Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Definition

An ongoing pattern in children marked by uncooperative, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward parents and authority figures that negatively impacts the child’s daily functioning.

 

Overview and Facts

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

A child with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is one who repeatedly displays extreme resistance to authority, engages in regular conflict with parents, is vindictive and argumentative, and has outbursts of temper aimed at her or his peers.

What causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

There’s no clear cause for ODD. Contributing factors may include genetics (certain personalities and temperaments may be passed down in families) and life circumstances (for example, a child may be neglected, abused, or receive harsh punishments from parents or caregivers).

ODD tends to occur in families with a history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, substance use disorders, or mood disorders (depression or bipolar disorder, for example).

What are the symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Symptoms may include ongoing patterns of:

  • temper tantrums
  • arguments with adults
  • refusal to do what adults ask
  • questioning rules
  • refusing to follow rules
  • annoying behaviors aimed at upsetting others
  • blaming others for the child’s own misbehaviors or mistakes
  • becoming easily annoyed by others
  • having an angry attitude
  • speaking harshly or unkindly
  • seeking revenge
  • being vindictive or spiteful.
Can ODD affect adults?

It can. Adults with ODD can feel generally angry with the world and have trouble with authority figures.

They may also feel misunderstood or disliked, be defensive, and identify with the role of the rebel.

ODD can be very difficult to diagnose in adults because symptoms tend to overlap with antisocial behaviors and other disorders.

How is Oppositional Defiant Disorder diagnosed?

After ruling out any physical causes for the symptoms, a diagnosis of ODD may be reached after gathering a detailed history of ongoing behaviors in various situations (school, home, etc.). This can include reports from parents, teachers, and other adults in the child’s life. Specialized assessment tools and interview questions may also be used to evaluate the child.

Your physician or mental health provider will also want to check for the presence of other mental health problems along with any learning or communication disorders.

An ODD diagnosis can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.

How is Oppositional Defiant Disorder treated?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy (counseling) and medication. Family therapy and specialized training for parents may also be involved.