What Is Conduct Disorder?

Closeup of an angry teen with his arm raised to strike

conduct disorder essentially means that the person violates the social norms and rights of others. It is generally a male disorder, occurring in 9% of boys and 2% of girls under the age of 18. Those with this disorder are habitually in trouble, be it with parents, teachers or peers. Despite presenting a tough image to those around them, they have a low self-esteem. Their frustration tolerance, irritability, temper outbursts and recklessness are hallmarks. conduct disorder may lead to adult antisocial personality disorder.

They manifest with chronic lying and cheating, and physical aggression and cruelty to other people and animals is common. They may destroy others property through vandalism, or more permanently through acts such as setting fires. Theft and stealing is also a common trait. Many of those with this disorder turn to drugs, alcohol and tobacco use; and usually begin having sexual relations with multiple partners at an early age.

conduct disorder usually appears before puberty in males, and after puberty in females. Many of these children have normal IQ’s, but have two or three years behind academically, and have lower verbal skills and abstract reasoning abilities. Hence, they appear to make mistakes often when verbally told how to do a task. Their manipulative, problem-solving abilities are often high however. The difference between outcomes in children may be the parent’s view of the child: is the child a screw-up, or a child with academic difficulties that needs extra help.

Risk factors for conduct disorder include a family history of antisocial personality disorder, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, a learning disorder, and an environment that makes trouble attractive.

There is no one treatment that works well with conduct disorder. Treating coexisting disorders such as learning disabilities and ADHD, drug abuse, removing them from bad environmental situations, enforcing appropriate punishments in appropriate ways, and teaching prosocial skills are the best approaches.

Derek Wood is a Nationally Board Certified Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse, and holds a Master's degree in Psychology. His experience in the online arena of mental health can be traced back to 1997, when he was a host for Online Psych on AOL. He joined Get Mental Help, Inc. as Clinical Content Director for Mental Health Matters. Derek, with his wife Lisa, developed the original version of psychTracker (then called A Mood Journal), after his diagnosis with Schizo-Affective Bipolar, when they could not find a system available that was robust enough to help him effectively manage his symptoms and accurately interpret his charting. Derek has worked in the field of mental health since 2001, as a Unit Manager of an adult long-term treatment facility, a charge nurse in an adolescent short-term inpatient facility and long-term residential facility, and as a School Psychologist. He has also written several articles which are being used as CEU for nurses and educators.

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