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Conduct Disorder


  • Conduct disorder is also called disruptive behavior disorder. This behavior (how your child acts) may be seen in children less than 18 years old. Your child may not follow rules and may have problems getting along with people. Some children with conduct disorder hurt animals, set fires, destroy things, steal, or lie. Children with conduct disorder often also have learning problems. Children that have conduct disorder often also have problems with anxiety and depression. Conduct disorder is more common in boys.
  • Your child's behavior could get worse if conduct disorder is not treated. Your child may be so out of control that he has trouble in school. He may hurt himself or others so he may need to be put in the hospital for a short time. Your child and family may need to go to special meetings. You will learn about conduct disorder at these meetings. You will learn ways to cope with this disorder.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.


Your child's behavior could get worse if his conduct disorder is not treated. Your child may act more out of control at home or school. Your child may hurt himself or others. This may cause you and your child to get angry and upset. Call your child's caregiver if you are worried or have questions about his behavior or care.


Care Settings:

  • Inpatient Unit: This is the place where your child will stay while in the hospital. It has bedrooms and a living area. Sometimes the doors of this unit are locked.
  • Partial Care Program: This is when your child comes to the unit every day during the day or evening. After he is treated each day, he goes home. He may need a partial care program just after being treated in the hospital. Or, caregivers may suggest this type of program to keep your child from needing to go into the hospital.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program: This is when your child comes to the hospital or clinic for 1 to 3 hours of treatment. This program is usually 2 to 5 times a week for a short period of time.
  • Outpatient Program: This is when your child meets with his therapist once a week or less. Appointments are one hour long or shorter. He could meet one-to-one with a therapist. Or, he might meet with his therapist in a group. He may have few or many scheduled appointments over time.


  • Psychiatrist (si-ki-uh-trist): This is a medical doctor who works in the area of mental health. The psychiatrist is in charge of ordering your child's medicine. You may work closely with this doctor and other caregivers.
  • Therapist: This is a caregiver that works closely with your child during treatment. This person may be a doctor, psychologist (si-kall-o-jist), nurse, mental health counselor, or social worker.


  • Anti-Anxiety Medicine: This medicine may be given to help your child feel less nervous. It may be given by IV, as a shot, or by mouth.
  • Anti-Depressants: This medicine is given to lessen or to prevent the symptoms of depression. Many children with conduct disorder also have depression so your child may need anti-depressant medicine. It is given by mouth.
  • Anti-Convulsant (kun-vull-sunt): This medicine is usually given to control seizures. But, it may also be used to lessen violent behavior, aggression, or irritability. This medicine may also help control your child's mood swings. It is given by IV, as a shot, or by mouth.
  • Anti-Psychotics (si-kaw-tiks): This medicine is usually given to lessen the symptoms of psychosis or severe (very bad) agitation. Anti-psychotics are given as a shot, by mouth, or as a suppository in the anus (rear-end).
  • Anti-Parkinson's: This medicine is used to control muscle stiffness, twitches, and restlessness caused by anti-psychotic medicine. It is usually given by mouth or less often as a shot.
  • Mood Stabilizer (sta-buh-li-zer): Your child may seem very happy one moment, then very angry the next. This medicine is given to control these mood swings. It is given by mouth.
  • Psychostimulant (si-ko-stim-u-lunt): This medicine is given to help your child pay attention and concentrate better. It can also help improve his energy. It is given by mouth.
  • Sedatives (seh-duh-tivs)-Hypnotics (hip-nah-tiks): This medicine may be given to help your child feel calmer. It is often used to help your child sleep better at night. It is may be given by mouth. It may also be given by IV, as a shot, or in the anus (rear end).

Patient Rights:

  • Release of Information Form: This is a legal paper that lets caregivers share information with those listed on this form. The child's parent or legal guardian has to sign this form before any information can be released to persons outside the hospital.
  • Right to Privacy: Information that you and your child share with caregivers is kept private among caregivers. They will not share information with others without your permission.


