Conduct disorder (CD) consists of socially unacceptable, disruptive, and aggressive emotions and behaviors. These behaviors are usually discovered during childhood or adolescence, although they can appear at any age. People with conduct disorder may carry themselves with conviction but can act inappropriately without feeling any remorse. To outside observers, they appear angry, disobedient, and careless, but the behavior is caused by a mental health condition.

Aggression and Conduct Disorder

People with conduct disorder are usually aggressive and often refuse to follow the rules. They can be difficult to control and act without considering moral consequences. It is possible that someone with conduct disorder may harm others — for example, by bullying — and excessive drug or alcohol use is also a common concern. The symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Conduct disorder

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Significance of the Frontal Lobe

People with conduct disorder have damage to their frontal lobes, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive skills including problem-solving, judgment, and emotional behavior — essentially, it affects the personality of each individual and how they communicate. If the frontal lobe works improperly, people have difficulty learning from negative experiences and often act impulsively. Damage to that part of the brain can be inherited or caused by an injury.

Conduct disorder aggression

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Environmental Factors of Conduct Disorder

Apart from genetics, a child or adolescent may develop conduct disorder due to dysfunctional or abusive home environments, sexual abuse, exposure to excessive alcohol or drug use by caregivers, inconsistent discipline from parents, and traumatic events. Children with ADHD, learning disabilities, or mood disorders are also more likely to have conduct disorder.

factors of conduct disorder

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Childhood-Onset Conduct Disorder

Males are more often diagnosed with childhood-onset conduct disorder than females, and some issues that arise include poor peer relationships, lying, and destructive behavior. Left untreated, children with this disorder may develop other problems as they age, which compounds problems with treatment. Generally, symptoms of this type of conduct disorder appear before puberty.

childhood onset Conduct disorder

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Adult-Onset Conduct Disorder

Unlike children, adults with this disorder may not be aggressive and often have normal relationships with their peers. They are also less likely to develop additional mental health issues related to conduct disorder. However, they may have difficulty keeping jobs, develop an antisocial personality, and become involved in risky, harmful behaviors.

adult onset Conduct disorder

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Neglect and Conduct Disorder

Several factors can increase the risk of developing conduct disorder. Neglected children and those growing up in extreme poverty or who are left alone for long periods of time may be at a higher risk. A family history of mental health illnesses can also contribute.

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Diagnosing Conduct Disorder

Mental health professionals ask questions to determine whether a patient has conduct disorder. The doctor may ask a parent if their child is showing signs of aggression, lying, or performing harmful acts towards others, including animals. Before a child is diagnosed with conduct disorder, they must have displayed a pattern of unacceptable behavior in the past 12 months with at least one unacceptable behavior in the past six months.

diagnosing conduct disorder

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Talk Therapy for Treatment of Conduct Disorder

Depending on the cause, children who develop conduct disorder due to other mental health conditions may be prescribed medications or placed in foster homes if a negative environment is deemed the likely cause. Usually, a mental health professional uses behavior or talk therapy to treat children and adolescents with conduct disorder. These therapies are proven to help individuals express their emotions appropriately and manage disruptive or aggressive behavior.

Talk Therapy for Treating Conduct Disorder

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Proper Treatment for a Good Prognosis

If aggressive behavior is not managed or treated properly, it is much more difficult for a person with conduct disorder to adapt to their environment and interact with others. This can lead to poor relationships and difficulty getting or holding down a job. Proper diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of this condition are imperative to the healthy development of people with conduct disorder.

10 Facts About Conduct Disorder


Maintaining Good General Health

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is just as important as medical treatment to adults and children with conduct disorder. Physical exercise, including aerobics, yoga, jogging, and other cardiovascular activities, can help. People with this condition should get adequate sleep every night and eat well-balanced meals. Healthy relationships with family and friends are also important.

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