If you think about the criteria used to diagnose oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), you could believe they apply to any child on a bad day and virtually any teenager almost every day: They dispute with adults, purposefully irritate others, break rules, and lose their cool easily. Parents are all too familiar with all of these activities. The difference can be seen in the behavior’s frequency and severity.
The majority of kids have oppositional behavior episodes from time to time, but they are usually not the main focus. The amount of raisins makes it difficult for a child with ODD to view the cookie. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry specifically advises that problematic behavior “counts” toward an ODD diagnosis only if it differs from what is typical for a child of a certain age.
For example, a child with ODD doesn’t only talk back to his teacher; he appears unable to control himself, regardless of the negative effects.
- He might purposely start arguments by defying orders or declining to work with others.
- He might not recognize that he is being disruptive or confrontational, instead blaming others (“He started it!”) or grumbling that too much is being expected of him, which makes matters more frustrating for parents and teachers.
- He may also be vengeful, seemingly relishing the opportunity to make others’ lives miserable.
As a result, picture a 2-year-old who giggles when her mother warns her not to play with the nightlight and then promptly reaches for the outlet once more. That is typical. Then picture a 6-year-old turning the television up to the decibel level that will arouse his father every morning when he awakens. He screams at his mother that he despises the pancakes she made him that he begged for, and as soon as she turns away, he throws a fit. He is so dominating around other kids that no one wants to play with him; this happens all day, every day. That kid might have ODD.
How widespread is ODD?
Between one and 16 percent of children and adolescents have it, though estimates vary, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. ODD frequently co-occurs with another condition, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, or a learning handicap, making diagnosis more difficult. According to experts, up to 35% of all children with ADHD also have ODD.
What signs might your child have ODD?
If you’re a parent, it’s likely that you’ve experienced days when every word your child says seems like a calculated effort to upset you. The most important question is: Does your child act that way every day or just on bad days? One mother said her ODD son appeared to “wake up on the wrong side of the bed every single day.” Someone else remarked, “He sometimes seems to despise anyone who tells him what to do.
ODD is described as “an persistent pattern of uncooperative, defiant, and aggressive behavior toward authority that substantially interferes with the youngster’s day to day functioning” by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In order to determine whether your child may have ODD, consider whether, in comparison to other children his age, he has regularly displayed the following behaviors over the last six months:
- Overly arguing with adults
- Frequent fit of rage
- Active opposition
- Refusing to follow instructions or adhere to guidelines
- Deliberately trying to irritate or anger others
- Accusing others of wrongdoing and misbehavior
- Being “touchy” or prone to getting others’ goat
- Seeking retribution
ODD symptoms typically start to show before the age of eight. In fact, parents frequently claim that a child with the illness was more strict and demanding than his siblings from an early age. However, ODD in children can be identified up until adolescence. In fact, it gets harder to distinguish between ODD and typical adolescent rebellion as children get older, according to psychologist Bryan Loney, PhD, an assistant professor at Florida State University. The crucial factors are the level of enmity and revolt intensity: You must compare the child’s conduct to that of his peers and have a solid understanding of what is typical for children of each age, according to Loney.
What brings on ODD?
Although experts don’t yet have a solution, they are aware that a number of elements may be involved. One potential cause is neurological harm: Aggression, hostility, and other ODD traits can manifest in people who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.
However, most occurrences of ODD are not caused by injury. One study found that sons of fathers who had ODD were more likely to develop the disorder than other children, suggesting that the disorder may run in some families. The nature/nurture debate is left unresolved by this study because a father with the disorder may have modeled oppositional behaviors for his child or may have passed on a genetic susceptibility to the disorder, or both.
ODD may have a biological foundation, according to some evidence: Children with ODD had an atypical pattern of frontal brain activity, according to a recent study. Additionally, scientists are looking at whether the illness is influenced by low amounts of the brain chemical serotonin.
However, it is also evident that parents might react strongly to their problematic children, causing problems in the family unit. ODD may therefore also be a result of a child’s natural disposition and how his family handles it.
How are ODDs handled?
If your child has been identified as having ODD, he should undergo a thorough psychological assessment. This is useful to determine whether he has another ailment that needs treatment, such as ADHD, especially if he hasn’t had one before. It will be simpler for you to control your child’s oppositional symptoms if you can determine whether his symptoms are brought on by other disorders.
Both cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychotherapy may be used in the ODD treatment approach. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can teach your child how to resolve disagreements and solve problems without resorting to harmful conduct, while psychotherapy can assist him in connecting with his emotions and controlling his anger. To facilitate better communication, your family might also benefit from family counseling.
The therapist for your child might also advise that you and your partner sign up for a parenting course that will teach you how to deal with your kid’s challenging conduct. Although your initial reaction could be one of outrage, many parents of children with ODD have found that these programs are a fantastic source of assistance.
Realizing that your child is indeed especially challenging (It’s not your imagination!) can be extremely relieving, and learning special parenting strategies can be extremely beneficial. Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), a sort of parent education, involves teaching, modeling, and role-playing. Through selectively ignoring inappropriate conduct, rewarding good behavior, and punishing bad behavior, the training teaches parents how to react to their children in productive ways. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to direct your child without setting off any of his oppositional triggers.
Your kid’s therapist will refer you to a psychiatrist or doctor who may assess your child’s need for medications and provide a prescription if they believe your child would benefit from them. There are various medications that are known to help kids regulate their anger, but doctors often only give them when a youngster starts acting physically violently toward other people.
You might also want to look for an organization that supports parents of kids with behavioral issues. Hearing from other people who are dealing with what has been called one of the most difficult difficulties a parent can go through can be comforting.
What happens if my child doesn’t receive ODD treatment?
Many kids who are diagnosed with ODD can go on to enjoy happy, rewarding lives, especially if they receive thorough treatment for the disorder. Unfortunately, some kids with ODD can go on to acquire a conduct problem and start acting out in ways that are typically considered to be “bad” or delinquent.
What actions can I do to help my child behave?
When dealing with a child who has ODD, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has some helpful advice to keep in mind.
- Keep an eye out for times when your child is flexible or cooperative, and praise and encourage him at those times.
- Establish age-appropriate, reasonable boundaries with enforceable penalties.
- Pick your fights. Prioritize what you want your ODD child to do since he can’t help but engage in power conflicts. Don’t add time for the argument if you send him to his room for a time-out and he protests. The time out will begin when you enter your room, just mention that.
- If you’re about to lose your cool and escalate the argument, take a break for yourself. This not only keeps you out of a fight, but it also teaches your kid a crucial skill. Be encouraging if your youngster likewise suggests taking a break from overreacting. This is a crucial action!
- Avoid letting your ODD child consume all of your attention and resources. Find other activities to engage in so you aren’t concentrated only on him. Give yourself time to relax and the chance to work out.
- So that you don’t feel alone, ask for help from your spouse, friends, coaches, and teachers.
Don’t give up on hope. Undoubtedly, your child may be difficult to control today. But that doesn’t mean he will always be difficult to control.