Q: My grandson was recently diagnosed with a condition called ODD that supposedly affects his performance in school. I’ve never heard of such a thing. What can you tell me about it?
A: ODD stands for oppositional defiant disorder, and the number of children diagnosed with the condition is on the rise. The increase in diagnoses is due in part to new American Psychiatric Association guidelines, as well as a better understanding of attention deficit disorder (ADD). Children who are now diagnosed with ODD might have been labeled troublemakers in the past. However, new insight into brain development reveals a complex set of factors that contribute to this behavior disorder.
Whereas ADD is characterized by lack of focus and attention, the hallmarks of ODD include frequent and persistent arguing, tantrums, anger, disruptive behavior, and unmistakable hostility toward authority figures. If this sounds like a normal kid, you’re right. The difference, however, is that these behaviors are extreme in kids with ODD. While all kids have their ups and downs, kids with ODD demonstrate defiant behavior consistently for at least six months. These negative, uncontrollable behaviors develop gradually and worsen over time, becoming unquestionably disruptive at home and school. Most children develop signs and symptoms by age eight, but the condition can develop during preteen years.
Kids with the condition are often extremely disrespectful, hostile, and negative. They tend to have a hard time in school because their aggressive behavior and confrontational tendencies make it difficult to find and keep friends. Furthermore, they view authority figures with contempt, which makes them argumentative and noncompliant. When asked, the child will not recognize their behaviors as defiant, but rather as completely rational behaviors resulting from others placing unreasonable demands upon him or her. Their perception of the world is skewed; they see the world as unfair and unjust and lash out against it. ODD is often found in kids who have ADD, anxiety, and depression, and can contribute to low self-esteem. If left untreated, ODD can lead to problems like substance abuse, delinquency, and conduct disorders.
Experts believe ODD may be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including developmental delays and hormonal imbalances. Some children who have been diagnosed with ODD have a history of abuse or neglect. There is no medication treatment protocol for ODD. Therapy is used to teach appropriate reactions, behaviors, and anger management. Many parents undergo counseling as well to learn how to support these changes in a positive way.
The most important thing for you to remember is that ODD is usually not a result of bad parenting. Children from the most loving homes can develop ODD. It is a condition that stresses both children and parents, which makes unconditional love and acceptance crucial. Be positive, look for opportunities to praise your grandson, and avoid rehashing past arguments or outbursts. Let each new day be a fresh start for your grandson as he learns to control his temper and emotions.
Editor’s note: Want to read more? Neyssa from Rebuilding the Well details her experience and provides advice in an article on her site: Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Finding Peace.