family life

Is your child ODD?

Oppositional defiance disorder or ODD is a behavioral disorder in children and teens. ODD is characterized by persistent patterns of disruptive, argumentative, unruly and hostile behavior towards parents and authority figures. Typically, this behavior starts around 8 years of age. About 20% of school age children are effected by ODD. It is more common in boys. One third of children with ODD also have Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Symptoms of ODD include:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Excessive arguing with adults, especially those with authority
  • Refusing to follow rules with no fear of consequences
  • Deliberately trying to annoy or upset others
  • Blaming others for their mistakes
  • Frequently having an angry attitude
  • Easily annoyed by others
  • Swearing or using obscene language
  • Frequent outbursts of anger and resentment
  • Seeking revenge or being vindictive

The symptoms are usually seen in many settings but are more noticeable at home and school. It may be hard for parents to realize their child has ODD. Parents often think the child is “acting out” or “being difficult.” In children with ODD the behavior parents refer to as “being difficult” occurs more often and is extreme. This disorder is usually diagnosed by a psychiatrist or mental health professional. It is important to have a comprehensive evaluation to look for other disorders. Children with ODD often have other disorders such as, ADHD, learning disabilities, mood disorders, depression and anxiety disorders. ODD may not improve until other coexisting disorders are treated.

Medications may be helpful in controlling some of the more distressing symptoms. Parent management and training programs can also help parents and others manage the child’s behavior. Psychotherapy to develop anger management is very effective.

Parents and caregivers often struggle with how to handle this type of behavior. Parents need support and understanding. There are many methods parents can use to help their child such as:

  • Always build on the positive
  • Give praise and positive reinforcement
  • Take a timeout when conflict is about to arise
  • Pick your battles
  • Set up reasonable limits with consequences and enforce frequently
  • Try to get suport from other adults (teachers, coaches, spouse) to help deal with your child

The cause of ODD is unknown. However, other factors may contribute to the condition:

  • Family members with mental illnesses such as, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders
  • Dysfunctional family life
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Inconsistent parental attention and discipline

Children with ODD often do well with early treatment. Many children are free of behavioral problems after 3 years of treatment. Some children may outgrow ODD by early adulthood. But that is not always the case. For this reason treatment is crucial to avoid long-term consequences.