When a child demonstrates consistent defiance to authority figures in his or her life, it may be a case of oppositional defiance disorder, or ODD. Many parents and teachers may ask themselves: what is ODD? The condition is classed as a behavior problem and frequently disrupts the child’s normal interactions and relationships with family, friends and at school. Often, children with ODD also have other behavioral issues, such as ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities.
Generally, the condition appears around the age of 8 and is more likely to manifest in young boys than in girls. Recent estimates show up to 6 percent of children in the United States may have ODD.
What Causes ODD?
Scientists are not sure about what causes ODD, however decades of research are narrowing down the environmental and biological contributions. On the environmental side, children with certain factors present in their lives are more at risk of developing ODD. Those factors include previous or current substance abuse by parents and overall dysfunction in a child’s family life.
The biological factors that increase risk include a past history of mental illness in the family, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that affect neurotransmitters, and head injuries in childhood. Scientists believe that a combination of biological and environmental conditions may work together to create a sensitivity in children to be predisposed to developing ODD.
What Are the Symptoms of ODD?
While symptoms may differ slightly between individuals, there are general symptoms that pediatricians and child psychologists look for when evaluating someone for ODD. General symptoms include :
· Frequent arguing with authority figures, like parents and teachers
· Frequent outbursts of anger or resentment
· Frequent tantrums
· Deliberate refusal to obey reasonable requests
· Provoking others via language and behavior
· Putting blame on others for actions or consequences
· Seek revenge for real or imagined slights
· Repeated use of harsh or inflammatory language
ODD is diagnosed after a physical exam and tests provide no evidence for any medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms. Absent any medical explanation, pediatricians and child psychologists conduct evaluations and assess whether the child’s behavior is consistent with what they know about ODD. Parents, teachers, siblings and others often provide feedback on what they’ve observed with the child as well, giving the experts a complete picture of behavior and attitude.
What Treatments for ODD are Available?
While there is no cure for ODD, medical experts are making great strides in managing the symptoms. A combination of medication and behavioral therapy help children keep better control over their emotions and allow them to interact more effectively with others.
Medicine the medical experts typically give children with ODD are not specifically for treating ODD, but rather for associated conditions like ADHD, anxiety or depression. Because it is so common for children with ODD to have another behavioral condition, the medicine seems to work to help them control many of the overall symptoms of ODD.
Behavioral therapy is when a child meets with child psychologists to work on changing the way the child thinks and reacts to certain situations, especially with authority figures. Family therapy is another key factor in helping children and their families work better together by changing up the actions and reactions they were engaging in and replacing them with healthier, more effective communication techniques.
Early intervention is key in making sure a child with ODD receives the best care and help needed in order to engage with others effectively. Without treatment, a child’s family, school and social lives are a struggle as he or she has difficulty in building and maintaining relationships necessary to be successful in life.
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