Mental Health Awareness Month: Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder (CD) is one of the conditions that most of us aren’t too familiar with ! It’s characterized by “callous disregard for and aggression toward others, from pushing, hitting and bitting in early childhood to bullying, cruelty and violence in adolescence,” and only plagues about 4% of the population. CD often morphs into antisocial personality disorder in adulthood if it’s not treated early. CD can sometimes look like “boys being boys” or “girls being sassy” so it’s important to understand the difference between your child testing limits or just not playing nice and your child needing a psychological evaluation.

According to the DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual for mental health professionals), to be diagnosed with conduct disorder, the child has to exhibit at least four of these behaviors:

  1. Aggressive behavior towards others and animals
  2. Frequent physical fights with others
  3. Use of a weapon to harm others
  4. Deliberate physical cruelty to others
  5. Deliberate physical cruelty to animals
  6. Involvement in confrontational economic order crime (such as stealing/robbing)
  7. Has perpetrated a forcible sex act on another 
  8. Property destruction by arson
  9. Property destruction by any other means
  10. Has engaged in non-confrontational economic order crime- e.g., breaking and entering
  11. Has engaged in non-confrontational retail theft, e.g., shoplifting
  12. Disregards parental curfews prior to age 13
  13. Has run away from home at least twice
  14. Has been truant before age 13

CD can be diagnosed as early as 3 or 4 years old is found more often in boys than girls. There are a lot of different risk factors for your child to develop this disorder. See here what it says in the Therapedia:

“The DSM-5 indicates that risk factors for Conduct Disorder are under controlled temperament, low verbal IQ, parental rejection and neglect, other forms of child maltreatment, including sexual abuse, and inconsistent parenting…Parental overindulgence has also been increasingly identified as a risk factor due to the development of a sense of entitlement, lack of concern for others, self absorption unrealistic expectations, and frustration when these expectations are not delivered (Fogarty, 2009).”

So if you have a child with conduct disorder or who you believe may have conduct order what should you do ? First things first, caring for a child with CD can be extremely mentally taxing.

If you’re feeling too overwhelmed or even suicidal you can immediately text ‘HELP’ to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor. 

Treatment for CD consists of different types of therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will teach them how to better solve problems, how to communicate openly and accurately and how to cope with stress. It trains them not to resort to violence or other types of animosity when they’re confronted with an issue.

With one of the major risk factors being familial dysfunction family therapy is also an excellent treatment option. The entire system has to be healthy for each individual to have a chance at optimal health.

Medication isn’t typically an option as so many children “grow out” of this disorder. However, if the underlying cause is due to a comorbidity, such as adhd, then medication would be appropriate.

Do you have any experience with conduct disorder ? Let us know in the comments !

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