Information for the public
Sometimes certain situations or problems (such as a physical or mental health problem, relationship or communication problems, sensory sensitivities, or changes to your routine) may lead to challenging behaviour (for example, being very distressed, agitated, disruptive or sometimes violent). Before treatment is offered for challenging behaviour, professionals should offer you treatment for any physical or mental health problems and make sure changes are made to your surroundings if that is causing a problem, for example, using earplugs or dark glasses if you find loud noises or bright lights distressing.
If the challenging behaviour does not improve, you should be offered a psychological treatment that can help to address and change the behaviour. The choice of treatment should be based on your physical needs, your everyday surroundings, how helpful any previous treatment has been, and your own preference.
If the psychological treatment does not help, you may be offered antipsychotic medication in addition to the psychological treatment. You may be offered antipsychotic medication on its own by a specialist if the challenging behaviour is very severe. Professionals should check whether the medication is working after 3 to 4 weeks; it should be stopped after 6 weeks if there is no improvement.
You should not be offered anticonvulsants for challenging behaviour.
When discussing medication for a mental health problem or for challenging behaviour, professionals should take into account the possible side effects of medication and explain clearly how much of the drug should be taken and how often. You may be given a low dose of the drug to start with.
Once you have started taking medication, professionals should check regularly that it is working, ask about any side effects and check that you are continuing to take it. They should also check your physical health.