Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder – What It Really Means 

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a diagnosis that was developed in the 1980s. It is defined in the  DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a pattern of angry/irritable mood,  argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least six months. Obviously, all children  engage in these behaviors periodically, but when the behaviors are recurrent and impact daily life, the  child may have ODD.

In-order to officially receive the diagnosis, there must be at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Uncontrollable rages or severe temper
  • Angry and resentful
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules Expresses vindictive motives
  • Blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past 6 months

There are three settings that we look at when analyzing a child’s behavior: home, school, and social  interaction with peers. Some children have symptoms of ODD in only one setting, whereas others will  have symptoms in all three.

There is no medication for ODD. Medication is only appropriate if the child has another diagnosis in  addition to ODD such as ADHD or an anxiety disorder. 

Specific intervention for ODD are cases specific – and depend widely on the root of the child’s behavior.  Some children do not naturally know how to regulate their emotions or tolerate frustration. Other  children developed these behaviors in response to abuse or neglect. Sometimes, there is an illness or  death in the family that can greatly affect the child. The parenting style of the child’s parents might also  be a factor. Also, conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, or learning disorders can be a major factor in the  child’s behavior.

There are many possible interventions for ODD. Some are focused on the interaction between the  parents and the child, others are more focused on the child and often, a focus on both is needed.

The ODD diagnosis is more complicated than symptom evaluation and should only be made by a  clinician who has experience with ODD. It is important to note, that a child with an ODD diagnosis does  not have a disease. Rather, he has a series of behaviors that must be addressed. Furthermore, the  diagnosis of ODD itself does not offer a complete picture of the child’s challenges and instead may act as  a ‘red-flag’ to ensure the child received the appropriate help.