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Disruptive Disorders – When to Seek Help

Disruptive Disorders – When to Seek Help


It is not unusual for children and young adults to argue, be uncooperative, and disobey rules. Many times, these behaviors are a result of being overwhelmed or stressed. While acting out in negative behaviors could be a sign of going through a period of testing your limits, there are extreme cases when young people find it difficult to control their emotions and actions, affecting not only their daily lives, as well as the lives of those near them.

When young people exhibit persistent anger, hostility, aggressiveness, cruelty, temper tantrums, and defiance towards authoritative figures such as parents and teachers, it may be a more serious issue called disruptive behavior disorders (DBD). Disruptive behavior disorders are termed as disruptive due to the tendency of those affected by it to cause disruption with people, activities and things around them. The disorders are characterized by ongoing patterns of uncooperativeness, defiance, and hostility toward people who are supposed to have authority over them. This behavior consequently leads to problems at home or school and affects relationships with family or friends.


Identifying the Most Common Forms of DBD


DBD is known mainly for its two most common forms, namely oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder.


  • ODD in children and adolescents is characterized by ongoing hostility, irritability, defiance, and disobedience directed at parents, teachers, and other authoritative figures. They often argue, rebel, defy rules, and keep grudges for long periods of time. All young people may sometimes behave this way, but someone with ODD demonstrates these symptoms regularly. The actions of a young person with ODD are worse than other children of the same age.

The symptoms of ODD are revealed in three main types: angry and irritable mood, argumentative and defiant behavior, and vindictiveness. These behaviors usually manifest earlier in a child’s life, initially at home. Over time, the disruptive behavior becomes evident in other settings such as school, playgrounds, the community and how they relate to authority figures. Young people with DBD are impaired in their daily functioning and are at a higher risk for depression or anxiety in the future.


  • Conduct disorder (CD) is characterized by ongoing and repetitive violent actions involving violating the basic rights of others, and severely breaking rules intended to enforce age-appropriate public norms. Children who develop CD while young may grow into adults with long-term behavior problems. For example, a child with CD who bullied and frequently fought with schoolmates may become an adolescent with a penchant for destroying other people’s property.


CD renders young people totally inconsiderate of other’s needs or feelings. The symptoms that cause problems in daily life at various settings are classified into four main types: aggression to people and animals, deliberate destruction of property, cheating or theft, and total disregard of the rules.


Risk Factors across Disruptive Behavior Disorders


There is no known single cause for DBD. It is hypothesized to be a play across a variety of factors that contribute to the development of DBD.


Genetic: Young people are more likely to develop DBD if they have family members with some form of emotional, or behavioral disorders, such as mood disorders, schizophrenia, personality disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or severe alcohol abuse.

Physical: Children with differences in parts of the brain that functions for judgment, mood, and impulse control are more susceptible to develop the symptoms of DBD. The occurrence of imbalances in the brain may impair the ability to communicate properly and regulate emotions. This dysfunction can lead to the development of DBD symptoms.

Environmental: Children who grew up in a chaotic environment, exposed to violence, experienced abuse or neglect by parents or guardians are at greater risk of developing the behavioral patterns that characterize DBD. Similarly, children who are raised lacking any form of appropriate discipline or structure may begin to act out or behave destructively because they can simply do so.


Signs and Symptoms of Disruptive Behavior Disorders

Understanding disruptive behavior disorder requires recognizing the signs and symptoms of the explosive behavior.  The easily seen manifestations vary on the type of behavior and the age of the affected child. The severity of the systems also depends on the child’s temperament, social skills and coping mechanisms.

Behavioral symptoms of DBD include the following: revenge-seeking behaviors, social isolation, aggressiveness and cruelty toward people and animals, defiance or refusal to comply with rules, willful destruction of property, bullying, playing with fire, stealing, lying, and blaming others.

The cognitive symptoms to look out for include difficulty concentrating, lack of problem-solving skills, memory impairment, and frequent frustration. The social symptoms are comprised of lack of empathy, chronic annoyance and irritability, spitefulness and vindictiveness, lack of remorse, persistent negativity, low self-esteem, and false sense of grandiosity.


