Does My Teen Have Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Teens with ODD are argumentative much of the time.
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

It's normal for all teens to be argumentative and defiant at times. But some teens, are oppositional almost all the time. Teens who are oppositional to the extent that it interferes with their social lives and their education may have oppositional defiant disorder. 

ODD is a mental health disorder that begins during childhood. It's characterized by oppositional behavior, a persistent pattern of negativity, hostility, and defiance toward authority figures.

Symptoms of ODD

The symptoms of ODD are usually most noticeable at home. But, kids with ODD are usually argumentative with teachers and they may be defiant toward authority figures in the community as well. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes the primary features of Oppositional Defiant Disorder as:

  • Frequent arguing with adults
  • Recurrent episodes of losing one's temper
  • Refusing to comply with rules or requests
  • Blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Deliberately doing things to annoy other people
  • Easily annoyed by others
  • Angry and resentful
  • Spiteful or vindictive towards others

Additional behaviors frequently seen in teens with ODD include:

  • Problems in school
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Difficulty with peer relationships
  • Questioning rules
  • Saying mean and hateful things to others when upset
  • Very negative attitude
  • Aggressive
  • Moody
  • Easily frustrated

What to Do if Your Teen Has Symptoms of ODD

Teens with symptoms of this disorder need to be evaluated by a mental health professional.

 In some cases, ODD occurs along with another disorder—it's not clear which comes first. Most commonly a teen with ODD may also suffer from ADHD, and in some cases may also have symptoms of depression or anxiety.

A good place to start is to have a physician assess your teen to rule out other possible causes or contributing factors.

Be prepared to describe in detail the troubling behaviors your teen is exhibiting.

Specific treatments are determined by many factors including your teen's age, severity of symptoms and willingness to participate in therapy. Treatment of ODD usually focuses on improving anger management, problem solving and relationship skills through the use of some or all of the following therapy methods:

  • Individual therapy - to help a teen with ODD learn more effective ways to express and control anger.
  • Family therapy - to improve family interactions and get support for the impact this disorder has on all family members.
  • Medication - there is no specific medication approved for the treatment of ODD but several drugs may be tried to alleviate some of the symptoms.
  • CBT- to improve problem solving skills and decrease negative thought patterns.
  • Parenting support groups or classes - for suggestions and support in dealing with a difficult teen.

The earlier this disorder is identified and treated, the better the chances of minimizing it's negative impact on your teen and your family. When ODD is untreated teens are likely to experience worsening problems due to ongoing aggressive, hostile and annoying behaviors.

Parenting Troubled Teens content is reviewed by the

Continue Reading