Conduct disorder (CD) is a behavioral disorder (sometimes diagnosed in childhood) that is characterized by antisocial behaviors that often violate age-appropriate social standards and rules.
Antisocial behaviors may include irresponsibility, violating other’s rights (such as theft), delinquent behaviors (such as running away), and/or physical aggression towards others. Often, several or all of these symptoms can occur at once, but on occasion only one symptom can occur without the presence of the others.
To be diagnosed with CD, the patient must have shown at least three of the following criteria in the last 12 months, and at least one symptom in the last six months:
- Aggression towards people or animals (bullying, initiating fights, use of weapons, cruelty to animals)
- Destruction of property (including fire-starting)
- Theft or deception (breaking into cars or houses, manipulating people, shoplifting)
- Violation of rules (sneaking out, running away from home)
CD is treated in a variety of ways, including drug or behavior therapy (including psychotherapy). Most therapy is done in the context of the family. The focus of behavior therapy is to eliminate unwanted behaviors by creating a high level of structure, which is greatly needed by patients with CD.
Behavioral plans are often coordinated between school and home to achieve success. Most patients with CD are harboring a great deal of anger, and psychotherapy can help them work through their issues.
Treatment may also include drug therapy, based on the unique symptoms of the patient, such as medication for depression or attentiveness, and mood-stabilizers.
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Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: October 2013