Conduct disorder is a set of ongoing emotional and behavioral problems that occurs in children and teens. A child with this type of behavioral disorder may display a pattern of disruptive and violent actions and have problems following rules. The child’s pattern may involve defiant or impulsive behavior, drug use, or criminal activity.
Another behavioral disorder, called oppositional defiant disorder, may be a precursor of conduct disorder. A child is diagnosed with the oppositional defiant disorder when he or she shows signs of being hostile and defiant for at least 6 months. Oppositional defiant disorder may start as early as the preschool years, while conduct disorder generally appears when children are older. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder are not co-occurring conditions.
Behavioral Disorders has been linked to:
- Family neglect or child abuse
- Drug or alcohol abuse in the parents
- Marital problems or family conflicts
- Genetic defects
- Separation from family
- Poverty, large family or crowding
The diagnosis is more common among boys. It is also more common in cities. It is hard to know how common the disorder is. This is because of many of the qualities for diagnosis, such as “defiance” and “rule breaking,” are hard to define. For a diagnosis of conduct disorder, the behavior must be much more extreme than is socially acceptable. Conduct disorder is often linked to attention-deficit disorder. Conduct disorder also can be an early sign of depression or bipolar disorder.
Children with conduct disorder tend to be impulsive, hard to control, and not concerned about the feelings of other people.
Symptoms may include:
- Breaking rules without clear reason
- Cruel or aggressive behavior toward people or animals (for example bullying, fighting, using dangerous weapons, forcing sexual activity, and stealing)
- Not going to school (truancy — beginning before age 13)
- Heavy drinking and/or heavy drug abuse
- Intentionally setting fires
- Lying to get a favor or avoid things they have to do
- Vandalizing or destroying property
These children often make no effort to hide their aggressive behaviors. They may have a hard time making real friends.
Exams and Tests
There is no real test for diagnosing conduct disorder. The diagnosis is made when a child or adolescent has a history of conduct disorder behaviors.
A physical examination and blood tests can help rule out medical conditions that are similar to conduct disorder. In rare cases, a brain scan helps rule out other disorders.
For treatment to be successful, it must be started early. The child’s family also needs to be involved. Parents can learn techniques to help manage their child’s problem behavior.
In cases of abuse, the child may need to be removed from the family and placed in a less chaotic home. Treatment with medicines or talk therapy may be used for depression and attention-deficit disorder. Many “behavioral modification” schools, “wilderness programs,” and “boot camps” are sold to parents as solutions for conduct disorder. Research does suggest that treating children at home, along with their families, is more effective.
Children who are diagnosed and treated early usually overcome their behavioral problems. Children who have severe or frequent symptoms and who are not able to complete treatment tend to have the poorest outlook.
Children with conduct disorder may go on to develop personality disorders as adults, particularly antisocial personality disorder. As their behaviors worsen, these individuals may also develop problems with drug abuse and the law.
Depression and bipolar disorder may develop in the teen years and early adulthood. Suicide and violence toward others are also possible complications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
- Regularly gets in trouble
- Has mood swings
- Is bullying others or cruel to animals
- Is being victimized
- Seems to be overly aggressive
- Early treatment may help.
The sooner the treatment for conduct disorder is started, the more likely the child will learn adaptive behaviors and avoid potential complications.
If your child or loved one, suffers from Conduct Disorder, call us now.
When Tempers Flare in Teens
Does you teen become angry for no reason and you wonder why? Are there days when they just wake up disgruntled and stay that way all day?
Some of it may be the changes their body’s going through All those hormones you hear so much about can cause mood swings and confused emotions. Some of it may be stress: People who are under a lot of pressure tend to get angry more easily. Part of it may be their personality: Your teen may be someone who feels their emotions strongly or tends to act impulsively or lose control. And part of it maybe you (as a role models). Maybe they see other people in your family blow a fuse when they’re mad.
No matter what pushes your teens’ buttons, one thing is certain —everyone is going to get angry sometimes. Anger is a normal emotion, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling mad. What counts is how we handle it (and ourselves) when we’re angry.
Tools to Tame a Temper: Self-Awareness & Self-Control
Because anger can be powerful, managing it is sometimes challenging. It takes plenty of self-awareness and self-control to manage angry feelings. And these skills take a time to develop.
Self-awareness is the ability to notice what you’re feeling and thinking, and why. Little kids aren’t very aware of what they feel, they just act it out in their behavior. That’s why you see them having tantrums when they’re mad. But teens have the mental ability to be self-aware. When they get angry, they should take a moment to notice what they’re feeling and thinking.
