Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Also known as: oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD).

What are disruptive behavior disorders?

Disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) are common behavioral and mental health disorders easily identified in children because they involve behaviors that are readily seen.

DBD includes two types:

  • oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • conduct disorder (CD)
They are often first noticed when they begin to interfere with school activities or family and friend relationships. DBD can resemble the clinical presentation of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD) as hyperactivity and impulsivity are features of all three (33% of ADD children have coexisting ODD and 2% have CD). They are however separate disorders though it has been suggested that ODD may lead to CD.

What causes disruptive behavior disorders?

The precise cause of disruptive behavior disorders is unclear. Risk factors include a family member with ADHD/ODD, depression or an anxiety disorder and environmental factors like stress in the home (from divorce, separation, abuse, parental criminality or series conflicts within the family). The disorders are also more likely to occur along with other conditions such as ADHD.

What are the symptoms of DBD?

Children with ODD lose their temper quickly, have temper tantrums, are physically aggressive particularly with other children, negative, argumentative, defiant, disobedient, steal and behave in other ways to show their hostility or resistance to authority figures. They tend to struggle in school and may have legal problems later in life. If symptoms worsen and become more extreme the child/adolescent is defined as having a Conduct disorder (CD).

Children/adolescents with CD are those that have a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior which violates the rights of others and where social rules are disregarded. They are seriously aggressive, destroy property, steal, run away from home, miss school, behave as a delinquent and have non-desired police contact.

What are care options for DBD in children and teens?

Therapy in the form of special behavior techniques (train the child to be aware of what causes his responses, and use coping techniques to prevent aggression) which be implemented at home or in school is important. Parent training, family therapy, school interventions and other therapy focused on helping the child change his or her behavior are of value. Medication may also play a role in helping children manage and improve their disruptive behavior.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 19, 2019 02:02 PM

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