Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Even teenagers who are normally compliant can, at times, be difficult and challenging and even directly or indirectly defy a parent’s instructions or authority.  However, if a teenager demonstrates a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness toward a parent or other authority figures, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder (“ODD”).  The following information is important for parents to consider:

Symptoms of ODD

It can be difficult to differentiate between a teenager who may have a strong will and one who is diagnosable as having ODD.  It is considered normal for teenagers to exhibit some oppositional behavior at certain stages of development.  Signs of ODD can manifest themselves as early as the preschool years.  Sometimes, however, ODD may develop later but almost always before the early teenage years.  These behaviors cause significant impairment with family, social activities, school and work–almost all aspects of the teenager’s life.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM-5″), published by the American Psychiatric Association lists criteria for diagnosing ODD.  The DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing ODD show a pattern of behavior that:

  • Includes at least four symptoms from any of the following categories:

(I) angry and irritable mood

  • Often loses temper
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed
  • Is often angry and resentful

(ii) argumentative and defiant behavior

  • Often argues with adults or authority figures
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • Often deliberately annoys people
  • Often blames others for his or her own mistakes or misbehaviors

(iii) vindictiveness

  • Often spiteful and vindictive
  • Has shown spiteful or vindictive behavior in the last six months
  • Occurs with at least one individual who is not a sibling
  • Occurs on its own, rather than as part of the course of another mental health problem, such as a substance use disorder, depression or bipolar disorder
  • Lasts at least six months

ODD can range in severity from (I) mild where symptoms only occur in one setting such as home, school, work or around peers; (ii) moderate where symptoms occur in at least two settings; (iii) to severe where symptoms occur in three or more settings.

Causes of ODD

There is no known clear and identifiable cause of ODD.  The causes, insofar as they can be identified, may include a combination of inherited (genetic) and environmental factors.  The genetic factors may include a natural temperament or, physiologically, the manner in which the nerves and brains function.  The environmental factors often result from problems with parenting that might involve a lack of supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, abuse or neglect.

What should a parent do if he/she is dealing with a teenager displaying ODD?

If you believe your teenager is suffering from ODD, seek help from competent professionals immediately.  Havenwood specializes in treating teenagers who suffer from ODD.  We would be happy to consult with you to determine how we can help–CALL NOW.