Understanding Conduct Disorder Symptoms and Treatment

Conduct disorder is a mental illness that affects children and teenagers, and it is characterized by a pattern of disruptive and aggressive behavior that goes against societal norms and the rights of others. If left untreated, conduct disorder symptoms can worsen over time, leading to more serious behavioral problems and social issues.

Causes of Conduct Disorder

While the exact cause of conduct disorder is unknown, various factors may contribute to its development. These include:

  • Family conflict or dysfunction
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Genetic factors
  • Brain damage or injury
  • Social and environmental factors, such as poverty and living in a high-crime neighborhood

It is important to note that there is no single cause of conduct disorder, and each case may be different.

Symptoms of Conduct Disorder

The symptoms of conduct disorder can be divided into four categories:

  • Aggressive Behavior: This includes physically hurting people or animals, bullying, starting fights and using weapons.
  • Causing Property Damage: This includes vandalism, setting fires and breaking into homes or cars.
  • Deceitful Behavior: This includes lying, stealing, and breaking and entering.
  • Violation of Rules: This includes skipping school, running away from home, and being sexually promiscuous.

Children and teenagers with conduct disorder may also have difficulties with empathy and lack understanding of the consequences of their behavior. They may have trouble controlling their anger, and they may blame others for their problems.

Diagnosis of Conduct Disorder

The diagnosis of conduct disorder is typically made by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. The mental health professional will perform a thorough evaluation of the child or teenager’s symptoms and behavior, including a medical history and a review of any prior treatment. The mental health professional may also use psychological tests and other assessment tools to aid in the diagnosis.

Treatment for Conduct Disorder

Treatment for conduct disorder typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers or medications to help reduce aggression and impulsivity may be prescribed by a medical professional. However, medication alone is not enough to treat the disorder.

Therapy options include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches children and teenagers to recognize and change their negative thoughts and behavior patterns.
  • Family therapy, which helps the entire family address and work through any conflicts or issues that may be contributing to the child or teenager’s behavior.
  • Social skills training, which aims to help children and teenagers develop proper communication and interaction habits.

It is important to note that the most effective treatment plans are tailored to each individual’s needs, and the plan may need to be adjusted over time as the child or teenager’s needs and symptoms change.

Prevention of Conduct Disorder

Preventing conduct disorder involves addressing and mitigating the risk factors associated with its development. This can include:

  • Encouraging children and teenagers to develop strong social and communication skills.
  • Providing a safe and stable home environment.
  • Encouraging healthy relationships with peers, family and authority figures.
  • Providing access to mental health services and support.


Conduct disorder can have serious and long-lasting effects if not properly diagnosed and treated. It is important for parents, teachers and other caregivers to recognize the symptoms of conduct disorder and seek out professional help if they suspect a child or teenager may be suffering from the disorder. With proper treatment and support, children and teenagers with conduct disorder can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.


What are the symptoms of Conduct Disorder?

Conduct Disorder is characterized by persistent patterns of behavior that violate basic rights of others and societal norms. Symptoms can include aggression toward people and animals, destruction of property, theft, lying, truancy, and other problematic behaviors.

Who is at risk for developing Conduct Disorder?

Conduct Disorder usually develops in childhood or adolescence and is more common in boys than girls. Risk factors include childhood abuse, neglect, inconsistent discipline, substance abuse in the family, and poverty.

How is Conduct Disorder treated?

Treatment for Conduct Disorder usually involves a combination of therapy, medication, and family interventions. Therapies can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, parent-child interaction therapy, family therapy, and individual therapy. Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers may also be prescribed to address symptoms. Family interventions such as parent training and family therapy can help improve communication and reduce conflict in the home.


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