Oppositional Defiant Disorder

1 What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder is characterized by a persistent pattern of defiance, irritability, arguing, and anger by a child or teen towards an authority figure like a parent.

ODD treatment usually involves therapy and at times, may be paired with medications, as well.

2 Symptoms

It is important to be mindful of all oppositional defiant disorder symptoms in your child, since their age plays a part in the severity of the condition.

Oppositional behavior may be normal at several stages of a child’s development. However, if certain behavioral and emotional symptoms are present, you may want to seek professional help. These behavioral and emotional symptoms may include:

  • Argumentative and defiant behavior
  • Angry and irritable mood
  • Vindictiveness

These behaviors are normally displayed by younger kids, but your child might have a behavioral problem if he or she displays them more often than usual. ODD varies in severity and categorized as mild, moderate, and severe. 

It is unlikely for a child to realize that he or she has a behavioral problem. Your child may feel that you are giving him or her unreasonable demands instead. See your doctor if you think there’s something wrong with your child’s behavior.

3 Causes

While there is no known exact cause of oppositional defiant disorder, experts believe that the contributing factors may include genetics and environmental factors. 

Genetics. The temperament and disposition of a child, as well as the neurobiological relationship of the nerves and brain are probably inherited.

Environment. The child may be lacking supervision or discipline, or experiencing neglect or anger.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Your family doctor may refer you to child psychologist to receive a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. To make the most out of the doctor appointment, writing down the important details can help. Make a list of:

  • Your child’s signs and symptoms and how long the symptoms have been present
  • Family’s key personal information – which may include stressors or major life changes
  • Medications, vitamins, or supplements the child is taking
  • Any family medical history 
  • Questions you may want to ask 

Both parents, if possible, should be present during the diagnosis. You may also take a trusted family member or friend or someone who knows your family and the child well. 

In order to determine if the child has ODD, the mental health professional can do a complete psychological evaluation. The evaluation may help assess the child’s holistic health, the intensity and frequency of behavior; as well as communication disorders, learning disabilities, and other related mental issues, if there are any.

5 Treatment

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) treatment in general, involves psychotherapy and training that may come in various types. The treatment does not only require the child’s participation, but the parents’ as well. Treatment can last for a few months or so.

ODD treatment does not rely on medication alone. Drugs are usually used if the patient with ODD has another disorder, too, such as ADHD. The foundations of ODD treatment typically include:

  • Parent training. With this approach, the parents are guided to develop more positive parenting skills.
  • Parent-child interaction therapy. During this kind of therapy, the parents are coached by therapists on how to interact with their child to help reinforce the child’s positive behavior. This technique promotes a more positive home environment and effective parenting skills.
  • Individual and family therapy. Individual child counseling helps the child manage his or her anger and frustrations by expressing them in a healthy way. Family counseling, on the other hand, helps improve relationships and communication. 
  • Cognitive problem-solving training. This therapy involves helping the child identify the triggers that lead to behavioral problems.
  • Collaborative problem-solving. This approach allows the parent and child to work together in solving the problems.
  • Social skills training. To help your child develop his or her social skills, your child may undergo social skills training. This will teach your child how to effectively interact with peers.

6 Prevention

There is no sure way to prevent a child from having oppositional defiant disorder. But positive parenting, a positive environment, and early diagnosis and treatment can keep the disorder from getting worse.

Like any mental disorders, the earlier ODD is diagnosed, the better. Early treatment can restore the self-esteem of your child and restore your relationship as well.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

You can help your child cope with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and keep from behaving defiantly by practicing the following strategies:

  • Recognize the child’s positive actions and praising him for it. 
  • Be a role model to your child. 
  • Set limits.
  • Enforce rational consequences.
  • Avoid power struggles.
  • Follow a routine or regular daily schedule.
  • Work with everybody in the household in enforcing discipline.
  • Be ready for any challenge.
  • Keep the communication lines open.

8 Risks and Complications

Being a complex problem, oppositional defiant disorder has various possible risk factors. These may include:

  • Temperament. A temperamental child who finds regulating his emotions difficult may experience ODD. In addition, the risk of having ODD is heightened if he displays exaggerated emotions as reaction to varied situations and has difficulty tolerating frustration.
  • Parenting issues. If the child experiences neglect, abuse, and inconsistent and harsh discipline, he may develop ODD. A child who lacks parental supervision can be at high risk, too.
  • Other family/environment issues. The child has a higher risk of developing ODD if a parent or a family member has a history of mental health problems or disorders involving substance abuse.

Children with ODD may experience difficulty in dealing with others, including parents and siblings, teachers, and other authority figures. This may lead to poor performance at school or work, poor social relationships, and issues in impulse control. At times, the disorder can be the reason for substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

A great percentage of children with oppositional defiant disorder have other mental health issues like ADHD, anxiety, depression, learning and communication disorders, and conduct disorder. It is important to have the other conditions properly diagnosed and treated to ensure effectiveness of ODD therapies. 

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