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Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Symptoms and treatment of ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavioral disorder found in children (including teenagers) that causes problems in their relationships with parents, teachers and other authority figures. A oppositional defiant often loses their temper, argues with adults, refuses to follow rules, deliberately annoys others, is easily annoyed, blames others for his or her own behavior, and acts angry, resentful, spiteful and vindictive. These symptoms occur in normal children from time to time, but a child can only be diagnosed with ODD once the majority of the symptoms are exhibited very frequently and over a period of at least six months.


The most important goal in diagnosing ODD is to make sure that the symptoms are not actually being caused by other problems like depression, bipolar disorder or ADHD. Another goal is to assess the actual severity of the particular child's case and the amount of intervention that is needed. If these goals are not taken seriously, the child could very well receive the wrong treatment based on incomplete diagnosis, which could allow the actual problem to continue or worsen.

If it seems to the parents or teachers that the child might have ODD, the next step is to find a qualified professional to make the assessment. Such a professional (counselor, psychologist, therapist or social worker) should have a credible background working predominantly with children or families. To find such a person, ask around for a personal referral from the family physician, school counselor or anyone you know who might have experience dealing with ODD. Many counties have psychological associations which can be reached through a referral line. Finding a referral is preferable to simply looking in the Yellow Pages as it gives you some assurance of how qualified the person is to deal with ODD.

Causes of ODD

Before attempting to treat ODD by resorting to behavior modification techniques or medication, it might be helpful to look for the cause of the behavior, especially if the symptoms of ODD appeared relatively recently and suddenly. For example, losing a loved one, becoming addicted to drugs, or being bullied in school are all potential factors and they are all best treated with specific counseling and support.


Behavior modification techniques are usually enough for most cases of ODD. The therapist works with parents to treat the disorder, using techniques such as parent management training and other behavioral modification plans. These techniques focus on helping parents use behavior feedback (e.g., rules and rewards) to teach the child the importance of accountability at home and in school. Visits to the therapist as part of the overall modification plan usually only take a few months, and can be continued until the parents are satisfied with the result. In addition, the therapist can work in conjunction with school counselors and teachers so that what is learned at home is reinforced at school as well.

In very rare instances, medication may be necessary to improve the child's condition. Presently, there are no types of medication that are prescribed exclusively for ODD, but medicine commonly used for other disorders like bipolarity may also help a child with ODD. These products, however, have several negative side effects and may treat only the symptoms and not the actual cause of the child's behavior. Medication for ODD should be used only if therapy alone is not sufficient.

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