Self-control is all about thinking before you act. It puts some precious seconds or minutes between feeling a strong emotion and taking an action you’ll regret.
Together, self-awareness and self-control allow you to have more choice about how to act when you’re feeling an intense emotion like anger.
Getting Ready to Make a Change
Deciding to get control of your anger — rather than letting it control you — means taking a good hard look at the ways you’ve been reacting when you get mad. Does your teen tend to yell and scream or say hurtful, mean, disrespectful things? Do they throw things, kick or punch walls, break stuff? Hit someone, hurt yourself, or push and shove others around?
For most people who have trouble harnessing a hot temper, reacting like this is not what they want. They feel ashamed by their behavior and don’t think it reflects the real them, their best selves.
Everyone can change — but only when they want to. If you want your teen to make a big change in how they’re handling their anger, tell them to think about what they’ll gain from that change. More self-respect? More respect from other people? Less time feeling annoyed and frustrated? A more relaxed approach to life? Remembering why they want to make the change can help.
It can also help to remind yourself that making a change takes time, practice, and patience. It won’t happen all at once. Managing anger is about developing new skills and new responses. As with any skill, like playing basketball or learning the piano, it helps to practice over and over again.
Tools for Handling Anger at any Age
The Five-Step Approach to Managing Anger
If something happens that makes you feel angry, this approach can help you manage your reaction. It’s called a problem-solving approach because you start with the problem you’re mad about. Then you weigh your choices and decide what you’ll do.
1) Identify the problem (self-awareness). Start by noticing what you’re angry about and why. Put into words what’s making you upset so you can act rather than react.
2) Think of potential solutions before responding (self-control). This is where you stop for a minute to give yourself time to manage your anger. It’s also where you start thinking of how you might react — but without reacting yet.
Ask yourself: What can I do? Think of at least three things.
3) Consider the consequences of each solution (think it through). This is where you think about what is likely to result from each of the different reactions you came up with.
Ask yourself: What will happen for each one of these options? For example:
4) Make a decision (pick one of your options). This is where you take action by choosing one of the three things you could do. Look at the list and pick the one that is likely to be most effective.
Once you choose your solution, then it’s time to act.
5) Check your progress. After you’ve acted and the situation is over, spend some time thinking about how it went.
Ask yourself: How did I do? Did things work out as I expected? If not, why not? Am I satisfied with the choice I made? Taking some time to reflect on how things worked out after it’s all over is a very important step. It helps you learn about yourself and it allows you to test which problem-solving approaches work best in different situations.
Give yourself a pat on the back if the solution you chose worked out well. If it didn’t, go back through the five steps and see if you can figure out why.
These five steps are pretty simple when you’re calm, but are much tougher to work through when you’re angry or sad (kind of like in basketball practice when making baskets is much easier than in a real game when the pressure is on!). So it helps to practice over and over again.
Advice for Teens with Mood Problems
Do you ever find yourself getting really irritable for almost no reason? Or suddenly feeling down without knowing why? Going from sadness to anger to joy in a matter of minutes can make many teens feel as though they’re losing their grip. But why is the feeling of being on an emotional roller coaster so common among teens?
What’s your favorite type of exercise for improving mood?
Dealing with constant change and pressure is part of the answer. Maybe you’re starting a new school and not able to see old friends as much. Getting good grades or wanting to be better in sports or other activities can be a concern for many teens. It might feel as though there just isn’t enough time to do everything.
Being a teen means struggling with identity and self-image. Being accepted by friends feels extremely important. Teens also may notice, for the first time, a sense of distance from parents and family. You may feel you want to be on your own and make your own decisions, but it can also seem overwhelming and even a bit lonely at times.
As fun and exciting as this time is, it also can be a time of confusion and conflict. It can take a while for teens — and their families — to feel comfortable with the transition from childhood to adulthood.
Another important cause for mood swings is biology. When puberty begins, the body starts producing sex hormones. These hormones — estrogen and progesterone in girls and testosterone in guys — cause physical changes in the body. But in some people, they also seem to cause emotional changes — the ups and downs that sometimes feel out of control.
Understanding that almost everyone goes through mood swings during their teen years might make them easier to handle.
When It’s More Than Just a Mood
Feeling irritable or short-tempered can be signs of depression. So can feelings of boredom or hopelessness.
Many people think of depression as feeling sad, but depression also can bring feelings of moodiness, impatience, anger, or even just not caring. When depression gets in the way of enjoying life or dealing with others, that’s a sign you need to do something about it, like talking to a counselor or therapist who can help you deal with it. Also, if you ever feel like hurting yourself, that’s more than just a bad mood and you need to tell someone.