Living with the struggles of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in your child or teen can be a heart wrenching and exhausting experience. Categorized as a potentially lifelong condition by the DSM-5, ODD is extreme disobedience or acts of consistent defiance against any figures of authority in the child’s life.
This doesn’t mean the usual tantrums, rebellion or saying “No” to a request by a parent. All children will have good and bad days, and may act out at different times. It is a normal part of development, and could be caused by something as simple as having the flu, or a missed nap.
Children with ODD will systematically refuse to obey or behave. In many cases they will lash out against those authority figures. At times they may seem completely out of control.
Experts believe there are as many as 200,000 cases of ODD cases every year. These are in various degrees of severity, and impact children of different ages. Nearly all cases will begin to exhibit symptoms before the age of eight.
ODD is one of a group of disorders, which include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Conduct Disorder.
What Causes ODD?
No one is sure what causes ODD. Experts have theorized that it could be a combination of both genetic and environmental factors.
Some studies have suggested that traumatic brain injury could create or worsen some of the symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in children. This matches with studies that have found such injuries can lead to a lack of empathy and increased recklessness in adults.
Environmental factors could include abuse, neglect, or a lack of consistent parenting or parental connection in a child’s life. Though experts are unclear as to why some children who experience these deficiencies don’t develop the disorder, leading to speculation that a combination of factors is necessary.
What Symptoms Are Common With ODD?
According to the DSM-5, a diagnosis of ODD requires four symptoms from any of the groups of symptoms. These include:
Anger and Irritability
Defiance and Argumentative
In addition to these symptoms, there are other criteria to consider. The pattern of behavior has to have lasted more than six months, and cannot be associated with another mental health condition (Bipolar Disorder, substance abuse, etc.). It must be directed toward at least one person who is not a sibling, and cause significant problems in home, school, or work environments.
When a child has ODD, they will do any of the following:
Constantly argue with others.
Easily lose their temper.
Refuse to follow directions given by adults.
Act in a deliberately obnoxious way.
Purposely annoy others.
Act in spiteful or petty ways.
Blame others for their behavior.
In more severe cases, this can lead to other problems, such as Conduct Disorder.
ODD and Conduct Disorder (CD)
Conduct Disorder (CD) is another subgroup of these forms of behavioral problems occurring in children in teens. It is considered more severe than ODD, and a child who has been previously diagnosed with ODD may be diagnosed later with CD if their symptoms worsens over time.
Those with CD will often engage in more criminal behavior, such as:
Bullying other children.
Violence against people, animals, or themselves.
Aggression and threats.
Damage of property.
If a child exhibits any of three of the above behaviors within 12 months, Conduct Disorder will often be diagnosed. Like with ODD, it cannot be combined with other mental health conditions, and so stand alone.
However, Conduct Disorder can be classified as a Personality Disorder, and other subtypes may be diagnosed alongside CD. These include Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and others.
Children and teens diagnosed with Conduct Disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with a personality disorder later in life.
Cluster Types of ODD and Their Outlooks
ODD the CD both fit into groups, or Clusters. There are three types:
Cluster A – Eccentric or Bizarre Behaviors; any strange behaviors that seem illogical. This cluster can lead to Schizotypal Personality Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, or Schizoid Personality Disorder.
Cluster B – Emotional or Histrionic Behaviors; any rash, over the top emotional reactions or dramatics, especially over small matters. This cluster can lead to Histrionic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Cluster C – Fear-based and Anxiety Driven Behaviors; a persistent and intense fear that is severe enough to impact the child’s daily life, and sparks negative behaviors. This cluster can lead to Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Dependent Personality Disorder.
Having one of these Clusters of ODD does not guarantee that your child will develop a personality in the future. It does, however, increase their chances. By the time they are in their teens their symptoms may become severe enough to warrant a re diagnosis with one of the above conditions.
Knowing about personality disorders as early as possible will provide your child with intervention when they need it most, during the development of their condition.
Getting Your Teen The Help They Need
There is no known cure for ODD or other personality disorders. But treatment is available, and can help your child or teen manage their condition. Therapy, group activities, and – in some cases – medication can be used to curb symptoms.
In severe cases, a long term rehabilitation center can work wonders. It provides a stable, safe environment for teens to thrive in. Experts on-site help to find the root causes for many of the behaviors that have become so disruptive.
You’re Not Alone
Living with a child or teen who has ODD or CD can make life a daily battle. But you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of parents are fighting the same battle every day.
As mental health professionals begin to better understand the condition, new forms of therapy are being developed. Someday, we will know the exact cause of ODD, and how to effectively combat it. Until then, there are resources to help your family during this difficult time.
To learn more about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and how to help your teen, visit Sundance Canyon Academy.