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Is Your Teen Struggling with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?

January 14, 2014

Is Your Teen Struggling with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?

It can be difficult to determine whether your teen is having normal mood swings or if they are suffering from a mental health or behavioral disorder. If your child is exhibiting persistent negative, defiant and hostile behaviors mainly towards adults and authority figures, they may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). This extreme behavior often disrupts normal daily activities at home, school and work. Most of the time, those suffering from ODD do not view themselves as acting oppositional or defiant. Instead, they blame their negative behavior on unreasonable guidelines or demands.


According to the American Psychiatric Association, for a child or teen to be diagnosed with ODD, their negative behaviors must be more extreme than typically observed in someone their age. For at least six months, they must exhibit a minimum of four of the following behaviors regularly and consistently:

  • Loses temper/throws temper tantrums
  • Argues with adults
  • Defies and refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
  • Attempts to annoy or upset others
  • Blames others for their mistakes or misbehavior
  • Touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Feels angry and resentful
  • Spiteful or vindictive

In addition, the previously stated behaviors must:

  • Create significant impairment to function at work, school or home.
  • Occur individually, not during an episode of another mental health or behavioral problem such as bipolar disorder or an anxiety disorder.
  • Not meet the criteria associated with conduct disorder, and if older than 18, antisocial personality disorder.


It’s important to first recognize that no exact cause for ODD has been identified. Instead, it is believed that there are a variety of risk factors that contribute to the disorder. They can be categorized as environmental, genetic, and biological. Growing up in a dysfunctional environment with lack of or negative parental interaction may contribute to the development of ODD. It has also been found that many children and teens suffering from ODD have a family member who also suffers from a mental illness or behavioral disorder. This suggests that the disorder may be genetic. Lastly, there have been studies linking ODD to an abnormal amount of certain brain chemicals or neurotransmitters.

Treating ODD

The earlier ODD can be diagnosed and treated, the better. Without treatment, teens may develop more serious disorders later in life such as conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder. It is crucial to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. ODD often coincides with other mental health and behavioral problems that may go undetected or mask ODD. These include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
  • Anxiety disorders

It’s important to diagnose both illnesses simultaneously. If one is left untreated, they may worsen and intensify the symptoms. Additionally, if there is an ongoing substance abuse problem, it must be treated as well. Depending on the diagnosis, there are multiple suggestions for how ODD should be treated. The most common treatment is therapy and parental training in order to develop positive interaction between the child or teen and their family.

Future Outlook 

For most children and teens diagnosed with ODD, their condition does improve over time if they receive help. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, studies show that approximately 67% of children diagnosed with ODD who receive treatment are symptom-free after three years. For children and teens who are struggling with ODD, their future outlook is very positive if they receive the proper help along with their family.

If your teen is struggling with a mental health or behavior disorder such as oppositional defiant disorder or substance abuse, we are here to help. You may contact us at: (844) 319-5239.
We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays.


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