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Behavioural / Mental Health conditions

Oppositional Defiance Disorder

What is Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)?

Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or ODD, is a psychiatric disorder that is characterised by a pattern of defiant and disrespectful behaviour directed towards authority figures. Children with ODD may exhibit a wide range of behaviours, including verbal aggression, temper tantrums, sulking, and argumentativeness. While all children can exhibit these behaviours at times, those with ODD do so to a degree that is significantly greater than what is typically seen in other children their age.

ODD can be a challenge for both parents and teachers, as it can make it difficult for children to comply with rules and follow directions. If left untreated, ODD can lead to academic problems, social isolation, and conflicts with the law. However, with appropriate treatment, children with ODD can learn to manage their symptoms.

Symptoms of ODD

Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) can be also characterised by persistent and disruptive Oppositional Behaviour. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines Oppositional Behaviour as “a recurrent pattern of negative, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behaviour toward authority figures that significantly contravenes age-appropriate norms.” According to the DSM-5, the Oppositional Behaviour must occur for at least six months and must be present in at least two different settings (e.g., home and school).

In addition, the Oppositional Behaviour must be developmentally inappropriate and significantly interfere with social or academic functioning. Symptoms of ODD may include: arguing with adults, deliberately doing things that will annoy others, having an blames others for his or her own mistakes or misbehaviour, being touchy or easily annoyed by others, being angry and resentful, or being vindictive. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, it is important to seek professional help.

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Causes of ODD

ODD usually begins in childhood, with the average age of onset being around 8 years old. boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ODD, and the disorder is more common in children from lower-income families. There are several possible causes of ODD, including genes, parenting style, and exposure to violence or conflict. While there is no cure for ODD, symptoms can be managed through therapy and medication.

How to deal with a child who has ODD

If your child has been diagnosed with ODD, you may be feeling frustrated and uncertain about how to best deal with the situation. However, there are a few basic strategies that can help you manage your child’s impulsivity and outbursts.

First, it is important to maintain a consistent routine and set clear expectations for your child. This will help decrease the amount of novelty in their environment, which can trigger defiance.

Secondly, provide positive reinforcement for compliant behaviour. This can help encourage your child to continue making good choices. Finally, avoid power struggles with your child. If an argument does ensue, remain calm and resist the urge to escalate the situation. By following these guidelines, you can help create a more positive home environment for your child and encourage them to develop more positive coping skills.


Openly uncooperative and frequently hostile behaviour is a key sign in children with ODD. The symptoms are usually seen in multiple settings but may be more noticeable at home or at school.  Symptoms of ODD in your child may include:

  • Excessive arguing with adults
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Often questioning rules
  • Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules
  • Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviour
  • Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Frequent anger and resentment
  • Mean and hateful talking when upset
  • Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

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