Did my child have a conduct disorder or Oppositional defiant disorder?


New Member
Hi everybody, as the title says did my son have a conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder?
He screamed his lungs out at us, called us every name in the book, has broke everything in the house, laid hands on me, threatened to kill everybody in the family (all of this stuff multiple times), hid knives in his room, pulled knives out on me, swung a baseball bat at my head and argued like crazy, laid hands all of his friends, followed my wife to neighbors house to yell at her etc..( I don't want to give anymore details because it makes me sad). He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but it has been over 3 years and he hasn't had a single episode like he has before. He was put on medication but medication DOES NOT CURE bipolar disorder, it only helps it. Shouldn't we see the same behavior he displayed as a child ? Why would it be non existent? He says he doesn't feel manic or depressed and never has. These behaviors are pretty much solely at home except for hitting his friends and getting in minor trouble with the law ( he races cars, and petty crimes such as shoplifting and drug use, trespassing, DUIs and for hitting and threatening us). He told his psychiatrist hes not manic or depressed but he wouldn't listen and diagnosed him anyways. Hes always had a temper, but it was within normal bounds. The behavior mentioned above started at 13. He use to bully a little bit in school and got expelled in junior high, both years for bad behavior. By far the most frequent behavior was arguing, yelling and name calling- easily by far.


Well-Known Member
I am sorry you had to find us. Please read what you wrote. You detail aggressive behavior both at home and in settings outside of the home. I totally get the desire to minimize the intensity of what our children do. He is doing better because he is on medication. Is he in counseling are you in counseling? Are there other children in the home?


Well-Known Member
Holden when I researched this topic many years ago I found that oppositional defiant disorder is the label used for young people before their conduct reaches criminal stages. Once they cross the line into criminal activity it is then considered conduct disorder. How old is he now?


one day at a time
Hi Holden, welcome to the forum. I am sorry for all you have endured. I don't know the answer to your question. I used to spend a lot of time (and many sleepless nights) trying to figure out a diagnosis for my son. In the end I decided it didn't much matter in his case. He wouldn't take medication for depression or anxiety and wouldn't go to therapy and just kept on doing what he did...until he himself decided to stop. That was 15 months ago. I am very glad your son is taking medication and I hope compliance with his doctor's treatment plan can help him and help you have a better life in dealing with him. Please keep posting. We are here for you.


Well-Known Member
You said that things started happening at about age 13. Early teens is a fairly common time for mental illness to start to show up. It's also a time when illegal drug use can come into the picture. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Not that it was drug use in your son's case - but in my experience it is most often one of those two, or both.

It isn't uncommon for people with mental illness to have problems with self-reflection. They don't really know what they are feeling, or have become numb to it. So, they can't really tell the doctors what is going on. Not all people with bipolar exhibit true mania. Sometimes it's hypomania, which is harder to recognize. There are two forms of bipolar. One is the classic symptoms. The other is rapid-cycling, often multiple times per day, and the person can be very agitated, irritable, and mentally worn out from dealing with the constant swings, even if they don't recognize them as such.

If he is medication-compliant, and the behavior has gone away as a result, there is a good chance that the diagnosis is correct.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
Welcome Holden. I'm so sorry for what you have had to endure.
I wish there was a simple answer to give you. My son too was a problem from a young age and much of what you have described is what my husband and I experienced with our son. My son was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder coupled with ADHD. Looking back I truly believe they did not really know what was wrong and that was such common diagnosis. He was put on medications for the ADHD but they did no good. Again, looking back I'm sure the medications did not work because my son was abusing alcohol and pot that I know of, there very well could have been other drugs as well. A true diagnosis cannot be made if our Difficult Child is high. Over the years I have watched my son's behavior and he very well may be bi-polar but again, when there are drugs and alcohol in the mix there is no way to know for sure. My son also has expressed that he doesn't have any issues with anger or aggression, it's everyone else. Something he has said many times "if people weren't so stupid I would get so mad"
My son is now 33 and is a homeless drifter who is off the charts smart and a very talented artist and from his occasional posts on FB I know he's still abusing drugs and alcohol.
While having a "diagnosis" can put a name to it there is so much more. The person needs to be willing to take their medications and participate in therapy and that is not something we can force them to do. Even if they are willing you have to find the right therapist/psychiatrist to work with them.
There are many people who are bi-polar and function very well but it takes work on their part.
I'm glad you are here and I hope you will share more. We are a group of imperfect warrior parents doing the best we can, we are here to support each other.


