Childhood, a time almost all of us wish we could go back to. A time where we were so care free and didn’t have to think about going to work so we could pay our bills. A time where if we broke a rule there was no real consequence, or were there? When we are children, we start to learn basic rules like saying please and thank you, waiting your turn in line, and keeping your hands and feet to yourself. We all remember a friend in elementary or middle school who couldn’t obey those rules, the trouble makers, the class clowns, the ones who gave the teacher a hard time. Maybe that friend or even yourself was struggling with a conduct disorder.
What is a conduct disorder?
(Don’t push your loved ones away5)
Conduct Disorder is an impulsive disorder that refers to engaging in behaviors that violate societal norms1.
Conduct Disorder (CD) is usually spotted before the age of 10 years old but can occur during adolescence as well and can proceed into adulthood1. Usually the onset of CD can occur between the ages of 9 and 17 years old and is often seen more in males than females2. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), there is also an additional subtype to CD which is referred to as “a callous-unemotional presentation” which suggests that this person holds no remorse for any violations that have done1. Children who have CD may show signs of other mental health issues such as, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and learning disabilities2.
Signs of a conduct disorder in children and adolescence4
- Being irresponsible
- Physical fights
- Skipping school or running away from home
- Physical harm to animals or people
- Stealing or doing things that violate the rights of others
- …with a callous-unemotional presentation3
- No remorse for bad behaviors
- No concern for consequences
- Lack of empathy for others
- Lack of concern about performance in work and school
- No emotional expression
- …with a callous-unemotional presentation3
Levels of conduct disorder
- Mild CD: usually this individual causes little to no harm to other people. The most common behaviors we see from these individuals include lying, truancy, staying out after dark without permission and other rule breaking1.
- Moderate CD: Individuals show a more severe impact on others and their behaviors consist of stealing without confronting a victim and vandalism1.
- Severe CD: These individuals show the most behavior problems of those required to make the diagnosis and cause a considerable amount of harm to others around them3. The behavior problems include physical cruelty, use of weapons, stealing while confronting a victim, breaking and entering, and forced sex1.
(There is help out there6)
Some of us may be struggling with a mental health disorder that is comorbid with conduct disorder, this is common in adults. Some adults may be struggling with ADHD, substance abuse, PTSD, anxiety, depression, or a bipolar disorder. These can often be frustrating which can cause an individual to act out in an aggressive way. Conduct Disorder can take time to treat because in time of treatment new behaviors need to be developed and learned3. In hopes of catching a conduct disorder early in life, receiving treatment can be done:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help an individual with learning new skills such as impulse control, how to deal with stress and new coping strategies3.
- Parent Training which can involve behavior management techniques to help with keeping safety in the home when your child is having an aggressive or violent episode2.
- Family Therapy will include the parents, siblings and other family members. Family therapy can help improve skills in communication as well as parents and family members can learn de-escalating techniques when a conflict arises3.
- Group Therapy can help an individual see that many people do struggle with a conduct disorder and meeting new people can help with antisocial behaviors as well as develop empathy for their peers3.
- Medication is not usually a treatment in conduct disorder, but medication can be received if CD is apart of a co-occurring disorder. Usually this can be seen in children with attention issues like ADHD or mood disorders like depression3.
If you are a college student who is struggling with a mental disorder as well as a conduct disorder you may be interested in seeing what Eastern Illinois University has for you. The EIU counseling clinic offers many treatment options. There is one on one counseling, group counseling as well as a mood disorder treatment team.
Contact info: https://www.eiu.edu/counsctr/index.php
Phone #: (217)-581-3414
After Hours Emergency #: 1-866-567-2400
An outside resource in the Charleston Illinois area is the Care Horizon. The Care Horizon provides behavioral services to anyone 4 years and older. Their behavioral services are individualized and there is not an exact plan, so treatment is based on you and your needs. Treatment can also be in an in-home setting, school or other care settings.
Contact info: http://www.carehorizon.org/services/
Phone #: (217)-849-3803
Crisis Line for Children and Adolescents: 1-800-345-9049
Illinois Warm Line: 1-866-359-7953
No matter what you may be experiencing, whether that be a mood disorder or having an issue controlling your impulses there is help for you. There may be good days and bad days, but you are not alone. Do not be afraid to seek help.
(Reviewed and Edited by: Dr. Juras and Kaeli O’Donnell)
(1) Barlow, D. H., & Durand, V. M. (2015). Anxiety, Trauma-and Stressor-Related, and Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. In Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach (7th ed., pp. 451 – 452). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning
(2) Morin, A. (2019, October 13). Conduct Disorder in Children Can Cause Serious Behavior Problems. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-of-conduct-disorder-in-children-4127239
(3) Smith, K. (n.d.). Conduct Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment Options. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.psycom.net/conduct-disorder/
(4) Stanford Children’s Health. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=conduct-disorder-90-P02560
(5) Rido. (n.d.). Happy young family sitting on couch and talking with family counselor. Smiling parents with adopted children discussing with counselor. Multiethnic family meeting a financial agent. Retrieved April 19, 2020from https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/happy-young-family-sitting-on-couch-\663456385?irgwc=1&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=Pixabay+GmbH&utm_source=44814&utm_term=https://pixabay.com/images/search/counseling
(6) Lazy Image.(2016.) photograph. Retrieved April 19, 2020, from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/lazy-son-student-home-mother-1458443/