What Causes ODD

Oppositional defiance disorder, or ODD, is a behavioral condition that first manifests in childhood, around age 8. It’s not uncommon for children with ODD to also have other behavioral conditions, such as ADHD, anxiety or depression. In childhood, more boys are diagnosed with ODD than girls, although when the condition develops in adolescence, nearly an equal number of teen boys and teen girls are diagnosed.


Symptoms of ODD include :

·         Inability to interact or communicate with people in authority

·         Violent temper tantrums

·         Frequent arguments

·         Aggression and anger

·         Deliberate disobedience

·         Chronic undermining of authority figures

·         Desire for revenge

·         Sabotage authority figure’s efforts for control or compliance


After medical and psychiatric evaluation, doctors work with children towards treating the symptoms using a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. When intervention is done early enough, treatment methods are generally effective. However, many medical experts are still not certain what causes ODD in children and continue to do research into what are the causes of ODD.


Environmental Risk Factors for ODD

While scientists aren’t completely clear on the causes of ODD, they have identified some risk factors that seem to occur more frequently in the history and background of children who develop the condition. These risk factors include :


·         Parental neglect

·         Childhood abuse

·         Dysfunctional family dynamics

·         Parental history of behavioral disorders

·         Harsh discipline

·         Frequent stressful changes, such as moving or divorce


These risk factors seem to influence a child’s attitude and reaction toward authority figures and an inability to feel security, stability and consistency. Combined with biological factors, these situations could trigger ODD in a child who is already sensitive to engage in disruptive and defiant behavior.


Biological Factors

Because ODD often manifests along with other behavioral disorders, like ADHD, many scientists believe that a chemical imbalance in the brain is a major contributor to the condition. In the brain, neurotransmitters send messages to and from the brain. When there is a chemical imbalance, these messages may not be sent or received quite correctly. Scientists believe that this imbalance can be caused in fetal development or due to head injuries in early childhood.


If a child’s family history includes mental illness, especially ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression or ODD, the likelihood of a child developing the condition increases greatly. Genetics may play a role in whether or not a child is born with sensitivity to developing ODD, which is then influenced by environmental factors.


More research is needed to discover the precise causes of ODD and other behavioral conditions because once the cause is identified and analyzed, a cure is more likely to be found. A greater understanding into the causes of ODD could lead to prevention of the condition in the first place.


Outlook for Children with ODD

When children receive early intervention in treating the symptoms of ODD, the success rate is high when it comes to strengthening positive behavior and controlling themselves in a range of situations with authority figures. When children are part of a supportive, consistent home and school environment, along with appropriate medication and ongoing individual and family therapy, situations involving defiant behavior are minimized.

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