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Conduct Disorder

What is Conduct Disorder?

Conduct Disorder is thought to be a type of behavioral and emotional disorder, which affects children and teens. An individual who is experiencing Conduct Disorder may have a disruptive and violent behavior. Individuals with such disorder often have a hard time following the rules. Although it is common for individuals to experience a time in their lives in which they rebel against others, it is important to note that it becomes a disorder and/or problem when the behavior is long-lasting. The individual often violates the rights of others and their behavior is going against the accepted norms of behaviors and their everyday life, including their families.

In addition, it is believed that between 2 and 16% of children in the United States have been diagnosed with such disorder. Moreover, it is more common in boys than in girls.

What are the symptoms of Conduct Disorder?

The symptoms of the disorder vary from individual to individual depending on their age and severity of the disorder (i.e. mild, moderate, or severe). However, the symptoms fall into 4 categories:

  • Aggressive Behavior
    • Behavior threatens or causes physical harm
      • Fighting, bullying, using weapons, or being cruel to animals for example
    • Destructive Behavior
      • Intentional destruction of property
        • Arson & vandalism for example
      • Deceitful Behavior
        • An individual may be constantly lying, shoplifting or breaking into homes (cars)
      • Violation of Rules
        • An individual goes against the accepted rules of society
        • Individual engages in behaviors that are not accepted nor appropriate for their age (i.e. running away, pranking others, or being sexually active at a young age)

In addition:

  • An individual may be irritable
  • An individual may have a low self-esteem
  • An individual tends to constantly throw temper tantrums

What causes Conduct Disorder?

Although the exact known cause is not known, experts believe that biological (i.e. a part of the brain has an injury or defect), genetic (i.e. siblings or a parent), environmental (i.e. child abuse, inconsistent discipline, or traumatic experiences), social (low socioeconomic status), and psychological factors all play a role in the development of such disorder.

How is Conduct Disorder treated?

The treatment given to the individual will vary depending on the child’s age. However, the following are common treatments that are used:

  • Psychotherapy
    • Helps the child learn to express & control their anger in a much more appropriate way
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
      • Aims to reshape the child’s thinking
    • Family Therapy
      • Helps an individual improve their family interactions and communication
    • Parent Management Training (PMT)
      • Teaches the child’s parent to positively alter their child’s behavior at home
    • Medication
      • Although there is not medication that has formally been approved for the treatment of such disorder, some medication may be used to help decrease some of the symptoms

How can I cope with Conduct Disorder or help someone I know?

  • Talk to your loved one or talk to yourself about any concerns
  • Seek professional help, take all prescribed medications, and attend all therapy sessions
  • Educate yourself and loved ones about the disorder
  • Set firm boundaries & rules in the home
  • If you are a parent with a child with Conduct Disorder, make yourself available for them
  • Participate in your loved one’s treatment
  • Frequently check-in with your loved one