Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Family Therapy, Anger Management, And Parent Counseling Needed



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Oppositional Defiant Disorder, commonly shortened to ODD, is a condition characterized by defiant and hostile behavior that is classed as non-developmental which means that kids do not typically display the said level of defiance. It generally appears in childhood, and if not taken care of, the disorder may result in numerous mental health issues as the child grows up.

Understanding ODD

Rebellion is a natural phase of children as they develop. In fact, this particular level of defiance characterizes adolescence. Furthermore, during the toddler stages of children, they go through a similar state of resistance also as they learn to explore their individuality and exert their own rules. Although these specific states are defined as defiance, they are both parts of growing up and nothing a good parenting style will solve.

However, if things get out of hand and the children start to define more as a discipline is imposed, ODD may be in the picture. To be more specific, ODD is the defiance of children triggered by insignificant events or even nothing at all. Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD, explained, “[K]ids with ODD have oppositional attitudes and behaviors that are more of a pattern than an exception to the rule.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), ODD is diagnosed when defiant behavior persists for a majority of the days in 6 months for children under the age of 5. For children older than 5, defiance must happen at least once a week in the six-month span.

Symptoms Of ODD

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To meet the criteria of ODD, the defiant behavior must be classified as to be not typical for the child’s current age and corresponding developmental stage. For example, a 2-year old’s frequent tantrum may not be of much concern, but an 8-year old with the same behavior is.

More specific symptoms are:

  • Anger, hostility, and an irritable mood
  • Refusal to listen to authoritative figures
  • Purposeful attempts to irritate others
  • Vindictive and spiteful behavior

Children with ODD often do not have any regard for the consequences of their defiant behavior. In some cases of ODD, however, children may ask for forgiveness but still revert to the old defiant behavior.

Causes Of ODD

ODD is believed as a result of a chaotic environment; thus no single factor is considered the leading cause of the disorder. However, it must be noted that finding the cause of the ODD may not be possible in some situations.

A chaotic environment is classified as a collection of specific scenarios which then leads to the development of ODD. Ugo Uche,  LPC, wrote, “[I]n the absence of other clinical issues, a diagnosis of ODD is really a defense mechanism and coping strategy used by children and teens who have experienced a history of being betrayed by adults in their lives to varying degrees.” Children with a history of abuse, neglect, or trauma are some of the things that may instill a negative response to the children thus producing ODD. Apart from that, harsh forms of disciplines may also be taken differently by children causing them to resent authorities.

Other reasons involve the parents of the child with the disorder. For example, according to studies, children of drug addicts or incarcerated parents are more likely to develop the disorder, and the same goes for children of mothers who use drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.

ODD as a symptom is also being explored today with the disorder being linked to underlying mental health issues such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

Therapy For ODD

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“The good news is that the vast majority of kids with disruptive behavior disorders have disordered reactive aggression. They misinterpret environmental cues and react inappropriately. Psychiatry can help those kids,” said Daniel F. Connor, MD. Treating ODD is very important for the child’s future development. It is a known fact that ODD may result in various consequences in the future and to address it in its early stages is critical.

The first step of treating the ODD through therapy is to find the possible triggers and multiple causes of the disorder. After then, the treatment can now be developed with a mix of behavioral techniques such as anger management methods for individual therapy. More specific techniques are goal setting, relaxation therapy, trigger identification, and more.

Family therapy can also be employed to create a more suitable environment for the treatment of the child’s ODD. Furthermore, subjecting the family to treatment can also give them better control of the situation.

Parent counseling is also a great help for parents. The sessions will teach parents how to cope and manage ODD children. BetterHelp may be able to assist on that matter.

Finally, medications ranging from antidepressants to stimulants can also be prescribed to address the symptoms only as no single pill will cure the disorder.