Oppositional defiance disorder, or ODD, is a behavioral condition that usually manifests when a child is around 8 years old. The behavior is characterized by extreme defiance toward authority figures, such as teachers and parents. Other symptoms include placing blame on others, constant arguing, aggression and anger, seeking revenge, deliberately disobeying reasonable rules, and more. Often, children with ODD also suffer from anxiety and depression, which brings about a totally different set of challenges. ODD is most often diagnosed in young boys, and it’s estimated that around 6 percent of U.S. children have ODD.
Scientists are still not completely sure what causes ODD but recent studies and the latest research seems to link to a combination of genetics and environment. Children who have parents with a history of mental illness and who themselves have been diagnosed with other behavioral issues, like ADD, ADHD, anxiety and depression, are more likely to develop ODD. From an environmental standpoint, children are more likely to have ODD if they come from a dysfunctional home, experience stress and trauma, suffer from a head injury in early childhood or receive harsh or inconsistent discipline.
ODD treatment options include a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. When applied in early childhood, the treatment options seem to work well in helping children overcome their impulses and offer better control over the symptoms. If ODD is not treated or treatments are abandoned, children are likely to experience an increasingly tough time with ODD into adolescence and adulthood.
While there is no single medicine used to treat ODD, medical experts have found that medicines designed to treat similar behavioral issues such as ADD and ADHD seem to help relieve the impulses associated with ODD. Since more than half of children who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are also diagnosed with ODD, the medicines used to treat the former are also effective for the latter condition.
Sometimes it takes some time to figure out exactly the right kind of medicine and the proper dosage before significant improvements are seen. It’s important for parents to work closely with doctors to find just the right balance for their children with ODD.
Behavioral therapy is the other factor in treating ODD. Behavioral therapy with a licensed, professional child psychologist includes learning to follow certain proper and healthy behaviors in different situations rather than relying on impulses and emotions. Individual therapy is designed to help children with ODD relearn appropriate behavior and provide them with coping strategies and tools to function better with authority figures.
Family therapy is also important so that parents and siblings can also relearn appropriate ways to interact and react to the child with ODD. When the whole family is functioning under the same strategies and working together to support and guide the child with ODD, family dynamics become much more consistent and stable—which is something that a child with ODD desperately needs.
As more research reveals the origins and causes of ODD and other similar behavioral disorders, medical experts can get closer to a cure. However, until then, parents, doctors, teachers and children must all work together to provide the best treatment strategies available so that the children with ODD can overcome the challenges associated with the condition and lead productive and successful lives.