Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

If your child has a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, or vindictiveness toward you, he or she may have ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Well, here we will explain about ODD including its symptoms, causes and treatment.

Definition of ODD

ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) is a condition in which a child displays a persistent pattern of angry or irritable moods, challenging behavior, and retaliation against people in authority.

Angry Kid with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) Symptoms

Usually, the behaviors of children with ODD often interfere with normal daily activities, including activities within the family at home, or within friends at school. In fact, lots of children and teenagers with ODD have other behavioral problems, such as learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. Also, some children with ODD go on to develop more serious behavioral disorders called conduct disorder.

Read also: The Importance of Handling Toddlers with ODD

Causes of ODD

The exact cause of oppositional defiant disorder was unknown. The researchers believe that the cause of ODD is a complex combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors.

Risk Factors of ODD

Here are some of the factors that can trigger ODD:

1. Genetic Factors

Based on the research, genetics contribute about 50 percent of the development of ODD. Many children and teenagers with ODD have close family members with mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders. Also, many children and teenagers with ODD have other mental health conditions such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), anxiety, and depression that show a genetic link between these conditions.

2. Biological Factors

Some research shows that changes in certain areas of the brain can lead to behavioral disorders. Also, ODD is associated with problems with certain neurotransmitters, which assist nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or not functioning properly, then the messages may not get to the brain correctly causing symptoms.

3. Environmental Factors

Environmental factors that can trigger ODD including having a troubled family life, childhood abuse, and inconsistent parenting. Aside from that, belonging to deviant peer groups, peer rejection, poverty, neighborhood violence, and unstable socioeconomic factors can also contribute to the development of ODD.

Symptoms of ODD

Generally, signs of ODD begin during the preschool years. Occasionally, ODD can develop later, almost always before early teenagers. Usually, these behaviors cause damage to relationships with family, social activities, school, and work. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, provides criteria by which children with ODD are diagnosed.

Here are some symptoms and signs of ODD:

    • Irritable and irritable mood.
    • Easy loss of patience.
    • Often easily annoyed by other people.
    • Frequent anger and irritation.
    • Argumentative and defiant behavior.
    • Often argues with adults.
    • Often refuses to obey adult rules.
    • Often deliberately disturbs people.
    • Blames others for his/her mistakes.
    • Uncertainty.
    • Often envious.
    • Has shown vindictive behavior.

Diagnosis of ODD

A mental health professional will conduct a comprehensive psychological evaluation to determine if someone has ODD or not. Need to know that ODD often occurs together with other behavioral or mental health issues, so symptoms can be difficult to distinguish from those associated with other problems.

A pediatric evaluation may include:

    • Assessments include overall health, frequency, and intensity of behaviors.
    • Emotions and behaviors across different settings and relationships.
    • Family situations and interactions.
    • Strategies that have been tried to manage problem behaviors.
    • Existence of other mental health, learning, or communication disorders.

ODD Treatment

Proper treatment can overcome the symptoms of ODD and the quality of life of the sufferer.

1. Individual Therapy

Individual therapy with a mental health professional can makes the opportunity to learn new methods of regulating emotions and behavior, including skills to:

    • Manage anger.
    • Communicate effectively.
    • Control impulses.
    • Resolve problems.
    • Coping with frustration and stress.

2. Family Therapy

Family therapy will be able to support all family members by teaching productive strategies to deal with and manage behaviors associated with ODD. Also, professional family therapy can offer more support to the family by learning and using effective parenting techniques including consistent discipline and positive reinforcement.

3. Parent Training

Treatment for ODD may also include programs specifically designed to teach the parents new skills. Of course, this is very useful so that the parents can interact more effectively with their child and provide more constructive discipline.

4. School Interventions

Also, support at school can benefit students with ODD. This can come from the teachers, guidance counselors, and other school staff.

School interventions may include:

    • Offering breaks to give students space to manage their feelings of overwhelm and frustration.
    • Changing the seating in the classroom.
    • Help connect students with supportive peers.
    • Encourage positive behavior in the class and with peers through positive reinforcement.
    • Making plans to support learning difficulties and mental health symptoms.

5. Medication

Based on the research, there are no medications that specifically treat ODD. However, some medications can help with co-occurring symptoms.

A psychiatrist may prescribe the following medications:

    • Antidepressants.
    • Antipsychotics.
    • Stimulants.

Complications of ODD

Apparently, ODD often improves as the child gets older, especially when symptoms are mild or moderate. Family support and therapy can make a big difference in overcoming ODD in children. However, without professional care and supportive parenting, the symptoms of ODD often worsen. Usually, people with this disorder can experience complications such as:

    • Finding it difficult to maintain social relationships.
    • Having regular conflicts and other problems at school.
    • Having difficulty succeeding at school or work.

ODD in teenagers and adults, in some cases, can lead them to abuse substances. Even, it causes the sufferer to high potential for suicide attempts. Aside from that, behavioral disorders and other mental health conditions which are usually diagnosed in children are other potential complications of ODD. Some children with ODD go on to develop these conditions that involve more severe and aggressive behaviors.

Prevention of ODD

Here are several things that can be done to prevent ODD:

    • Recognize and praise the child’s positive behaviors.
    • Give clear and effective instructions.
    • Set up a routine by developing a consistent daily schedule for the child.
    • Build time together by developing a consistent weekly schedule which involves both child and parent.
    • Work with your partner or others in the home to make sure consistent and appropriate discipline procedures.
    • Establish household chores to be completed by the child.

When to Visit a Doctor?

For those who are parents, you should pay attention to your child’s condition. Immediately, visit a doctor to get the right solution if the child is showing symptoms of ODD and is affecting daily activities at home or school.

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