Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Teens

Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or ODD, is defined by the DSM as “a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least six months.” Children with ODD are exceptionally defiant, angry, irritable and sometimes vindictive toward parents, siblings, teachers and peers.  ODD causes significant impairment in school and at home and often creates a great deal of stress and tumult for the family of the sufferer.

Signs and Symptoms of ODD

Signs of ODD often begin as early as preschool.  ODD occasionally develops later in childhood but is almost always evident before the teenage years. Children with ODD struggle with a variety of emotional and behavioral problems including:

  • Frequent loss of temper
  • Touchiness or low tolerance for others
  • Excessive anger and resentment
  • Frequent arguing with adults or people in authority
  • Active defiance and refusal to comply with adults’ rules or requests
  • Deliberately annoying or irritating people
  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Spite and vindictiveness

While many of these behaviors are common to adolescents, the symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder are much more regular and severe than normal teenage rebellion.

Effects of Untreated ODD

Children with ODD suffer from a variety of problems at home and in school and, left untreated, children with ODD are at a high risk of alcohol and drug use, depression and low self esteem, problems in school, delinquent behaviors, legal problems and suicide.

Children with ODD have serious problems in school and at home and often find themselves isolated with few friends and fewer adult allies.  Overall functioning is significantly impaired and children with untreated ODD can create problems for themselves that have negative effects that can last a lifetime, such as a compromised education or a criminal record.

Common problems associated with ODD include:

  • Poor school and work performance
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Impulse control problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Conditions

  • Sometimes children with ODD suffer from other disorders as well.  These co-occurring disorders can make behavioral and emotional problems much worse and accurate diagnosis is the key to good treatment.  Some common co-occurring disorders include:

    • Anxiety disorders
    • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • Mood disorders
    • Learning disorders
    • Communication disorders
    • Substance abuse

Treatment for ODD

The good news is that ODD is treatable.  Children with ODD often do not realize that their behavior is problematic and do not consider themselves to be defiant or oppositional.  They truly believe that their behavior is justified and that they are victims of unreasonable adults and authority figures. The first step for the adolescent is admitting that their behavior is problematic.

The first line treatment for ODD is psychotherapy.  Individual counseling can help your child learn to manage anger and express themselves in a healthier way.Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help your child learn to identify thought patterns that lead to problem behaviors and challenge or change them.  They can learn problem-solving strategies that reduce oppositional and defiant behavior and learn to improve understanding and communication.

Family therapy is also a good option for families with a child who has ODD.  Parents and children can work together to learn better communication strategies and create game plans for situations that are in danger of getting out of control.  Parents and children learn coping skills and communication techniques to improve their relationships and restore hope.

Treatment for ODD

Sadly, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with some mental illnesses.  If you think your adolescent is at risk of hurting themselves or attempting suicide get help right away:

  1. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  2. Call a suicide hotline number.
    1. In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

ODD Treatment at Adolescent Growth

Adolescent Growth’s approach to treating ODD and co-occurring disorders is a holistic one.  Clients are treated according to an individual treatment plan that is created for them upon admission.  Individual therapy is provided at least three times per week. Family therapy is also provided as well as group therapy and Parent Support Workshops.  Teens are evaluated by our adolescent psychiatrist who may recommend medication.

Therapy groups are held every day and adolescents find that peer support is one of many wonderful advantages to getting help in a group setting.  We also teach yoga and meditation which help the teen to relax, manage emotions and think more clearly and mindfully. All meals are planned by a dietitian in order to provide optimal nutrition in order to support your child through their time here at Adolescent Growth.

If you are struggling at home with a child who is exceptionally oppositional and defiant, please call our admissions department to discuss treatment options 1-888-948-9998.