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Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Last Updated January 2024 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Kyle Bradford Jones, MD, FAAFP

What is oppositional defiant disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD, is a behavior condition that affects children and teens. Those who have it are angry, argumentative, and defiant much more often than others in their age group. The behaviors associated with ODD have a negative effect on the child’s or teen’s relationships and ability to do well in school and at home.

Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder

Every child or teen gets angry, throws tantrums, and argues. But it can be hard to tell if a child or teen is just acting out, or if they have ODD. The symptoms of ODD are disruptive to home and family life. They’re almost constant and last for at least 6 months. Symptoms of ODD may include:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Constant arguing with or defying adults
  • Refusing to follow rules
  • Annoying other people on purpose
  • Blaming others for their own mistakes or bad behavior
  • Acting easily annoyed by others
  • Feelings of anger and resentment toward other people
  • Wanting to get revenge on others
  • Problems at school
  • Trouble making or keeping friends

What causes oppositional defiant disorder?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of ODD. It may result from a combination of factors. The child’s general attitude and how the family reacts to his or her behavior may play a role in it. ODD may run in families. Other causes may be related to the nervous system or to brain chemicals that are out of balance.

How is oppositional defiant disorder diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms, medical history, family history, and other emotional or behavioral problems. Your doctor may want to refer your child to a doctor specializing in behavior problems for a more in-depth evaluation.

Can oppositional defiant disorder be prevented or avoided?

A child is more likely to develop ODD if they have the following risk factors:

  • A history of abuse or neglect
  • A parent or caretaker who has a mood disorder, or who abuses alcohol or drugs
  • Exposure to violence
  • Inconsistent discipline
  • Lack of supervision
  • Instability in the family, such as divorce, multiple moves, and changing schools frequently
  • Financial problems in the family
  • Parents who have or have had ODD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or behavioral problems

Oppositional defiant disorder treatment

There are several treatment options for ODD. Some focus only on the child, while other treatments include the child’s family and school.

Your doctor will probably work with another doctor who specializes in mental health to treat your child. This other doctor will likely be a psychologist or counselor. Treatment will focus on helping your child learn better ways to manage his or her anger. It will also help your child learn how to handle social situations so they will feel less frustrated with other people.

Treatment can also help families learn to communicate better with each other. Your doctor also can help you learn how to manage your child’s behavior and how to use discipline effectively.

In a treatment called cognitive behavior therapy, children and their families learn problem-solving skills and how to feel more positive.

Living with oppositional defiant disorder

You may feel helpless if your child or teen has ODD. You may feel disconnected, even if you’re participating in his or her therapy. But there are many ways to actively help your child at home. The following can help encourage good behavior:

  • Praise your child’s positive or good behaviors.
  • Be consistent about rules.
  • Model the behaviors you want your child to follow.
  • Establish a daily routine for your child.
  • Spend quality time with your child.

Questions for your doctor

  • Does my child have ODD?
  • Why does my child have ODD?
  • What can I do to help my child?
  • What treatment will help my child?
  • Do we need family counseling?
  • Will medicines help?
  • Are there other treatments available?
  • How can I stop from being so angry all the time?
  • My child seems to be a loner. How can I help him/her make friends?
  • Are there any support groups in my area?


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

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