  • Clothes: Your child may wear his own clothes while he is in the hospital.
  • Meals: Your child will eat his meals on the unit or in the cafeteria with you.
  • Personal Belongings: Caregivers search your child's belongings when your child is admitted to the unit. Any belongings brought to your child during his stay are also searched. This search is done to keep your child and the staff safe.


  • 72-Hour Hold: This is when your child is put in the hospital by police or a caregiver for 72 hours without your permission (OK). This may only be done if others are concerned that your child may hurt himself or others. Or, caregivers or police may not think you can safely care for your child because he is so out of control.
  • Quiet Room: This is an empty room used for patients who need to have time out in a safe place. Your child may be put here if caregivers are worried that he may hurt himself or others.
  • Restraints: There are 2 types of restraints that may be used while your child is in the hospital. They will only be used if caregivers feel your child is in danger of hurting himself or others. Physical restraints may be put on your child's wrists or ankles and tied to something else. These are usually cloth or leather bands. Other things will be tried first before using physical restraints, such as going into a quiet room or seclusion. Caregivers may also use "chemical" restraints which is medicine used to help your child calm down and relax. Restraints should never be used to punish your child.
  • Seclusion (suh-klew-shun): This is when your child needs to be locked in a safe room because he is out of control. The door is locked because your child might want to leave the room. Caregivers closely watch your child while he is in seclusion. Your child may come out of seclusion when caregivers feel he will not hurt himself or others.
  • Sharps: Your child is not allowed to keep any sharp items with him. Sharp items may include scissors, nail files, razors, or glass. Ask a caregiver if your child needs to use one of these items.
  • Time Out: This is time spent away from other people. This is usually needed when your child is not able to control his behavior. Your child may be put in time out if his behavior is affecting others. Time out may be in your child's room or another room.

Types of Therapeutic Sessions:

  • Couples Therapy: When you and your significant other meet together with a caregiver to talk about how to cope with your child's conduct disorder. Your significant other may be your spouse (husband or wife), or a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Family Meetings: Caregivers meet with you, your child, and your family. Caregivers can help your family understand your child's illness and learn better ways to react to a child with separation anxiety.
  • Group Therapy: A series of meetings that your child goes to with other children who have separation anxiety. During these meetings, the children and staff talk together about ways to cope with the problem.
  • Individual Therapy: A time for your child to meet alone with his therapist. They will talk about how to cope with conduct disorder and how your child can feel better about himself.

Types of Therapy Approaches:

  • Assertiveness Training teaches your child to stand up for himself in a positive, non-violent way. It also teaches your child how to ask for what he needs, how to set limits, and how to say no.
  • Behavioral Modification (mah-dih-fih-k-shun) connects specific behaviors (ways of acting) with specific consequences (results). For example, if your child comes home past his curfew, you will take away telephone privileges for a previously agreed upon period of time. If your child follows the rules of his curfew, he can have a previously agreed upon reward, such a having a friend over or renting a movie.
  • Cognitive Therapy helps make your child aware of how he sees things. He may have trouble seeing the good in things around him. Then he is more likely to feel depressed, sad or angry. Cognitive therapy teaches him to recognize how he sees things and helps him see them in a more positive way.
  • Distraction is a way of focusing your child's attention on something other than angry feelings. He may play games, watch TV, or take a walk. He can also visit with friends, paint and write things down. Using planned activities helps to manage the angry feelings. It may also cause him to relax and help him start feeling better about himself and his life.
  • Insight Oriented Therapy teaches your child how to understand his feelings and behavior based on things that have happened with other people. For example, your child may avoid getting close to people if he does not get attention when he needs it. Or, your child may get angry quickly and throw things if someone close also acts that way.
  • Relaxation is another way to focus your child's attention on something other than his bad feelings. Good smells can help change your child's mood and help him relax. These good smells may also help your child's brain make special chemicals called endorphins (n-door-fins). Endorphins are a natural body chemical that can lessen angry feelings. Have your child try listening to music or try taking a warm bath with aromatherapy (uh-ro-muh-thair-uh-p) oils. Candles, massage oils, and scented bubble baths are all ways that smells can be used.

Learn more about Conduct Disorder (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.