Emotional Disorders

An emotional disorder is a mental disorder in which one’s emotions are disturbed to a great extent. It is a psychological condition in which thoughts and emotions are not in the proper state.


An emotional disorder is a mental disorder in which one’s emotions are disturbed to a great extent. It is a psychological condition in which thoughts and emotions are not in the proper state. People may refer to emotional disorders using different “umbrella” terms such as mental disorder, emotional disturbance, behavioral disorders, or mental illness. Beneath these umbrella terms, there is actually a wide range of specific conditions that differ from one another in their characteristics and treatment.

An emotional disorder is a mental health diagnosis. Having a mental health challenge or a behavioral disorder is more common than most people imagine. In fact, children are diagnosed with mental health disorders at a rate of 6.8% and at an even higher rate in adolescence. It is likely that each of us has known someone with a mental health or behavioral challenge or had one ourselves. Mental health disorders don’t discriminate based on age, race, gender, ethnicity, occupation, religion, economic class, or ethnic background. Misconceptions about mental health can contribute to the lack of funding and public support for effective treatment and supports for children and young adults. Families of children with mental health, emotional and behavioral needs often need to navigate multiple systems to access necessary supports and services. Families and children with emotional disorders/mental health issues may also face additional challenges due to stigma about mental health. (http://bit.ly/2JwiVBy)

School counselors are in a unique position to be able to provide short-term support, resources and referrals to students and families when an emotional disorder is emerging or present.  School counselors are often called upon to work with students who have emotional disorders as symptoms may manifest in school contributing to academic, social-emotional, and behavioral difficulties. Students with emotional disorders may sometimes be eligible for special education services or extra support through a 504 plan.


  • Half of all lifetime cases of mental health disorders begin by the age of 14.
  • School counselors should not be the main professional helping a child or family to deal with an emotional disorder.  School counselors should refer families to an outside professional for long-term care and management of emotional disorders.
  • Proper diagnosis is key to a student’s healthy management of an emotional disorder.  Referral can start with the family doctor.
  • Childhood emotional disorders can take make forms, some of the most common are ADHD, Affective Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Autism, Bi-polar Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Depression, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Personality Disorders, Pervasive Developmental Disorder and Schizophrenia.
  • There are options for a child with mental health challenges who is having difficulty with school, including both informal and formal supports. An informal support could be attending a “friendship group” or having a “check-in” person. A formal support might include having a 504 Plan, or doing an evaluation for Special Education services. Some schools have school-wide initiatives to promote the mental health and wellness of all students. These might include positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS), social-emotional learning (SEL) , school-linked mental health services, bullying prevention initiatives, trauma-informed care, and youth mental health crisis response services.
  • Knowing the warning signs for mental illness in children can be crucial in obtaining early intervention and support.




If you have suggestions, feedback, or resources, please email counselor1stop@inspiresuccess.org and let us know.