Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) falls under a group of behavioral disorders called disruptive behavior disorders (DBD).  Children who have these types of disorders tend to disrupt those around them. ODD is believed to occur in 2% to 16% of children. ODD is found to be more common in boys than girls at the preschool age. However, ODD occurs equally in both school-age boys and girls.

ODD is defined by professionals as a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behaviors in a child that is directed toward authority figures. Authority figures can be defined as a child’s parents, teachers, caregivers, or coaches. Typically, children and adolescents with Oppositional defiant disorder show signs of stubbornness, rebelliousness, argumentativeness, and refuse to comply with directions, rules, and discipline. They are also described to have angry outbursts and struggle with controlling their temper. Children with ODD also fight against being controlled. For them, control feels as though they are drowning. Many of these types of behaviors, of course, occur in even the best-behaved child. However, the key difference is that children with Oppositional defiant disorder show a constant pattern of anger and verbally aggressive behaviors; typically aimed at parents and other authority figures.

Parents of kids with ODD say their child struggles academically in school and with making and/or keeping friends. They also find that their child seems to thrive on deliberately annoying other people. Moreover, children with Oppositional defiant disorder typically refuse to take responsibility and instead blame others for their mistakes and/or misbehaviors.

Common symptoms of children with ODD include:

  • Defiance
  • Spitefulness
  • Negativity
  • Hostility and verbal aggression

If you suspect your child has ODD, check your observations with the free Heads Up Checkup symptom checker. We encourage you to seek diagnosis and treatment with a behavioral health professional as soon as possible. Left untreated, your child may develop Conduct Disorder (CD), which is a more serious disruptive behavior disorder.

A word of caution, many parents have a difficult time seeing their child’s defiant behaviors as a symptom of a behavioral disorder. Some choose to try to wait it out or think their child will grow out of it. If this sounds familiar, please remember that early intervention and treatment will help your child overcome ODD and create a more peaceful home environment for everyone.

What kind of treatment is available to my child with ODD?

Your child’s therapist will decide which kind of therapy is best for you and your child suffering from ODD. The most common types of therapy for ODD are behavioral therapy, parent training, and family therapy. With treatment, children can overcome the behavioral symptoms of ODD. They can learn techniques to manage their anger and develop new ways of coping with stressful situations. Therapy is very effective in helping children overcome negative behaviors.

Through therapy, you will learn more effective ways to discipline your child, as well as new techniques to reward good behavior. Therapy will also help you avoid power struggles and remain positive with your child, helping you and your family lead a more fulfilling, happier life.

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