Challenging behaviour in health and social care

challenging behaviour

A person’s behaviour can be defined as ‘challenging’ if the intensity, frequency or duration of the behaviour puts them or those around them (such as their health care professional) at risk or leads to a poorer quality of life.

Challenging behaviour can be classified into the following categories namely:

  • Aggression and verbal abuse such as hitting, kicking, biting, punching, slapping pushing, pulling, scratching, cruelty
  • Self-harm and self-stimulation such as head banging, biting self, hitting self, skin picking, head punching, eye poking, cutting with tools, teeth banging, pulling hair
  • Destructiveness such as destroying objects or surrounding such as breaking furniture, throwing items around, setting fires
  • Disruptiveness such as repetitive screaming, setting off fire alarms and calling the emergency services for no good reason among others
  • Sexually harmful behaviour such as striping, anal poking,  touching others inappropriately, rape

Challenging behaviour causes

Problems are often caused as much by the way a person is supported – or not supported – as by their disabilities. People often behave in a ‘challenging’ way if they have problems understanding what’s happening around them or communicating what they want or need. This includes health problems that affect communication and the brain, such as learning disabilities or dementia.

Physical causes – Individuals may be experiencing pain but be unable to communicate this. They may engage in challenging behaviour as a way of showing they are in discomfort.

Environmental causes – Individuals with autism are particularly sensitive to their surroundings and may become distressed by small changes to their environment.

Trauma – Challenging behaviour may be a response to a trauma the individual has experienced, for example bereavement or abuse or indeed bullying.

Communication – Almost all people with learning disabilities have communication difficulties. Frustration and an inability to get their needs met may lead to challenging behaviour. It is important to know what an individual understands and to match your communication style to this. It is also vital to help people communicate, through signs and symbols where appropriate.

Learnt behaviour – Individuals may learn that by using challenging behaviour they are able to get their needs met. For example, if a person cannot speak or sign they may find it difficult to get help from staff and they may discover that challenging behaviour is one way to get their help.

Challenging behaviour can usually be reduced or prevented altogether with the right support and training in place.

  • Teaching new communication skills is a key way to reduce challenging behaviour.
  • Support should be flexible and personalised to the needs and circumstances of each individual and their family carers.
  • Support should be available to prevent behaviours developing or getting worse.
  • It really helps to plan ahead – ideally before a crisis occurs.
  • Every person who has behaviour challenges should have a clear plan setting out the support they need immediately, and the support they are likely to need in the years ahead.

 At Coral & Reed, our Positive Behaviour course is designed to provide staff with the appropriate and necessary skills to help them deal with behaviour that challenges The course provides guidance to dealing with challenges faced by health and social care professionals. It will equip staff with the skills to provide positive support on a one-to-one individualised basis as well as understanding wider needs and environmental implications.

Our courses are highly interactive, packed with situation-based scenarios leaving a fun and positive learning experience. All our learning resources and training materials meet the CQC, Skills for Care and Skills for Health training standards.  This course is currently only available in a classroom setting for corporate clients. Interested organisations are requested to contact the office to book group sessions at .

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