Overview

All young children can be naughty, defiant and impulsive from time to time, which is perfectly normal. However, some children have extremely difficult and challenging behaviours that are outside the norm for their age.
The most common disruptive behaviour disorders include Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Conduct Disorder (CD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

These three behavioural disorders share some common symptoms, so diagnosis can be difficult and time consuming. A child or adolescent may have two disorders at the same time. Other exacerbating factors can include emotional problems, mood disorders, family difficulties and substance abuse.

ODD Symptoms

• Easily angered, annoyed or irritated
• Frequent temper tantrums
• Argues frequently with adults, particularly the most familiar adults in their lives, such as parents
• Refuses to obey rules
• Seems to deliberately try to annoy or aggravate others
• Low self-esteem
• Low frustration threshold
• Seeks to blame others for any misfortunes or misdeeds

CD Symptoms

• Frequent refusal to obey parents or other authority figures
• Repeated truancy
• Tendency to use drugs, including cigarettes and alcohol, at a very early age
• Lack of empathy for others
• Being aggressive to animals and other people or showing sadistic behaviours, including bullying and physical or sexual abuse
• Keenness to start physical fights
• Using weapons in physical fights
• Frequent lying
• Criminal behaviour such as stealing, deliberately lighting fires, breaking into houses and vandalism
• A tendency to run away from home
• Suicidal tendencies, although these are more rare

ADHD Symptoms

• Inattention – difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completing anything.
• Impulsivity – talking over the top of others, having a ‘short fuse’, being accident-prone.
• Overactivity – constant restlessness and fidgeting.