What Do You Know About Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

November 12, 2012

What Do You Know About Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

We know about ‘the terrible twos’ and also the angst and moods associated with teenagers but there is a disorder which can appear to have some of the same signs, and the earlier this is identified the better it is for all concerned.

Characteristics associated with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) – which is classed as a behavior disorder and is usually spotted in infancy – are being irritable and annoying towards parents, peer group, teachers and authority figures, and showing defiance and unconstructive or uncooperative behavior. Children and adolescents who suffer with ODD are upsetting or disturbing to other people around them.

What causes ODD is still an unknown quantity. There are two major theories which give details of how ODD occurs. As stated above it seems to begin when children are toddlers and it could be the child or adolescent had problems in detaching themselves and gaining their independence from their main carer who they were connected to emotionally. The ‘bad’ way of thinking, which is a characteristic of ODD is seen as a carry-over of problems which remained unanswered when they were toddlers. A learning theory states that the negative characteristics of ODD are views which have been learned, showing the result of unconstructive support by the parents, and because of this the oppositional behavior increases as the adolescent gets noticed, time is spent with them, concern is shown to them and there is communication with parents or other authority figures.

Between 1 and 16% of school age children and adolescents are reported to suffer from ODD and it is more common in males than females. The most common reason for children and adolescents being referred to mental health services is behavior disorders.

The behaviors of children and adolescents with ODD, can also be seen in children who do not have the disorder, usually around the age of 2 or 3 or the teenage years, as stated earlier. As we know, many children when they are tired, hungry or upset, disobey or argue with their parents or defy authority. However this behavior in children and adolescents with ODD can hinder their learning capability, can affect adjusting to school and also can affect their relationship with others. Signs which can be associated with ODD are: having temper tantrums often, not doing what an adult has asked them to do, arguing with adults too much when given rules, always questioning them and not following them. Deliberately upsetting and annoying others which include adults is also commonplace. As is taking no responsibility for their behavior ‘It’s not my fault’. Quick to get annoyed by the behavior of others, often angry, communication is angry and harsh, recurrent temper tantrums, unnecessary arguments with adults, refusal to comply with grown up’s wishes, forever questioning rules, refusing to follow rules, blaming others for misbehaviors or mistakes, easily irritated by others, often has an irate attitude, speaks harshly, or nastily and tends to want revenge. Some of the indications can look like other medical conditions, therefore it is always best to visit your child or adolescent’s physician for their opinion.

Like many disorders, early treatment and awareness can help prevent problems in the future. The parents and teachers of the child or adolescent can often spot symptoms, as well as other authority figures who are involved. A child psychiatrist or a qualified mental health professional would be the person who identifies ODD in the children and adolescents. Another aid to diagnosis would be obtaining a full and detailed history of their behavior which would include reports from parents and the teachers. A clinical observation of the adolescent’s behavior and perhaps psychological testing also plays a part in the diagnosis. It also appears ODD can coexist with some other mental health illnesses, which includes the following disorders: mood, anxiety, conduct and attention-deficit/hyperactivity. Again, it is best to contact your child or adolescent’s physician for information.

Your adolescent’s physician will determine the type of treatment based on age, health and medical history and the extent of the symptoms your adolescent is experiencing and their tolerance for certain medications or therapies. Expectations and your preferences and opinion will be discussed too.

Treatments which may be offered are:

Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavior can be used to improve the following skills, problem solving, communication, impulse control and anger management. Therapy for the family can be used also which includes changing the system of the family, improving communication within the family unit. Being a parent of an adolescent suffering with ODD is very trying and difficult therefore support and understanding is required along with developing helpful parenting styles. Peer group therapy again involves concentrating on developing social skills and interpersonal skills. Medication is not seen as useful in dealing with ODD but it may be used if there appears to be other signs of disorders which do respond to medication.

Some experts are of the opinion that a developmental series of experiences happens in the development of ODD. It may begin with parenting practices which are not productive and followed by a problem with other figures of authority and difficulty communicating with their peers. Because these experiences multiply and carry on, a pattern of oppositional and defiant behavior develops. To break the sequence of experiences which can lead to even more oppositional and defiant behaviors, it can be useful to discover the family and social experiences which could have a negative effect.

Discovery and intervening with useful communication, parenting, resolving conflict and anger management skills are tools which can be used to break the pattern of the negative behavior and reduces the oppositional and defiant behaviors in interaction with adults, peers, school and social changes. To improve the normal growth and development and the quality of life of adolescent’s who suffer with ODD, early intervention is essential.


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