What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

March 21, 2016

It is not unusual for children (especially those navigating the tantrums of the terrible twos) or teens (navigating the hormonally charged adolescent years) to defy authority every now and then. Dare I say that they can be uncooperative, argumentative and down right hostile.  However, when this behavior lasts for more than six months and is excessive compared to what is usual for the child’s age, it may mean that the child has a type of behavior disorder called oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms, causes and treatment for ODD.

What is ODD?

ODD is a condition in which a child displays an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, hostile, and annoying behavior toward people in authority. The child’s behavior often disrupts the child’s normal daily activities, including activities within the family, with friends and at school.

What are common symptoms of ODD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -5 explains the pattern of behaviors for children experiencing ODD include both emotional and behavioral symptoms. The symptoms are usually a pattern of behavior that continue for over 6 months, show at least 4 of these symptoms and occur with at least one person other than a sibling. The behavioral and emotional symptoms include:

  • Angry and irritable mood where the child often loses temper
  • Often and easily annoyed by others
  • Often argues with adults or people in authority
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • Often deliberately annoys people
  • Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Often spiteful or vindictive
  • Has shown spiteful or vindictive behavior at least twice in the past six months

What causes ODD?

While the cause is not completely clear to the medical community, there are contributing factors that seem to cause a leaning toward ODD.  These include both genetics and environmental factors. For example a child’s natural temperament and neurobiological differences could impact this diagnoses. In addition, environmental factors such as abuse, neglect and discipline could also play a role in ODD.

What treatments are available for ODD?

While an evaluation and medical diagnosis will help choose what path is the right one for your child with ODD, there are many common treatments that a family could choose.  These include:

  • Parental Training
  • Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT)
  • Individual and family therapy
  • Cognitive problem-solving training
  • Social skills training
  • Medication such as those used for other mental illnesses, like depression and ADHD, (There is no medication currently that is scientifically established or formally approved to treat ODD)