What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Children with ODD are constantly defiant, hostile, uncooperative and disobedient towards people in authority. They don’t like responding to instructions or taking orders from others and they actively refuse simple requests. Sometimes they eagerly blame others for their own mistakes, can lose their temper easily and act in an angry, resentful or touchy manner. The child’s behavior often disrupts the child’s normal daily activities, including activities within the family and at school. When this behavior lasts longer than six months and is excessive compared to what is usual for the child’s age it may mean that the child has ODD.

Oppositional defiant disorder is very normal and common is four and five year old children. The severity of the defiance can range from mild to uncontrollable. This age group exhibits intentionally annoying behavior. Although the behavior is difficult is generally doesn’t go beyond age six, which is why ODD is not diagnosed at an earlier age. Symptoms of Oppositional defiant disorder may include

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Excessive arguing with adults
  • Often questioning rules
  • Active defiance and refusal to comply with adults requests and rules
  • Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes or behavior
  • Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Frequent anger and  resentment
  • Mean and hateful talking when upset
  • Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

The exact cause of ODD is not known, but it is believed that a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors may contribute to the condition. A child brought up by parents who are constantly hostile, confrontational and forceful has an increased risk of ODD. In the general population, ODD is believed to affect about 16% of people. It’s common for it to co-exist with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially as children get older. In fact figures suggest between 35-50% of those with ADHD also have ODD.

Treatment of ODD may include: Parent Management Training Programs to help parents and others manage the child’s behavior, Individual Psychotherapy to develop more effective anger management, Family Psychotherapy to improve communication and mutual understanding, Cognitive Problem-Solving Skills Training and Therapies to assist with problem solving and decrease negativity, Social Skills Training to increase Flexibility and improve social skills and frustration tolerance with peers. Meditation may be helpful in controlling some of the more distressing symptoms of ODD. If ODD exists alongside ADHD treatment for ADHD often needs to get underway before ODD can be tackled. If a child is being treated for ADHD and ODD, sometimes ADHD medication can make some of the ODD symptoms appear worse this is because ADHD drugs help children become more focused and predictable but it can make ODD symptoms such as irritability more focused too.

Although ADHD can be treated well getting ODD under control and take some time and a lot of hard work. Although it may not be possible to prevent ODD, recognizing and acting on symptoms when they first appear can minimize distress to the child and family and prevent many of the problems associated with the illness. In addition providing a nurturing, supportive and consistent home environment with a balance of love and discipline may help reduce symptoms and prevent episodes of defiant behavior.