Oppositional defiant disorder

All children pass through a rebellious stage at least once in their lives. However, when these childhood tantrums begin to get in the way of the child’s academic and social progress, it becomes a worry for the parents. Unlike most children, children suffering from ODD often carry around unstable emotions within themselves and are more likely to have difficulty adjusting unless they are treated.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a fairly common disorder among children. It usually starts in children around age 8, but it may start earlier. The disorder is more common in boys than it is in girls. This disorder is caused by social, biological and psychological factors.

Symptoms of ODD include:

  • Angry attitude
  • Saying unkind or harsh things
  • Vengefulness
  • Constantly getting into trouble at school
  • Easily annoyed
  • Placing blame on others with regards to own mistakes or misbehaviors
  • Intentionally annoying or upsetting others
  • Rejection of authority
  • Defiance of rules and authority
  • Argumentativeness, especially with adults or authority figures
  • Spitefulness
  • Negativity
  • Resentment towards others
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Swearing or obscene language use
  • Hostility towards parents
  • Academic problems
  • Isolation from peers
  • Aggression towards peers
  • Difficulty maintaining friends

While these are all signs that most children show at least once in their lifetimes, when these symptoms are persistent (lasting for over six months) and clearly disrupt the child’s family, home and school environment, the problem may be more than adolescent and can better be termed as oppositional defiant disorder.

ODD can be caused by:

  • Abuse
  • Parents with substance abuse problems
  • Lack of positive attitude in parents
  • Exposure to violence
  • Financial problems in the family
  • Instability in the family
  • Genetic tendencies
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of supervision
  • Neglect
  • Inconsistent or harsh discipline
  • Natural disposition (by birth)
  • Development limitations in children’s though and emotional abilities

ODD can be treated in one of two ways. It can be treated through psychotherapy or through medication. Psychotherapy involves counseling to develop effective ways of channeling and expressing anger. Cognitive therapy helps children to reshape thought processes and improve behavior. Family therapy is also used to determine why the child may be having problems. PMT or parent management training sessions are held to teach parents of children with ODD how to properly manage their children. While there is no specific drug for ODD, relaxants and other medications are sometimes used to treat distress symptoms.

ODD often occurs alongside other mental health issues such as depression, learning disability, anxiety or Attention Deficiency Disorder (ADD). While mental disorders such as ODD are hard to identify and separate from others, they should never be left untreated as it can cause the disease to worsen or progress. Substance abuse should also be considered a possibility in case of children with ODD.

However, there are some noted controversies surrounding the diagnosis of ODD and American Journal of Psychiatry points out one such concern regarding the DSM-IV criterion which differentiates from the ICD-10 criteria as promoted by the WHO (World Health Organization). The overall diagnosis of the Oppositional Defiant Disorder can be further complicated by the existence of other prevalent diseases, for example ADHD. There are also critics to the diagnosis of ODD, stating that the diagnosis reflects normal behavior of the growing children.

Regardless of the controversies surrounding the diagnosis, it can be stated with certainty that while ODD cannot necessarily be prevented, it can be dealt with efficiently, especially if it is caught early on and treated accordingly. By taking the child to consult a doctor as early as symptoms are suspected, the child can be given proper care, and can often go on to lead a normal childhood and adult life.

Last updated on Nov 17th, 2010 and filed under Mental Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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