What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Fig 1: What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (in a snapshot)

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Every child, at some stage, goes through a phase of challenging and difficult times. If your child or teenager has a persistent pattern of disruptive behavior such as; tantrums, arguing and disrespect for authority, they may be caused by oppositional defiant disorder, otherwise known as ODD.

ODD Progression in Children
Fig 2: ODD Progression in Children

Every child goes through a period of time when they want to be “the boss”, however, this is usually outgrown with age. Signs and symptoms of ODD generally begin around age eight, and almost definitely prior to the early teens.  The symptoms of ODD have significant overlap with other behavioral or mental health disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety, depression and Asperger’s. This imposes significant challenges in accurate and timely diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder treatment involves iterative therapies towards building positive family interactions. Medications may be prescribed by your physician for a short period of time, in certain extreme cases. It is imperative that you parents watch out for the signs of oppositional defiant disorder as opposed to just undermining those as transient mood swings.

Signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Typically, the symptoms of ODD should last for more than 6 months for you to get genuinely concerned. The symptoms are persistent and very disruptive at home and at school.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Symptoms
Fig 3: Oppositional Defiant Disorder Symptoms

Here are some of the common symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder:

  • Defiance at home, school and with friends
  • Negativity in dealing with everything
  • Disobedience with no fear of consequences
  • Hostility with authority figures, teachers, parents
  • Very noticeable temper tantrums even in the teen years
  • Argumentative
  • Refusal to follow rules
  • Academic issues
  • Spiteful and vindictive
  • Aggressive with friends
  • Low self-esteem

In most cases, your child will truly believe that you, teachers and authority figures are in the wrong in placing unreasonable demands on them. They will not see their own defiant behavior!

Note: It is extremely important to see a doctor if you suspect your child has ODD. There may be co-existing illnesses that can worsen defiance if left untreated. Also, teens with ODD tend to abuse alcohol and drugs.   Therefore, if you are at all concerned with a change in your child’s demeanor or behavior seek out a professional evaluation.  Your family physician will be able to refer you to the appropriate physicians and therapists.

Causes of ODD

As with any of the neuro-behavioral disorders, early diagnosis is imperative.

Behavioral Causes of ODD
Fig 4: Behavioral Causes of ODD
What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder Spectrum
Fig 5: What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder Spectrum

Early intervention and treatment can reinforce a positive relationship with your child.  Since there is no known cause of oppositional defiant disorder some contributing causes may be a combination of the following:

  • Inherited, genetic: ODD may have a genetic predisposition, as with any other disorder on the autism spectrum. Typically has been observed as a common trait among children of parents with ADHD.
  • Environmental – prolonged existence of anger, stemming out of sadness, insecurity and anxiety.
  • Lack of proper supervision and the developmental delays in processing feelings
  • Extremely harsh discipline, abuse or neglect.
  • An imbalance of serotonin or other brain chemicals
  • Lack of parental involvement in the child’s life or with parents in a violent relationship/s

It has been established that instability, neglect, abuse, violent relationships often accompany ODD. In the absence of any known cause of ODD, one must consider the current environment and early childhood while diagnosing Oppositional Defiant Disorder in a child. Children often become more and more aggressive both at home and in school.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Disrespect
Fig 6: How a child with ODD feels about parents

In most cases, children have little or no respect for authority figures (such as parents, teachers, etc), primarily because they always perceive the authority figures to be on the wrong side of the fence.

If left undiagnosed and treated more severe problems can occur such as juvenile delinquency and substance abuse.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder Diagnosis Method

To obtain an accurate diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lays out specific criteria. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by medical insurance companies for reimbursement for treatments and therapy.

The DSM Method for ODD Diagnosis

In order to be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder there must be a confirmation of at least 4 of the following behavior patterns over the last 6 months of you child’s life:

  • Aggressive and loses temper frequently
  • Continuously argues with adults
  • Blames others for their misbehavior
  • Annoys people deliberately
  • Occurs singly, not in conjunction with any other mental health disorder
  • Spiteful and vindictive
  • Angry and resentful
  • Touchy, emotional often cannot sustain friendships and is annoyed
  • Childs behavior causes problems at school and or home

It is quite common to have a dual diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. With a dual diagnosis, your child may be given medications for the ADHD which can significantly reduce their symptoms. Medications are not usually prescribed for ODD unless it co-exist with another disorder in autism spectrum.

Click on the hyperlink for a detailed report on Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment strategies and a real life ODD case Study.[/fusion_tagline_box]

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Statistics

Out of the 200 ODD cases that we studied here at Deal With Autism, The following are some of the statistics around Oppositional Defiant Disorder:

Key Takeaways from the ODD Statistics

Based on the distribution obtained from our extensive case study, the following key conclusions could be drawn:

  • After ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder is the second most prevalent neuro-behavioral disorder
  • Boys are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with ODD than girls
  • Almost two-thirds of children are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder between the age of 5 to 10 years

2 thoughts on “What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder”

  1. My son has been diagnosed with C-PTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) and over the last few years he has been showing signs of PDA (pathological demand avoidance), but as i have been researching into the help that he is needing, he is more hitting the symptoms of ODD well not hitting them, this behaviour is describing my son, the school he is at will not put me on any help till he is over his therapies regarding the trauma. Is there any advise i can get untill this process is over?

  2. Hi my question is, I was born with many health problems i.e. Meningitis, hydrocephalus and a brain abscess. I’ve struggled a lot in life and didn’t get the right of support I needed. My parents didn’t seek any help or claim anything for me.
    I have only recently been diagnosed with autism/ADHD and SPD, I have learning difficulties, dyspraxia and I’m blind in one eye, growing up my behaviour was very violent at home and I always to this day constantly argue with family yet this wasn’t the case at school. At school I was a very shy quiet student, could I have ODD


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