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Teen Rebellion Or Conduct Disorder? Understanding How to Deal With Out of Control Behavior

Likely everybody has heard about or knows a teenager or young adult who has experienced trouble with the law or who has been expelled from school or perhaps even threatened someone at school, sometimes with a weapon. People know these teens have problems, but they may not know these behaviors can be symptoms of a very real psychiatric illness affecting approximately 9 percent of all boys and 2 percent of all girls under the age of 18 in the United States.

Rebellion- is open opposition to authority or tradition. Usually the word rebellion implies disobedience when there should be obedience. The ancient French word for rebel is ‘rebelle,’ which means “to wage war again.” ~ Webster’s Dictionary

These symptoms describe what is commonly called a “conduct disorder,” or “Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” which is a behavioral problem characterized by uncontrolled anger, rebellion, resistance to discipline and a pattern of violating the rights of others and the laws set by society. Conduct disorders like ODD are becoming more common these days for both girls and guys, so gaining insight into these types of disruptive behaviors might be lifesaving to a teen in your life.

This is because these behaviors when left untreated don’t get better by themselves, in fact they get a lot worse, even life threatening in some cases. The more you understand about what is driving these behaviors, the more you can react in a proactive way to help a young person move from self destructive behavior to spending their energy on more productive activities, leading to becoming self-disciplined and more responsible.

Psychologists and psychiatrists generally separate disruptive disorders into two main categories: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders. The term “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” or ODD for short, is used to describe a young person whose symptoms include uncontrolled anger, resistance to discipline, and open defiance; the teen with a conduct disorder displays these symptoms as well, but also behaves in a way that often violates the rights of others.

If an adolescent has exhibited the following behaviors, particularly illegal activities, an evaluation with a licensed psychological professional may be the first step in bringing hope and healing to the life of a young person spiraling out of control in your home. If you are ready to take steps to turn life at your house from a war zone back into a peaceful home environment then honestly evaluate the following warning signs and symptoms.

How to Recognize Dangerous or Aggressive Teen Disorders

– Loses temper frequently or shows fits of rage

– Manipulates others for their own selfish pleasure

– Consistently breaks rules and ignores consequences

– Stays out late or has large blocks of unaccounted time

– Gets into frequent verbal or physical fights

– Skips class, gets in trouble with teachers, or has been suspended or expelled

– Lies, cheats or steals with no respect for authority

– Has broken into a home, damaged or vandalized property

– Ignores authority figures or posted rules and regulations

– Has threatened another person with a weapon

– Has injured or killed an animal

– Sets fires or shows an unusual preoccupation with setting fires

– Uses cutting as a coping skill to manage hurt, pain or loss

– Abuses drugs, alcohol or tobacco

– Participates in aggressive, self-destructive or indiscriminate sexual activity

– Has discussed or attempted suicide

Dangerous Downward Spiral

Adolescents with this problem may never seem to fit into society. They have increasing difficulty at school and with making friends. Their frustrations and sense of isolation are often expressed as anger, first directed at parents and family, and then at peers, teachers or whoever gets in their way. They may turn to drugs for a “high” or as an escape, but substance abuse only leads to more trouble – at home, at school, and in the community. They are literally spiraling out of control toward complete self-destruction.

Unraveling the causes…and more importantly- discovering solutions

An analysis of a teenager with a disruptive disorder of rage or rebellion begins with a complete evaluation performed by a professional therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist. As part of identifying a diagnosis, a qualified professional will determine if any underlying conditions may have contributed to the teen’s abnormal behaviors. These include being bullied by peers, or psychiatric conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or in extreme cases there can even be traits of medical conditions such as epilepsy, Tourette’s Syndrome, mental retardation, schizophrenia or other brain damage from head trauma.

Environmental factors can also contribute to the development of a conduct disorder. A traumatic event such as a death, illness, divorce or abuse, or ongoing stress such as family conflict, physical or sexual abuse or a parent with a substance abuse problem, can also make a teenager more susceptible to behavioral problems. In the last few years we’ve tracked a pattern showing those who have been bullied by others can develop over-aggressive behavior as a negative coping response, which leads to other problems as well.

Rules without Relationships creates Resentment and Rebellion. ~ Josh McDowell

Individual, family or group counseling can help stabilize this out-of-control behavior and help the teen better understand and take responsibility for their behavior, learn new coping skills to manage anger, or gain insights into how their aggressive behavior hurts other people in their life to use as a catalyst for positive change. ODD or conduct disorders do not have to destroy your child’s young adult years, but if left untreated it will steal a lot of the joy and fulfillment from their life, and from yours as a parent watching someone you love drown in their own out of control choices.

Tracking the Characteristics of Teen Rebellion

___Aggressive ___Complaining ___Unbelieving ___Greedy

___Resistant ___Defensive ___Distrustful ___Independent

___Unbelieving ___Defiant ___Hostility or resentment of authority

Once you have identified the warning signs and symptoms of rebellious behavior, you then are empowered to take positive action to change.

No matter how bad things seem right now between you and your teenager, there is hope. I believe God never designed parents to go it alone in trying to raise their kids to be strong healthy young adults. If you or someone you love is battling with rebellion or a more serious conduct disorder, know that you have options to help your child move from self-destruction to self-discipline, however it’s important to educate yourself with the best tools and techniques necessary to achieve a greater results and experience a better quality of life. If you get stuck helping your son or daughter past a relationship roadblock, remember that there are tremendous counseling resources to help you at parenting websites like, About.com, Family.org, NewLife.com, or eCounseling.com

Rebellious kids can become strong leaders, for good or otherwise. Strategically knowing what to do will help the young person in your life to get past the stress to spend their energy on building a life of early success, which is what we always believe to be the best for both you and your child.