Behavioral and Mental Health Issues

Individuals with intellectual or other developmental disabilities sometimes display challenging behavior, such as aggression and self-injury, which may be a symptom of a health-related disorder, physical or emotional pain or other circumstance (e.g., insufficient supports).

Estimates of the frequency of psychiatric disorders and emotional disturbance in this population vary widely. However, many professionals have adopted the estimate that 30%-35% of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities have a psychiatric disorder. The full range of psychopathology that exists in the general population also can co-exist in people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Communication issues often make it difficult for clinicians to assess individuals with IDD for emotional or psychiatric disorders. Another obstacle is “diagnostic overshadowing,” which occurs when a health care professional overlooks or minimizes the signs of psychiatric disturbance and instead attributes those manifestations to the person’s developmental disability.

This section offers guidance in dealing with challenging behaviors, the possible medical issues that might be triggering those behaviors and steps to consider when weighing whether to prescribe psychotropic medications.

Initial Management of Behavioral Crises in Primary Care
Risk Assessment Tool
Behavioral Problems and Emotional Concerns-Primary Care Checklist
Behavioral Problems and Emotional Concerns-Caregiver Checklist
Psychiatric Symptoms and Behaviors Checklist
ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) Chart
Crisis Prevention and Management Planning
Crisis Prevention and Management Form
Psychotropic Medication Issues
Psychotropic Medication Checklist