Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) Symptoms &Treatment

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Overview

As its name indicates, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (also referred to as Oppositional Defiance Disorder or ODD) is a disorder characterized by anger, defiance, and negativity. Adolescents and teenagers who have Oppositional Defiant Disorder are prone to be destructive, belligerent, and physically violent.

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder may begin to manifest in children as young as 7, and commonly surfaces by age 13; however, reaching the ages of 14 does not mean that a young person is now immune from developing Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Though Oppositional Defiant Disorder is more commonly diagnosed in boys, girls can develop this disorder.

It is important to understand that Oppositional Defiant Disorder is not a “phase” or a temporary period of adolescent moodiness. Young people who have Oppositional Defiant Disorder are unlikely to grow out of the disorder.

Left untreated, adolescents and teens who struggle with Oppositional Defiant Disorder may develop additional conduct disorders, may be at increased risk for developing antisocial personality disorder, and are also at risk for depression, substance abuse, and a host of additional unhealthy behaviors.

Causes of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

As is the case with depression, learning disabilities, and many other emotional and behavioral problems that affect adolescents and teenagers, Oppositional Defiant Disorder does not lend itself to quick diagnosis and one clear cause.

Mental health professionals and other experts attribute the development of Oppositional Defiant Disorder to a host of possible causes, including factors in the genetic, psychological, and social realms.

When considering if a child may have Oppositional Defiant Disorder, it is important to also assess the child for disorders such as depression, panic/anxiety disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, and similar conditions. Students who have been struggling with these issues without the benefit of diagnosis or treatment may be much more likely to behave in a manner that resembles Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Students with Oppositional Defiant Disorder will exhibit many (or even all) of the following:

  • Hostility toward peers, teachers, parents, and other family members
  • Persistent negative or pessimistic attitude
  • Refusal to obey orders or follow directions
  • Aggression toward others (both verbal and physical aggression)
  • Anger that can quickly boil over into rage
  • Propensity to be easily frustrated and to quickly blame others for personal failures
  • Loss of most or all friendships
  • Continuous problems in school and, eventually, with law enforcement officers

To meet the criteria for being categorized as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, adolescents and teenagers who exhibit these symptoms must do so for a period of at least six months — and the severity of these behaviors must be greater than “normal” adolescent angst or teen anger.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment

Determining the optimal treatment for a child with ODD is dependent upon a number of factors, including the age of the student, the nature and severity of the Opposition Defiant Disorder, and the presence of other disorders and disabilities that may have contributed to or been exacerbated by the Opposition Defiant Disorder.

In some cases, the best treatment may involve some or all of the following: behavior modification, individual therapy, family therapy, social skills education. In cases of younger children who have been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, the treatment focuses more on equipping the parents with the skills and strategies for managing and modifying the inappropriate behavior. Among adolescents and teens, treatment will most likely focus on both the child and the family.

Depending upon the nature of the Opposition Defiant Disorder and the presence of any co-occurring disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder treatment may also involve medication. While no single medication has yet been developed to directly treat ODD, certain medications have proved successful in certain cases (especially when the effects of a co-occurring disorder such as ADHD or mood/panic disorder can be lessened via medication).