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Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Teens

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD, is a mental health condition that affects many teenagers in the United States. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic reports that as many as 16% of teens meet the diagnostic criteria for this mental health condition. It often begins as early as age 8, and it can progress into adulthood, in many cases. Parents are often unaware that their child has ODD. Instead, they may assume that they are just being difficult or rebellious. They may exhibit behaviors that seem odd or uncharacteristic of them, and it can be difficult to understand what to do. It is important for every parent to understand what ODD is, how to recognize it, and how to get help for their child. The right support is critical, and when ODD is diagnosed early on, many problematic behaviors in the future can be avoided.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant and hostile behavior toward authority figures. For a teen with ODD, their behaviors present a problem within their day-to-day functioning. Some oppositional behavior is typical during the teenage years. This is a time when teens are learning more about themselves and the world around them. People in this age group are known to rebel. But when that rebellious behavior becomes more common, it is worth considering whether ODD could be the cause of it. Oppositional Defiant Disorder Teenager

What are the Symptoms of ODD?

It can be challenging to tell the difference between ODD and normal acting out behaviors. But there are some symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder that may make it easier to identify. They include:

  • Having frequent temper tantrums.
  • A behavioral pattern of arguing with adults or defying authority.
  • Neglecting to follow the rules.
  • Causing others to get annoyed on purpose.
  • Blaming other people for their own poor behavior or mistakes.
  • Getting easily annoyed by other people.
  • Having feelings of resentment or anger toward others.
  • Making plans to get revenge on other people.
  • Having serious problems at school.
  • Struggling to make or keep friends.

What Causes ODD?

Researchers have not been able to identify one specific cause for oppositional defiant disorder. Rather, they believe it is likely developed from a blend of biological, psychological and social factors. Families with a history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may have higher instances of teens with ODD. The same is true for families with histories of substance abuse, bipolar disorder or depression. We also know that children with ODD may exhibit various abnormalities in the part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control, judgment and reasoning. These children may find it difficult to interpret social cues, which can make making friends challenging. Teens with ODD may lack parental instruction, and they often have not been disciplined consistently while they were growing up. If their community is violent or abusive, that can also contribute to the development of this condition.

What Are Some Possible Underlying Factors?

Of course, there are also many underlying factors involved as well. When teens are angry, defiant or rebellious, it is important to look for the deeper issue. Any type of opposition is often a way to hide pain and fear. These emotions can stem from several places. For many teens, trauma is at the heart of their ODD diagnosis. Any type of traumatic stress can have an impact on every area of a teenager’s life. It takes a lot of emotional energy to cope with the pain that comes from trauma. As a result, their daily functioning and relationships take a backseat, and this can manifest as defiance. Anxiety is another issue that may lead to defiant behavior from teens. They may be struggling with social anxiety, which makes them avoid attending activities and events. Their fear and discomfort can easily transition them to ODD. Finally, when teens do not have good relationships with their parents, they may act out and develop ODD as a result. Healthy attachment bonds are formed during childhood, and when parents are uninvolved in their kids’ lives, those bonds may not be formed. The teen may develop issues with self-worth, which can lead to defiant, rebellious behaviors.

Tips for the Parents of Teens With ODD

Parents of teens with ODD need a lot of support in almost every area. They may not know how to deliver consequences for disobedient behavior. They may also struggle with making everyday parenting decisions that seem easy for the parents of other teens to make. These tips can help.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Teens

How to Deliver Consequences to Teens With ODD

Kids with oppositional defiant disorder are not typical, by any means. Their behavior is rebellious, and they have next to no regard for any type of authority, or even for society. That type of attitude can be extremely difficult for parents to handle, and yet, these teens still need consequences for their behaviors. It is important to know what types of consequences work for teens with ODD. The typical consequences are not going to be effective with them. Parents need penalties that put them in control, and this requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Seeking out fail-proof consequences is the answer to this problem. One consequence that is often effective with ODD teens is blocking their access to WiFi. Parents can change the password or simply turn off the service for the entire house. They may also consider turning off their phone service completely, which is a better option than just taking the phone away. Anything that the child has no control over can be utilized as a consequence. It is not too hard to find where that “pain point” is, and once a parent finds it, they may have found something that will actually work.

How to Parent a Child With ODD

It can be a real challenge to avoid keeping a running tally of the teen’s offenses; especially once they start to pile up. It is possible to parent teens with ODD in healthy ways, and these tips can help:

  • Be as patient as possible. It is so important for parents to learn how to control their own reactions and emotions when dealing with their teens. Doing so can quickly calm situations that could quickly get out of hand.
  • Maintain proper boundaries, but try to be flexible. Verbal abuse and violence are typical reactions from teens with ODD. Healthy boundaries can eliminate a lot of problems, but teens do need some freedom as well. Finding a healthy balance between the two is the key.
  • Look for other signs of trouble. For example, if the teen starts having hallucinations or feels out of control, it is important to seek professional help.
  • Parents need to have their own, personal support system as well. Group therapy and individual therapy sessions are highly recommended for their mental health.
  • Know when to seek out treatment for the teen. ODD can be difficult to manage without professional support, and there are many options available.

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Imagine by Northpoint: Our Teen Mental Health Program in Nampa, ID

Imagine by Northpoint offers help to teens who are dealing with oppositional defiant disorder. We are located in Nampa, Idaho, and we offer services to teens between the ages of 12-17. So many teen mental health issues are ignored, or at the very least, they are not detected. When this happens, they may escalate to the point of becoming out of control. The teenage years are a time of great change in the lives of young people, and they often need help to navigate it. Our program offers psychotherapy, crisis intervention services, medication adjustment and so much more. It is a day treatment program, which means that teens are immersed in treatment, which can produce excellent results. Do you think that your teen has oppositional defiant disorder? Would you like to discuss treatment options? Please contact us today.