What are Conduct Disorder Symptoms?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2019
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There are several different conduct disorder (CD) symptoms. Typically considered a childhood mental health issue, this disorder can present with symptoms of aggression, inability to follow rules, lying, and destruction of property. Depression and continuing conflict with authority figures are also considered symptoms of this condition. Conduct disorder symptoms can become apparent as early as two years of age or as late as the teen years.

The most common of the many conduct disorder symptoms is extreme aggression towards oneself or others. This can manifest as physical altercations with peers, bullying, or theft by assault. In mid-childhood to the teenage years, aggression can also present as sexual assault, cruelty to animals, and deliberate self harm.

Often considered the root of this disorder, the inability or unwillingness to follow social rules or rules set by those in authority is another CD symptom. In younger children, this can mean a child repeatedly does the exact opposite of what he or she is told. While this is common in many children, those not suffering from conduct disorder will at least listen and follow rules occasionally. Not listening and/or disobeying rules becomes symptomatic when adults are seemingly incapable of controlling a child in any situation.


Excessive lying and chronic deceitfulness are also considered conduct disorder symptoms. This is most commonly identified when a child lies, despite knowing full well the other person knows the truth, and does so on a continuous basis. The lies can be used as a means to protect the child from the repercussions of his or her actions and to upset the other party. This CD symptom can also include theft where no assault is present.

Destruction of property is possibly one of the most apparent of the conduct disorder symptoms. Along with destroying the personal property of others, this can include arson and vandalism of homes or buildings. As the child ages, this symptom typically becomes more severe.

Conduct disorder symptoms often create tension and separation between the child and his or her teachers, parents, and peers. As the child reaches puberty, this lack of social support often results in depression which often causes the young adult to act out even more. This lack of connection between the child and peers may lead to moderate to severe depression in addition to CD.

Early onset of conduct disorder symptoms is one of the primary risk factors for antisocial personality disorder, which is typically only diagnosed in adults. Early conduct disorder symptoms typically include abnormal impulsiveness and irritability, with more pronounced symptoms presenting as the child ages. Later manifestation of these symptoms is seldom tied to antisocial personality disorder and is often the result of past trauma.



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