By Adeoye Oyewole, Consultant Psychiatrist

Many caregivers deal with stubborn children each day. If care is not taken, the manner in which they handle the situation may further worsen their mental state. This is so especially as violent behaviour in teenagers may be due to a number of mental illnesses.

For instance, when young persons abuse psychoactive drugs, it may alter their behavioural pattern in a way that could get them aggressive. The action could as well impair their judgment. An example, when they hear voices of unseen individuals in clear consciousness commanding them or instructing them to carry out orders that are inconsistent with what is expected.

Those who smoke marijuana usually experience a form of perceptual disturbance where significant others appear very small and miniature. This may be associated with undue suspicion that if contested may come out as aggressive behaviour.

The observation of stubbornness could have been when the illness started. Another possible illness may be due to a particular mood disorder known as mania. It is characterised by undue elation, need for more activity than usual, decreased need of sleep associated with behaviours and lack discretion socially with possibility of sexual misbehaviour.

Such patients often hold beliefs that are grandiose about them and detest challenge.  They have tendency to dominate their social space and may hijack leadership of their groups. Some folks may initially find them companionable but stubborn in social situations. They are usually very good talkers and can be very expansive.

Ideas rush through their minds in torrents but not practicable as they may take irrational decisions that could jeopardise their future and those related to them. The observation of stubbornness comes from their relatives who have observed them for a while.

They get violent at any attempt made to caution or reprimand them. They also infringe on the right of others in the process. The undue irritability may mask some other manifestations.

Another possibility could be an existence of a growth in a particular section of the brain known as the frontal lobe, which could distort their personality and impair their judgment. This also may impair social functionality that could come out as stubbornness in social interactions. There are also forms of mental illness that family members often misinterpret as stubbornness.

Parents and guardians need to have a high level of suspicion when they discover that the behaviour of their wards has changed suddenly over time, not traceable to any major adverse occurrence or physical illness. Many parents actually can pinpoint certain trends when they notice the change but most times rationalise them as growing up even when they know that the behaviour is abnormal and not consistent with how their wards have been behaving before.

Some parents may resort to spiritual intervention, especially when some cultural and religious factors are implicated, which may explain why a few parents seek consultation with mental health experts when dealing with a stubborn child.

Beyond the reports that teachers bring concerning our wards, we need to be vigilant and interrogate sudden changes in our kids’ behaviour, observing them keenly and looking out for clues in their environment in order to seek profound help.

The stubborn attitude has also been the reason for many marital difficulties and marriage counsellors labour with couples by employing different strategies when in reality, mental illness is the underlying cause of the challenges.

Some individuals have lost their folks when relatives refuse to take certain abnormal changes in the behaviour of their loved ones seriously and fail to consult mental health professionals for help.

Another major obstacle in this kind of situation is the difficulty in taking such individuals for consultation, especially when they become very aggressive.

Certain individuals employ the services of security agents, such as the police, civil defence cadets, who can professionally help to bring the victims to the health centre. However, the golden rule to follow in this condition is to hold the hands of the patient. That method would make the patient manageable in such a way that he/she can see the psychiatrist.

This may be difficult for very close relatives, who may have strong emotions for the patient and may not want to be involved. But, neighbours preferably men can easily immobilise the patient and get him/her for consultation.

We should avoid conversations that can aggravate an already irritable patient and arguments as plans to take them for consultation gets underway. We should always avoid using ropes to tie their hands and legs like animals, which may result in a permanent deformity. This may introduce another form of complication.

Beatings can lead to medical complications that could cause the death of the patient apart from the mental illness.

Adeoye Oyewole, Consultant Psychiatrist,

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