Signs of conduct disorder and ADHD in children and teens mirror general signs of behavioral issues affecting at-risk youth. Unfortunately, so-called “bad behavior” in teens is often mistakenly attributed to adolescents simply “testing” their boundaries with parents and teachers. Instead of receiving the kind of professional, empathetic treatment they need, parents may be told by counselors and even law enforcement that the best thing they could do is send their troubled teen to boot camp.
In fact, sending an at-risk youth to a boot camp is the worst thing parents could do to a teenager suffering from ADHD or conduct disorder. Both are serious psychological problems that commonly co-exist and require specific treatment programs to adequately address them. Only a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center can offer evidence-based counseling and skills enhancement to help at-risk youth. Boot camps will only worsen symptoms of ADHD and conduct disorder in teens due to their militaristic, brutish method of “disciplining” troubled youth.
Understanding Conduct Disorder in Adolescents
Teens diagnosed with conduct disorder (CD) engage in a pattern of aggressively defiant behaviors that do not respond normally to consequences. For example, a parent’s four-year-old regularly pulls his two-year-old sister’s hair for no reason until she cries out from pain. He remains unemotional to her obvious distress and does not seem to care about “getting in trouble”. In kindergarten, the boy does not listen to his teacher, is involved in numerous playground scuffles and develops a reputation among his classmates as a bully.
Other signs of conduct disorder include:
- Being cruel to animals
- Anxiety, depression and/or panic disorder
- Using a weapon to inflict harm on others. The weapon could be as small as a sharp pencil or as large and dangerous as a baseball bat
- Destroying another person’s property
- Stealing, shoplifting, breaking into neighbors’ homes
- Truancy/refusing to go to school
Teenagers with CD often turn to substance abuse or self medication with OTC drugs to deal with the powerfully negative emotions they struggle with to process and understand. Using drugs and alcohol only exacerbates their CD and typically accelerates their encounters with law enforcement.
When signs of conduct disorder occur in children under 10 years old, psychologists refer to this type of CD as childhood onset type. Children with childhood onset type conduct disorder generally have more symptoms of ADHD, severe academic issues and an increased risk for behaving aggressively and/or violently.
Alternately, adolescent-onset type conduct disorder affects only middle and high school kids. Research indicates that teens with adolescent-onset type CD present less impairment and more irregular aggressive behavior than childhood-onset type CD. Additionally, teens with COTCD are much more likely to resolve and remit anti-social behaviors upon entering their 20s. This leads to a pervasive belief among psychologists that many teens who are diagnosed with CD do not have conduct disorder but are merely presenting typical but exaggerated adolescent behavior–rebelling against parents/authority figures, exploring self-identity, rejecting conventional norms, etc.
ADHD and Conduct Disorder: Treating Both Disorders at a Therapeutic Boarding School
An at risk teen diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have symptoms overlapping symptoms of conduct disorder. In addition to lacking social skills, empathy and an awareness of the importance of conventional norms, teens with ADHD and CD will also have minimal attention spans, severe social anxiety, low self-esteem and possible neurodevelopmental problems resulting in poor academic performance.
Therapeutic boarding schools are equipped with licensed counselors, teachers, and psychologists who understand and can adeptly address troubled youth with a variety of evidence-based, psychotherapeutic techniques in a structured, non-distracting setting. Boot camps DO NOT provide an at-risk teen with the attention, patience and special academic programs they need to help them resolve negative attitudinal and thought patterns. A therapeutic boarding school employs experienced education professionals who provide a nurturing, supportive atmosphere in which an at risk teen can learn how to cope with and re-direct impulsive behavior while improving their academic skills. Teens will also work on developing better social skills, why complying with certain rules is vital to their well-being and enjoy the emotional rewards of respecting others.
Features of an excellent therapeutic boarding school include:
- Individualized academic plans that address a teen’s own learning style
- Helps teens understand how to communicate more effectively by learning how to self-regulate impulsive behaviors
- Includes outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, fishing and camping
- Management and dispensation of medication is supervised by a certified psychiatrist and/or medical physician
If your teen has symptoms of ADHD and conduct disorder, we can help you find the right place for your teen to get the help he or she needs. Please contact us today to speak to an understanding staff member who will take the times to discuss your child’s history, current treatment (if any), and what you expect to achieve by seeking our assistance.