New Member
Thanks so much for that post Scent of Cedar, very helpful made me realize our psychiatrist never tested him for health problems. Does anyone know if Bipolar can go away for three years and come back?


Well-Known Member
Medication doesn't cure bipolar but the "right" medication can control it well enough that no symptoms would be displayed. For some people, the "right" medication is really hard to find, others seem to do well on whatever front-line medication is used. And sometimes, medication can lose its effectiveness after a period of time, and so symptoms can return even if medication hasn't been stopped or changed.


Well-Known Member
Holden, bipolar can come and go on its own, and medication can keep it semi-level. It takes the edge off, but the rest is hard work. And there is no "cure." You're hard-wired for it.
How is your son now?


Well-Known Member
Um, Holden, I'm confused by your assumption that we agree that it's a medication problem.

When did he start acting unpredictably? Birth? School age? HS? 20?

When did you start medications on him?


Well-Known Member
Actually, if bipolar, not taking medications will make the person worse as each mania/depressive cycle is imprinted on the brain as sort of a blueprint for later. Each cycle harms the brain. Or so my psychiatrists have explained, at least the ones who said I had bipolar. That was early in my career as a psychiatric patient and later diagnosis. have discarded bipolar altogether since I've never had a truly high high manic episode and I'm the "iffy" diagnosis. of mood disorder not otherwise specified, anxiety disorder (I believe this) and panic disorder (i know this is also true). But back to bipolar, if somebody really has it.

A mood stabilizer is needed. The problem is twofold. There ARE side effects in some people which cause them to go off their medications and continue the spiral downward. Also, bipolar is hard to diagnose and easy to misdiagnose. All disorders are because t here are no blood tests. I've been diagnosed bipolar and unipolar and mood disorder not otherwise specified. I definitely have depression and can't function without medications. So there is no mistake in my case and no blood test is needed for depression. But mania in my case is really a matter of opinion and I've had many opinions, especially early on.

Often times just moodiness and defiance is seen as bipolar and it could be a lot of things. Bipolar I with obvious psychotic mania and deep, deep non-functional depression is easy to see. The in between mood disorders are harder. Bipolar is an easy diagnosis for a psychiatrist to make if somebody is moody, but often it is incorrect. I don't do well on mood stabilizers. I hate them. And my two hypo-mania episodes felt great, but they were not severe enough or life changing enough to warrant the deadening emotion of a mood stabilizer. My anti-depressant is just fine and doesn't give me side effects.j

The dangerous part of medication is that psychiatrists can not be sure WHAT they are treating. They can only g uess. Any honest psychiatrist will tell you that. I've had them do so to me. So if they give somebody bipolar medication and they aren't really bipolar, it won't help and could make them worse. Of course, anyone can have bad side effects to any medication, regardless of whether they are given the r ight diagnosis and correct medication or not. It's a game.

In my peer-to-peer class for those who have dealt well with mental illness and are training to help others, we have talked about how we have all felt like guinea pigs at one time because of the unpredictability of psychiatry. It is NOT NOT NOT an exact science. There are theories. And that's why diagnoses change often in the DSM.

To me, as a patient who had suffered depression all of my life, badly until I finally found good medication, I feel the best you can do for anybody who seems to be suffering is to alleviate the symptoms and teach coping skills for deficits in dealing with life. Somebody's diagnosis can vary in the same person from doctor to doctor. You can get ten opinions on the same person by ten different doctors unless there are ironclad symptoms...psychosis or chronic depression. Moodiness, combativeness and other iffy symptoms are very hard to diagnose.
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