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How Are Behavioral & Conduct Disorders Diagnosed?

Behavioral and conduct disorders are mental illnesses and belong to the categories of psychological disorders. It consists of disorders like oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, etc. These are even being pretty common difficult to diagnose because it is very important to fill the criteria of diagnosis as described in DSM 5 classification of psychiatric disorders.

How Are Behavioral & Conduct Disorders Diagnosed?

The behavior disorder is defined as the repetitive and recurrent bouts of anger, disagreement, rude behavior, easy irritability, argumentativeness, vindictive attitude, defiant behavior of the patient for a certain period.(1) The first and most important criteria are of the period that the symptoms must be present for at least 6 months or more. To complete the diagnosis of the oppositional defiant disorder at least 4 symptoms out of the following must remain there for 6 months. The symptoms are as following:

Short-tempered, often angry, easily annoyed, are the ones included in the mood of the patient. In behavior there are symptoms of argumentative attitude with the elders, refuses to comply with the rules, deliberately tries to start a fight, tries to blame for own actions on others, etc. Vindictive behavior in the last 6 months for at least twice.(2)

The diagnosis and its criteria also vary with age. If the patient is below the age of 5 years then these symptoms are expected to occur nearly every day whereas if the age of the patient is above 5 years then these symptoms must be present at least once a week or more.

The diagnosis of the conduct disorder is different because the disorder is quite different from oppositional defiant disorder. In conduct disorder, there are violations of the rights of other people and there is compulsion felt to break the rules. These are usually classified as the anti-socials and is considered as one of the precursors of anti-social personality disorder. It consists of activities like lying, stealing, physical violence, sexual abuse, running away from home, beating parents and other people, etc.(3)

The diagnostic criteria manifest as the presence of at least 3 of the following criteria in the past 12 months from any of the categories below and also with at least single criteria present for the past 6 months. The criteria are as follows:

Aggression on humans and animals, tries to bully/ threaten people, often initiates fights, has used a dangerous weapon to harm others, has robbed or stolen from the victim, tries to sexually harass by trying to put the possession, has been part of robberies, etc. There is serious compromise of the rules and laws like remaining outside at nights without telling parents below the age of 13 years, has run from home twice for short periods or once for long period, tried to damage the property of others by setting the fire, bunks school before the age of 13 years, etc. Added criteria are if the patient is below the age of 10 years than it qualifies for childhood-onset conduct disorder otherwise it is adolescent-onset conduct disorder.(4)


There are significant effects of such behavioral disorders on the daily lifestyle, academics, sports, social interactions, etc. of the patient. There is more of emotional coldness in both the type of disorders due to abnormal behavioral patterns of the patient. These are very dangerous types of disorders because of their association with other psychiatric illnesses and are very difficult to treat once developed fully. It may lead to a lot of danger and damage to others as well as to the patient itself. The oppositional defiant disorder is commoner and less dangerous than the conduct disorder which is responsible for a variety of crimes occurring in the society.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 11, 2020

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