An introduction to Oppositional Defiance Disorder

Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) is a disorder whereby children have disruptive and oppositional behaviour that is particularly directed towards authority figures, such as parents or teachers.

ODD is reported to affect between 2 and 16% of children and adolescents in the general population. It is more common in boys than girlsStudies show that at least 40% of children with ADHD have coexisting oppositional defiant disorder.

Children with ODD are constantly defiant, hostile and disobedient. 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.

All children occasionally react in this way on a bad day or if upset by a situation, and many teenagers go through troublesome times. But children with oppositional defiant disorder are like this much of the time, making them very hard to deal with.

Symptoms of ODD

Children with ODD often display the following symptoms:

  • Anger and resentment
  • Tendency to argue
  • Short temper
  • Unwillingness to comply with adults' requests or rules
  • Tendency to annoy people
  • Spite and vindictiveness

A mental health professional would only make an ODD diagnosis if the above symptoms occurred more frequently than they do in a comparable age or developmental group.

What causes ODD?

The cause of ODD is not known.  However while different professional groups tend to have differing viewpoints, there is increasing recognition that oppositional defiant disorder of early onset almost certainly has a biological component.  Studies show that the majority of children with early-onset ODD have underlying ADHD and/or autistic spectrum disorder.

Only about 10% of cases are ODD alone.  The high prevalence of associated ADHD has led some authors to consider that there should be a form of ADHD diagnosed as the oppositional form of ADHD. 

Getting a diagnosis

It can be difficult to know if your child has ODD or another mental health condition that is causing their behavioural problems.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist is the best person to assess your child and will spend time understanding if there are other underlying conditions.

As they are experts in child mental health, they will be able to formulate an effective treatment plan, which can significantly improve things for both your child and your whole family.

How is ODD treated?

Oppositional defiant disorder is generally not treated with medication in the UK, but with a behavioural approach. If you think your child may have ODD, make an appointment with your GP as a first step to seeking treatment. If ODD is if left untreated and undiagnosed, it may lead to a more serious conduct disorder.

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