What is Conduct Disorder in Children and Teens?

Conduct disorder is much less well known than several other, more familiar problems related to childhood and the teen years. This disorder is characterized by physically violent or hostile behaviors paired with an utter disregard for others. Kids who suffer from conduct disorder are Conduct Disorderoften labeled as delinquents or simply bad kids. In reality, this problem is a form of mental illness. Although many causes have been identified, other cases seem to have no specific origin. Left untreated, CD can disrupt a child’s academic, social or occupational functionality, leading to injury or even prison, in extreme cases.

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

The symptoms of CD are abundant, but many are common to other mental and emotional illnesses. Marked aggression is common, whether to people or animals. This may include bullying, stealing, assault or physical cruelty. Kids with CD may set fires or willfully destroy the property of others. They may lie or steal to obtain items they covet. They frequently violate curfew without remorse or explanation, skip school or run away. Diagnosis is typically made if a child has exhibited three or more diagnostic criteria within the past 12 months, one of which has been present in the past six months. Symptoms can onset during either childhood (Child Onset Type, with symptoms appearing before age 10) or adolescence (Adolescent Onset Type, with symptoms appearing after age 10).

Causes of Conduct Disorder

Some potential causes for CD have been identified, but unfortunately, much about this disorder remains unknown. The most common risk factor is having a biological parent who suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD or schizophrenia. Kids who have been abused or neglected are at risk as well. In some cases, however, the cause seems to be related to social association. Children who have delinquent friends or peers have a higher incidence of CD. Some known cases of CD have developed after a child witnessed or was exposed to violence or rejection from peers.

Why Conduct Order is Easily Confused with Other Conditions

Rather than describing a specific issue, the term is more of a catchall for a group of emotional and behavior symptoms. The indicators mimic several more extreme types of mental illness, and the possibility for comorbidity is strong. Mood disorder, ADHD, anxiety and PTSD are just some of the problems that may accompany CD. Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers, unaware that their child is suffering from a treatable type of mental illness, lose hope and write their son or daughter off as just being a bad kid.

Dealing with conduct disorder poses one of the greatest problems for treatment, especially when comorbid conditions are present. The uncooperative nature of CD sufferers renders traditional therapeutic interventions ineffective; however, the earlier that treatment begins, the better the child’s chance of recovery. Havenwood Academy provides effective intervention programs for girls who suffer from CD, utilizing experiential therapies and other proven modalities. If your daughter suffers from conduct disorder, contact Havenwood today.