Photo Credit: Jewish Press

When something is wrong, we attempt to get to the root of the problem. If we have a chronic headache, we don’t just take Advil, we go to the doctor and try to get to the source. Why do we keep getting headaches? What is it in our routine, in our diet, or in our body that is causing the problem?

With our bodies, this is not always easy, but there are multiple times when we are able to identify the physical cause. But, what about emotional and mental health issues? How do we get to the root of those? There are diagnostics, tests, and surveys to help diagnose emotional or mental issues. But, we all know that there are times that we get it wrong.

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Let’s take for instance Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Children with ODD or “explosive children” are often angry, defiant, and hostile. In order to be diagnosed with ODD, children need to exhibit these behaviors for more than six months. But maybe this anger, defiance and hostility is coming from somewhere else.

Anxiety. If a child is struggling with anxiety and is placed into an uncomfortable situation that triggers him, he may lash out at a friend, parents, or sibling. While his action may seem like anger, it may be his anxiety talking instead.

Learning Disorders. Children who have undiagnosed learning disabilities (such as dyslexia and dysgraphia) experience extreme frustration on a consistent basis. This frustration can lead to tantrums and defiant behavior that is not actually connected to ODD.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Sensory processing disorder can manifest in multiple ways – one of them is when a child is over-stimulated by “regular” sensory experiences. Her socks might be too tight, there is a buzzing sound in the room, or she smells something funny. This over-stimulation can make her upset and respond to regular stimuli with anger.

Just like it’s important to establish the cause of a recurring toothache, it’s important to understand the cause of recurrent anger. Maybe your child does have ODD. But, maybe it’s something else – and if you can help treat the anxiety, learning disorder, or SPD, the anger may just melt away.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.