What is conduct disorder?
Conduct disorder is a behavioral and mental condition often found in children and teenagers. Individuals with conduct disorder show signs of antisocial behavior, a disregard for rules and others' feelings and a tendency to be violent. This behavior is often much more extreme than normal adolescent teasing and acting out.
Researchers believe conduct disorder is caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, psychological, social and biological factors. According to
American Family Physician, approximately six to 16 percent of boys and two to nine percent of girls meet the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder.
What are the signs and symptoms of conduct disorder?
Individuals with conduct disorder typically exhibit the following behaviors and symptoms:
- Bullying beyond that of a typical adolescent
- Destructive behavior
- Volatile (rapidly changing) mood
- Committing physical or sexual violence
- Hurting animals
- A disregard for rules
- Lacking remorse and empathy
- Little emotional expression
Adolescents with other mental health issues, such as mood or anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are more likely to have conduct disorder.
How is conduct disorder diagnosed?
Like diagnosing other behavioral or mental conditions, doctors will look for signs and symptoms that point to conduct disorder. Your child's physician may also conduct a physical screening and laboratory tests, such as a blood test, to ensure a physical condition is not causing the symptoms.
If no physical causes are found, the physician will likely refer your child to an adolescent psychiatrist to perform a specialized assessment.
Is conduct disorder preventable?
While conduct disorder cannot necessarily be completely prevented, recognizing symptoms and quickly acting on them can substantially impact how someone with conduct disorder manages their condition. Providing the individual with a consistent, safe and loving home environment also provides crucial benefits in reducing symptoms and behavioral issues.
How is conduct disorder treated?
Conduct disorder treatments differ depending on the severity of symptoms and the individual's age. Beginning treatment for conduct disorder as early as possible is vital because conduct disorder can often lead to other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or depression.
Doctors use different forms of therapy to treat conduct disorder, such as psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and family and group therapy. While there is no medication made to specifically treat conduct disorder, various medications are used to treat the distressing symptoms of the condition, like aggression and mood swings.
If you feel your child may be showing signs of conduct disorder, talk to their pediatrician.