Oppositional defiance disorder is a behavioral condition that manifests in children and is characterized by negative, aggressive and defiant behavior. While most children experience periods of testing the authority of adults, children with ODD experience more severe behavioral and emotional acting out, which leads to serious issues in developing and keeping relationships at home and at school with teachers, parents and friends.
Scientists are not sure what causes ODD, but recent research links genetic and biological factors with environmental influences. Risk factors such as family dysfunction, substance abuse, harsh or inconsistent discipline, stressful and frequent changes to family life and a history of mental illness in the family, increase the chances of a child developing ODD. Because children with ODD also tend to have other behavioral disorders like ADD, anxiety and depression, it seems that an imbalance of brain chemicals may also contribute to the condition.
How is ODD Diagnosed?
For parents and teachers who believe a child may have ODD, it’s important to understand some of the general symptoms that may manifest. While a diagnosis of ODD must come from a pediatrician and a child psychologist, these experts rely on communication from parents and teachers to help them get a full picture of each child’s attitude and behavior.
Generally, parents and teachers have the first conversations about a child’s defiant behavior and the first visit is to the child’s pediatrician. The pediatrician will conduct medical tests to ensure there are no physical problems that may be causing the behaviors, then refer the parents to a child psychologist. After observation and a few therapy sessions, the child psychologist can then pronounce a diagnosis of ODD.
What are the Symptoms of ODD?
Parents who wonder why their child is aggressive and defiant should get educated about the symptoms of ODD. Here is a list of symptoms that are typical in children diagnosed with ODD:
· Frequent tantrums that last longer than 20 to 30 minutes
· Recurrent behavior problems, especially with following the rules
· Numerous arguments where the child can’t be reasoned with or agree to a truce
· Repeated aggression and anger issues with adults and other children
· Disregard for rules, regulations and requests at home and at school
· Often blames others for own behaviors or mistakes
· Deliberately defying basic requests or orders
· Provoking and criticizing authority figures
· Frequently vengeful or spiteful
The child’s behavior must occur often enough that the disturbances are having a serious impact on the child’s school life, relationships with friends and home life. Parents and teachers can also watch for other behavioral issues, such as depression, anxiety and ADHD. In fact, approximately 1/3 of children with ADHD will also have ODD, and many of the symptoms of both conditions may appear similar. Anxiety and depression are frequently associated with ADHD and ODD, so other behaviors not typical of ODD may still give parents and teachers a clue in narrowing down the issue.
What’s the Long-term Prognosis for ODD?
When children are treated for ODD as early as possible with a combination of medicine and behavioral therapy, the outlook for improvement is good and children are better able to manage their behavior in different settings. However, it may take several months or years before results are significant enough to have a serious impact on the child’s relationships. Abandoning treatment is detrimental and can lead to more serious conduct and behavior issues in adolescence and adulthood.