6 things to know about ODD in children

Parents have a difficult time watching their children struggle. ODD is one of the many disorders that afflict children and their families. If you believe your defiant child may have ODD here are 6 things you need to know about this disorder.

1. ODD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a behavioral disorder

It is characterized by an ongoing pattern of hostile behavior beginning in childhood or adolescence. ODD is included in the group of disruptive behavioral disorders including ADHD and Conduct Disorder. Numerous studies have reported similarities among these disorders both in epidemiological and clinical samples often making them difficult to isolate and understand individually. Of the three disorders in the group, ODD is believed to be the least serious, but it can escalate if not addressed.

2. ODD affects both girls and boys

The true rate of ODD is debatable, but it affects between 2 and 16 percent of children, affecting both girls and boys equally. When tested, MRI, Electroencephalogram, blood chemistry and IQ were all found to be normal in the majority of cases. Most ODD children have a history of parental deprivation or of living in a hostile environment.

3. Numerous factors play a role in the development of ODD

While there are no clear causes of oppositional defiant disorder, but family genetics and dynamics seem to play a large part in the incidence of ODD. They include biological, psychological and social factors. Genetics are suspect since it tends to run in families. Exposure to toxins such as nicotine in utero or a lack of vitamins has been suggested but not proven. There is also a link to lead exposure, but that is also inconclusive. Psychological issues may preclude ODD such as disability to bond to the mother or having a chronically distracted parent, but these are theories. Other risk factors for ODD include abuse, neglect, harsh family environment, lack of supervision, difficulty regulating emotions, or parents with substance abuse or mental disorders.

4. Children with ODD process information differently than other children

They cannot generate solutions to problems, ignore other people’s body language, and interestingly feel they should be rewarded for their aggressive behavior.

5. Symptoms of ODD in children

ODD signs include chronic aggression, frequent outbursts, a tendency to ignore requests, a tendency to argue and a tendency to engage in annoying behavior. Some experts believe these children cannot control their impulses. Other ODD signs and symptoms include negativity, defiance, disobedience and often hostility primarily towards adults and authority figures. Your defiant child may start lying, stealing, missing school, become involved in frequent school fights and have deteriorating school grades. They often throw temper tantrums for minor issues, spend long periods of time on technology and often do not complete homework assignments. Your defiant child may also bully classmates, destroy school property, be rude and occasionally abuse siblings or threaten parents if they don’t get what they want. Extreme cases of ODD include setting fire to household items, making lewd remarks and obscene gestures towards others. In school, they openly defy rules. They are easily distracted and have impaired attention and concentration.

6. Diagnosis of ODD takes time

Diagnosis of ODD in children is difficult and usually takes six months of observation by parents or a clinician. If a child continues to be angry and defiant consistently for a long period of time, they should be seen by a professional family therapist. They can screen the child for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, all of which are contributors to ODD. If left untreated, oppositional behavior can evolve into conduct disorder and more serious behavioral problems.

It is most helpful to be aware of all the contributing factors in your defiant child. Help is available if you believe that your child, in fact, has ODD.

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