Long-Term Effects of Untreated/Undiagnosed DBD

Without proper care and treatment, children and teens with a form of DBD can face long-term consequences, including the development of antisocial personality disorder. Young people who do not receive proper treatment interventions are at higher risk for the following:

  • Inability to develop and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships
  • Failure to achieve gainful employment
  • Criminal involvement/incarceration
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Social isolation

It is imperative to get early intervention and treatment for children and adolescents with symptoms of disruptive behavior disorder to prevent the behaviors from worsening and having the potential to lead to more severe consequences.

Children who do not receive treatment for their disruptive condition may ultimately become adults with dysfunction behaviors. Both types of DBD, when not treated can have long-term effects, which can intensify over time. The sooner treatment is sought, the better the outcome can be.


The Right Time to Seek Help

A child who acts out can affect the entire family, more so, if your child has disruptive behavior disorders. The condition can be upsetting, leaving you feeling frustrated and helpless as to how to help with your child’s behavior and emotions. Apart from this, you may also find it difficult to restore stability and order in your home.

There are no quick fixes for disruptive behavior disorders. It can, however, be modified, improved or restructured, but not completely removed overnight. Time, understanding, patience, and good treatment play a part in your child’s well-adjustment and happiness.  Turning to counseling is often the most beneficial choice for resolving disruptive behaviors.

One of the most difficult challenges is to gain a defiant child or teen’s cooperation to receive counseling. If the signs point to substance abuse or addiction, the more crucial it becomes to take action and seek help right away. Finding a qualified counselor to help with the process can get you started.

You are not alone in this difficult situation. Carolina Counseling Services – Cameron, NC, on Hwy 87, near Linden Oaks, independently contracts skilled and trained therapists. Specially trained professionals can offer appropriate child counseling services, including treatment for disruptive behavior disorders. The right fit counselor will work with you, your child and your family in helping bring them back to healthier, more constructive behavior.

The important thing is not to delay in taking action.  Entrust your child to the expertise available at CCS – Cameron, NC, on Hwy 87, near Linden Oaks. Call today to get the help your child needs. In doing so, you increase the odds of a positive outcome for your child.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Cameron, NC

Counties: Harnett County

Areas: Cameron NC, Linden Oaks NC, Sprout Springs NC, Anderson Creek NC, Olivia NC, Pineview NC, Johnsonville NC, Spring Lake NC

Zip Codes: 28326, 28327, 27332, 28394

Rose Thomas, MA, LPC, LCAS, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 5+) Children, Teens, Individuals, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD, Relationship Issues, Marriage Counseling, Parenting, PTSD/Trauma Recovery, Acute Stress Disorder, Adult Sexual Abuse Survivors, Adjustment Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Persistent Depressive Disorder, Bipolar and Related Disorders, Self-injurious/Self-Harm, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Separation Anxiety, Disruptive Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Marital Conflict and Discord, LGBT, Substance Use Disorders
 Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Tricare Prime, Tricare Select, Extra, Retired, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted (credit cards accepted)
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Specializes in: (Ages 4+) Children, Individuals, families, PTSD, Trauma, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Adjustment Disorder, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, communication skills, and Parenting Skills, Behavior Management, Life transitions, Family Conflict, Difficulty Coping, Relationship Problems, Depression, Anxiety

InsuranceBCBSTricare, Cash, HSA and FSA accepted and Apple Pay

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Shirlisa Daniels, MS, LPC, NCC

Specializes in: (Ages 4+) Children, Teens, Adults and Individuals, Families, Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Panic Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, ODD, PTSD, Relationship Issues, Conflict Resolution and Life Transitions
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Cash (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

Holly Ring, LMFT

Specializes in: (Ages 7+) Adolescents, College Students, Individuals, Couples, and Families, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma (child and adult, TFCBT certified), Relationship Issues, Coping Skills, Adjustment Disorders, Life Transitions, Suicidal Ideation, Self-esteem, OCD, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting Skills, LGBTQ
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Cash (credit cards accepted)
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

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