Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

Being a child, there must be time when your child misbehave and act out of your control. However, if your child shows continuous anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness towards you or other authority figures, they might have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Around one in 10 children under the age of 12 years are thought to have ODD.

ODD includes conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD. If left untreated, it might lead to more serious conduct disorder characterized by aggressive law-breaking and violent behaviors.

How common is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Estimates suggest that the prevalence ranges from 1%-11% in general population. Before puberty, ODD is more common in boys (1.4:1) and becomes equally common in boys and girls after puberty. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

The common symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder are:

  • Become easily angered, annoyed or irritated;
  • Throw repeated temper tantrums;
  • Excessively arguing with adults, especially those with authority and live closely with the child, such as the parents;
  • Refuse to obey rules;
  • Deliberately trying to annoy or upset others, or being easily annoyed by others;
  • Have low self-esteem;
  • Have a low frustration threshold;
  • Seek to blame others for any accidents or bad behavior;
  • Actively refusing to comply with requests and rules;
  • Blaming others for your mistakes;
  • Having frequent outbursts of anger and resentment;
  • Being spiteful and seeking revenge;
  • Swearing or using obscene language;
  • Saying mean and hateful things when upset.

ODD can vary in severity:

  • Symptoms occur only in one setting, such as only at home, school, work or with peers.
  • M Some symptoms occur in at least two settings.
  • Some symptoms occur in three or more settings.

If untreated, ODD might lead to a more serious conduct disorder. Symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Lying;
  • Being sadistic or cruel to animals and people;
  • Physically or sexually abusing others;
  • Law-breaking behaviors such as deliberately lighting fires, vandalism or stealing.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If your child has any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

The cause of oppositional defiant disorder is not clear, but scientists suggest that the child biology, genetics and certain environmental factors might play a role. A problem with the child’s neurotransmitters can lead to ODD as well as other mental illness. While there is no clear connection, children with family member with mental illness can develop mental illness as well. It’s hard to ignore the environmental role in developing ODD in children. These include:

  • Poor parenting skills (inadequate supervision, harsh or inconsistent discipline, rejection);
  • Marital conflict;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Physical abuse;
  • Sexual abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Poverty;
  • Substance misuse by parents or care-givers.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

There are many risk factors for oppositional defiant disorder, such as:

  • Your child already has high temperament. Temperamental contributions include poor emotion regulation, high levels of emotional reactivity, and poor frustration tolerance.
  • Your child experiences abuse or neglect, harsh or inconsistent discipline, or a lack of parental supervision.
  • Your child lives with parent or family discord or has a parent with a mental health or substance use disorder.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) diagnosed?

Oppositional defiant disorder is diagnosed by a child psychologist. The psychologist will interview you and your child to identify problematic behavior and what are the causes. If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam

How is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) treated?

Treatment options for oppositional defiant disorder may include:

  • Psychotherapy:
    • Parental training – to help the parents better manage and interact with their child, as well as dealing with their child’s behavior appropriately. Social support group is encouraged for parents and child to share their feeling and experiences.
    • Functional family therapy – to teach all family members to communicate and problem-solve more effectively.
    • Consistency of care – all care-givers of the child (including parents, grandparents, teachers, child care workers and so on) need to be consistent in the way they behave towards and manage the child.
  • Medication: there is no medication that is officially recommended to treat ODD. Some drugs may sometimes be used to treat other mental illnesses in patients, such as ADHS or depression. Remember those categories of medication are usually only used with prescription from doctors.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might be helpful to lower risks of ODD for your children:

  • Recognize and praise your child’s good behavior, be as specific as possible.
  • Act the way you want your child to act.
  • Set limits to your child and have your child’s care-givers (parents, grandparents, and teachers) to implement these limits.
  • Set up a routine for your child to follow, assign a house work for your child is a good example.
  • Be prepared for challenges early on. At first, your child probably won’t be cooperative or appreciate your changed response to his or her behavior.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: July 11, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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