What is ODD? ODD meaning and Oppositional Defiant Disorder DSM 5 diagnosis

What is ODD? Oppositional defiant disorder, also known as ODD, is a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least six months. ODD is different than Conduct Disorder is that children with ODD are not aggressive towards, people, animals, or property, and they do not show a proclivity towards theft or deceit. The diagnosis of ODD is invalid if the person is diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).


ODD in children manifests as kids who are disruptive, have poor impulse control, behave negatively, and are defiant to authority figures for at least six months.

Additional behaviors may include being verbally aggressive, excessive stubbornness, blaming others, and a fixation on seeking revenge on others.

A child suffering from ODD may also have an increased risk for anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, and/or substance use disorders.

There is no clear cause of oppositional defiant disorder. Contributing causes may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some experts believe ODD may derive from a difference in the way someone’s brain and nerve functions. As well as ineffective parenting practices, problems with authority figures, and poor social skills. As the child grows these negative behaviors until they become a pattern. Early detection and intervention to address negatives behaviors positively as well as providing positive social interactions can improve functioning and diminish opposition. The effect of behavior skills, behavior modification, and improved communication indicate these are successful in helping a child function. The lack of medication as a treatment option indicates there are no physiological issues.

Genetic factors may include a child’s natural temperament or disposition and possible neurological differences in the way the brain and nerves function. Environment factors may consist of problems with parenting, including lack of supervision, harsh or inconsistent discipline, neglect, or abuse.

When making an ODD diagnosis, the following criteria for the Oppositional Defiance Disorder DSM 5 is used.

A disruptive, impulsive-control, and conduct disorder marked by a negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures persisting for at least six months

Developmental progression to conduct disorder; it often co-occurs or precedes a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder, but many ODD never develop Conduct Disorder.

ODD often manifests through excessive stubbornness, revenge-seeking, oppositionality, and blaming of others for wrongdoing

Verbal aggression and outbursts universal, but do not include aggression toward people or animals, or destruction of property

Symptoms begin around preschool years and most often present around family members

Broad estimates of prevalence rates (1 to 11 percent). In childhood, boys more likely than girls to have ODD; gender disparity diminishes by adolescence

Linked to inconsistent, neglectful, or overly harsh parenting, temperament. Possibly neurobiological markers

High comorbidity with ADHD

Increased risk for anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior, and substance use disorders

For a diagnosis, symptoms must interfere with academic and social functioning and cause marked distress for the family. Children with Oppositional defiance disorder symptoms can quickly escalate if they also suffer from ADHD or Depression. A mental health professional can help determine if additional issues are present in your child.

An ODD meaning doesn’t have to be scary. Know that with involvement, patience, and consistency, your child can learn to deal with their diagnosis.

The following therapeutic approaches are recommended for children:

Behavioral parent management training

Cognitive-behavioral therapy related to anger management

Social skills training (through contagion can occur in group treatments)

Medication can be used to reduce oppositional defiant disorder symptoms such as defiance, impulsivity, or retaliatory aggression. They do not cure ODD. The best treatment for ODD is for a child to learn new behavioral skills. Visit Smarter Parenting for behavior skills that will help a child with ODD.

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