All about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Contributed by : Dr Chintan Solanki, Ravina Sewani   
All about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Here are Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention.

When your child is doing the opposite of what you say most of the times, it indicates the possibility of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). ODD occurs due to social and environmental factors during development. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a childhood behaviour problem.

A child with ODD:

  • Won’t do what people ask
  • Thinks that what (s)he’s being asked to do is unreasonable
  • Gets angry and aggressive when asked to do something

Every child gets cranky and disobeys when they’re tired, upset or frustrated. But a child with ODD behaves like this a lot, and the ODD behaviour is so severe that the child would refuse to do ordinary, everyday things just because (s)he required to do so. A child with ODD will defy what an authoritative figure says by arguing, disobeying, or talking back to their parents, teachers, or other adults. When this behaviour lasts longer than six months and is excessive compared to what is usual for the child's age, it may mean that the child has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). In this case, it is best to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist who can help identify whether the child has ODD or not.


  • Repeated temper tantrums
  • Excessively arguing with adults, especially those with authority
  • Staying irritated at adults
  • Refusing to comply with requests and rules
  • Trouble carrying out routine tasks at home and in school
  • Blaming others for their mistakes
  • Being vindictive towards others
  • Swearing or using obscene language
  • Saying mean and hateful things when upset
  • Low self-esteem


Even though the exact cause of ODD is not known, following are presumed to be the underlying reasons of ODD:

  • Biological: Some studies suggest that injuries to certain areas of the brain can lead to serious behavioural problems in children. ODD has also been linked to abnormal functioning of certain types of brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters.
  • Genetics: Children with close family members with mental illnesses probably inherit ODD.
  • Environmental: Factors such as a dysfunctional family life, a family history of mental illnesses and/or substance abuse, and inconsistent discipline by parents may contribute to the development of behaviour disorders in children.


After you report your child’s symptoms to a psychiatrist or psychologist, (s)he will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose ODD, the doctor may sometimes use tests such as neuroimaging studies or blood tests.


Treatment for ODD is determined based on many factors, including the child's age, the severity of symptoms, and the child's ability to participate in and tolerate specific therapies. Treatment usually consists of a combination of the following:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy helps the child develop more effective coping and problem-solving skills, and ways to express and control anger. Psychotherapy includes cognitive-behavioural therapy that reshapes the child's thinking to improve their behaviour.
  • Medication: While there is no medication that is scientifically established or formally approved to treat ODD, drugs may sometimes be used to treat symptoms of ODD.


It is not possible to prevent ODD but recognising and acting on symptoms when they first appear can minimise distress to the child and family.

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