Parents can be the biggest allies or worst enemies when it comes to dealing with children and adolescent. Their denial of their child’s mental health issues can complicates things and can worsen the situation. There are so many therapies available which kids or anybody who is suffering from mental health conditions can be benefitted from. But I see most of the times parents ignore the seriousness of the situation and write it off as defiant behavior, active imagination or they just hope their child will grow out of things such as torturing animals and setting fires. Denial is one of the defense mechanism and can be extremely unhealthy in the long run.
Conduct problems have become very common among students and adolescents in our society. And the reason could be many, to name a few
- Nuclear Families
- Working parents
- Social Media
- Nanny culture
- Family history
But first it is important to understand what is Conduct Disorder?
Conduct Disorder is a mental condition. The behaviour goes beyond normal bullying to hurting people to Intensive disregard for societal norms and the rights, feeling, and personal space of other people. Children with conduct disorder are often difficult to diagnosed, as all kids act out sometimes. It is only when extreme behaviour shows up over a long period of time and isn’t caused by the child’s environment. And also if major age appropriate societal norms are violated or if their is a significant impairment in everyday functioning at home or school can be labeled as Conduct Disorder.
When we talk about normal behavior, it depends on the child’s age, character, and physical and emotional development. If their behaviour doesn’t match with family or societal expectations or is disruptive, it may become a problem. And that’s when intervention is needed.
Now lets move on to the symptoms of Conduct Disorder
- Aggressive Behaviour: such as cruelty to animals, fighting, extreme bullying or committing physical and sexual abuse etc.
- Destructive Behaviour: Destructions of property, breaking and throwing things, stealing etc.
- Deceitful Behaviour: such as shoplifting, lying, cheating etc.
- Violation of rules: such as running away from home, ignoring rights and feeling of other people, not caring about social norms etc.
Childhood onset conduct disorder can lead to problems like drug abuses, adult crime, marital disruption, alcoholism and many more.
But what factor causes all of these?
- Genetic predisposition : Having a parent or sibling with conduct disorder or having a biological parent who abuses alcohol or has depression, bipolar disorder or any other mental health conditions.
- Physiological influences
- Social Influences
- Family Influences
- Environment influences
- Individual characteristics
In fact combination of all these factors can lead to conduct disorder. In order to understand the conduct disorder exhibit by a child, it is important to find out the social and medical history of the child and the family. One thing that we need to remember is, it is our thoughts that creates feelings within us and these feelings creates behaviour and behaviour reinforces these thoughts. We all realize the influence of our childhood on the adult we become. Therefore, the foundation of a house and our childhood experiences are the foundation on which the rest of our lives are built. And if the foundation is not solid and has emotional cracks and wounds, these affect the structure of our adult lives. If a child has experienced awful instances like the way his/her parents always argued, that his/her brother was abusive, that school was hell etc. , all these will lead to bad memories which can haunt them throughout their life and shape their life accordingly.
Can we do anything about it?
Yes, we can. But prior to this, creating awareness with respect to conduct disorder is must, as there is very limited knowledge in this area. Recognizing at the right time and acting on it when they appear, can minimize the distress experiences by the child and the family.
Congnitive Emotional Interventions (CEI)
Now this is an extended version of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral therapy), which aims at helping individuals to evaluate the basis of their emotional distress, understand their trigger points and this exercise will train individual to enhance their cognitive control over their emotions. Most of the time people form certain beliefs and attitude based on their environment and if they have negative influence on them, it leads to emotional distress results in mental health conditions one of which is conduct disorder. So CEI process will help in reducing emotional distress by correcting errors in thoughts, perceptions and beliefs. As a result an individual will have better self control and become direct agent of their own changes rather than as helpless victim of external events and forces.
The major strategies that are adopted in CEI are
- Cognitive Restructuring: The technique involves first identifying a situation that leads to stress and the thoughts and feelings that arise in that situation. Then examine the thoughts by understanding what is true about them and what is not. Finally, develop an alternative and more balanced thought and determine how you will feel when you adopt this new way of thinking.
- Cognitive problem solving: In this first identify and define the problem, find alternate solutions, evaluate them and find the best one.
- Thought stopping strategies: List your most stressful thoughts, imagine the thought, Stop the thought, Practice steps 1 through 3 until the thought goes away on command, after your normal voice is able to stop the thought, try whispering “Stop.” Over time, you can just imagine hearing “Stop” inside your mind.
- Three column technique: In this technique, fold a paper width-wise into three columns. In the first column, write your negative thoughts, such as, I can’t do anything good in life. In the second column write cognitive errors like I hate my self, life is not fair etc. In the third column write those thoughts which are based on fact and not distortion, which would be, I have challenges so, I will keep working at it until things get better. Now underline those things that created anxiety or negative emotions. By doing this you make an individual realize that they are not doing anything good to themselves and not adding any value, so start ignoring these inner critics.
- Cognitive mapping: It is like a flow chart or popularly known as mind mapping. Describing the problem in detail can help us identify key thoughts and behaviors’ that otherwise might be overlooked. It will not only help you identify the origins of your difficulties but, more crucially, help you spot the patterns of thought, feeling and action that are keeping the problem going in the present.
All these techniques will help a child or an adult to replace their self-criticizing thoughts with self-compassionate ones and keeping track of their negative thoughts will lead to more adaptive coping behaviour.
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter