ODD Signs & Symptoms

Understanding ODD

Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Found primarily in children and adolescents, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a mental health disorder that is characterized by negative, disobedient, or defiant behavior. While most children and adolescents will go through periods where they will be challenging or difficult, the defiant behavior associated with ODD is much worse. A child or adolescent with ODD will display a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, arguing, defiance, and vindictiveness toward parents and other authority figures. These young people seem to be angry most of the time, frequently throw long-lasting temper tantrums, will start arguments that they will not let go, and will often try to provoke others by being deliberately annoying. While this behavior is extremely disruptive, young people with ODD do not see themselves as being argumentative or difficult; instead, they often blame others for their behaviors.

If you have a child or adolescent who is struggling with oppositional defiant disorder, professional mental health care can be extremely helpful at alleviating the destructive symptoms of this disorder. Treatment for ODD can help a young person learn to engage in more appropriate behavior and to help parents learn how to teach and reinforce desired behavior.



Research has determined that approximately 10% of young people meet the diagnostic criteria for oppositional defiant disorder. Furthermore, it has also been determined that ODD occurs more often in male youth at 11%, compared to 9% of female youth.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

A clear cause for the development of oppositional defiant disorder has not been identified, but a number of contributing factors are believed to place a young person at an increased risk for this disorder. Some risk factors are listed below:

Genetic: Many years of research has shown that an individual’s genetics can be extremely influential in the development of certain mental health disorders. If a young person has a family history of oppositional defiant disorder, there is an increased risk that that he or she will display symptoms of the disorder as well. Furthermore, a child’s natural disposition or temperament, which also has genetic influences, can also trigger the onset of this disorders

Environmental: There are many environmental factors that occur during childhood, which can lead to the development of oppositional defiant disorder. For example, lack of parental involvement, repeated exposure to maladaptive or aggressive behaviors, and exposure to a traumatic event can all bring about ODD.

Risk Factors:

  • Having a parent with a mental health or substance use disorder
  • Neurological differences in the brain
  • Has difficulty regulating emotions
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Experiencing abuse or neglect
  • Receives harsh or inconsistent discipline
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Parental or family discord

Signs of ODD

Signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Since it is normal for children to display oppositional behavior at different times throughout their development, it can sometimes be rather difficult to differentiate between a child who is just strong-willed and one who has oppositional defiant disorder. However, if the symptoms your child is demonstrating is causing significant impairments with family, social activities, and school it is likely he or she is struggling with ODD. The following signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of oppositional defiant disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Often loses temper
  • Is touchy and easily annoyed by others
  • Breaking rules or laws
  • Frequently argues with adults or people in authority
  • Demonstrates aggressive behaviors
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Deliberately tries to upset people
  • Blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviors
  • Engages in mean or hateful talking when upset
  • Instigating behaviors
  • Intentionally destroying relationships
  • Belligerent behaviors
  • Engages in revenge seeking behaviors
  • Constant disobedience
  • Shows spiteful or vindictive behavior

Physical symptoms:

  • Physical injury due to violent behavior
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor decision-making

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Angry and irritable mood
  • Agitation
  • Resentful
  • Inept social skills
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Persistent negative attitude

Effects of ODD

Effects of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

If parents do not seek treatment for a child or adolescent who is struggling with oppositional defiant disorder, a number of negative complications may develop that can greatly affect that young person’s life. The following effects can occur when ODD is left untreated:

  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Frequent conflict with parents or other family members
  • Inability to formulate meaningful relationships
  • Poor school performance
  • Disciplinary action at school
  • Expulsion from school
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Children and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder often experience the symptoms of additional mental health concerns. In some instances it is believed that ODD has triggered the onset of the other mental health disorder, while in other cases it is thought that the additional disorder contributed to the onset of oppositional defiant disorder. These listed disorders are known to commonly occur alongside a diagnosis of ODD:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Learning and communication disorders

Thanks to SUWS, I did a complete 180! I was able to restore the relationship with my parents and understand the underlying issues for my ODD.

– Anonymous Patient