Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry

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Conduct Disorder: Everything You Need To Know

What happens when a child or a teenager does not or fails to conform with age-related societal-norms? Though some may argue that it could be related to rebellion, it could also mean that they have conduct disorder.

Conduct disorder is a mental disorder characterized by repetitive behavior that violates the basic right of others or societal norms.

Often there should be manifestations of three or more of the criteria within the past 12 months or at least one in the past 6 months. The criteria can be divided into two spectrums. One spectrum is the aggressive conduct that may lead to harming other people or animals. The second spectrum is a nonaggressive conduct wherein it may either cause loss and/or damage in property, deceit, theft or serious violation of rules. These are then divided into two types.

The first type relates to aggressiveness towards people and/or animals. Here bullying behaviors are often observed and they would often start fights. Sometimes, a child would simply intimidate others. They would also be known to pick up objects that would cause harm such as a broken bottle or a bat and are known to be physically cruel. It is also possible that they have stolen from someone or have sexually harassed or victimized someone.

The second type refers to behavior that destroys property. There they deliberately set things on fire, thus damaging them and destroying other people’s property though not necessarily through fire.

The third type refers to deceit and theft. Here the person has been known to have broken in someone else’s property such as house and/or their car. They may also have lied to obtain goods or to avoid responsibilities such as conning others. They are also known to steal items that may or may not be of value. Acts associated with this are forgery and shoplifting.

Finally, the last type refer to serious violations. They are often out at night even if they are prohibited by their parents and/or caretakers to do so. They are known to have run away from home and are often absent from school. All of these usually happen before they reach 13 years of age.

These behaviors are known to be disruptive not only to the child but also to the community. Though there is no exact cause that could pinpoint why there is a disorder like this, many believe that it is a combination of factors. In a biological aspect, it is suggested that it is caused by defects found in the brain, specifically in the parts that regulate behavior, impulse and emotion. Some also look into genetics, especially to others who have a family history of medical disorders. Environment is also taken into consideration wherein a dysfunctional family background or a traumatic or abusive life may lead to such behavior.

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