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Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Is there such a thing as a child who is not difficult or challenging at times? The answer to that question is an obvious “NO.” The reality however, is that some children are more difficult and challenging than others. Teens, in particular, are frequently moody, defiant, and at times even disrespectful to their parents. Parents often struggle in knowing where the line is between “normal” difficult behavior versus difficult behavior that is indicative of more intense problems. Children, and especially teens who have persistent patterns of tantrums, arguing, disrespect, and defiant attitudes towards parents and other authority figures may be struggling with a disorder commonly known as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Simply put, oppositional defiant disorder is a pattern of negative, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures.

Symptoms and Diagnosing

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by the following symptoms and behaviors:

  • Frequently loses temper
  • Argues with adults
  • Angry and resentful of others
  • Actively refuses to comply with the requests or rules of adults
  • Blames others for his or her own mistakes or misbehavior
  • Is touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • Is angry and resentful
  • Is spiteful or vindictive

It can be challenging to know the difference between a teenager that is simply strong-willed or has a more emotional-type personality and a teenager with oppositional defiant disorder. There is obviously a spectrum of behavior and emotions for teenagers when it comes to issues such as independence, respect, cooperation, and overall attitude. It is normal for all children to exhibit oppositional behaviors at various stages of development. However, your child’s problems and difficulty may be oppositional defiant disorder if your child’s oppositional behaviors:

  • Are persistent in nature
  • Have lasted at least six months
  • Are clearly disruptive to the family and home or school environment
  • Are characterized by the frequent occurrence of at least four of the symptoms and behaviors listed above

It is important to understand that as a parent of a child with oppositional defiant disorder there are many resources available. Doctors, therapists, school counselors, and child development experts can help.

Treatment of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Treatment of oppositional defiant disorder is determined based on many factors, including the child’s age, the severity of symptoms, and the child’s ability to participate in and tolerate specific therapies. Treatment usually consists of a combination of the following:

Individual Psychotherapy – geared towards helping the child develop more effective ways to express and control anger. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a commonly used type of therapy that aims to reshape the child’s thinking (cognition) to improve behavior. Family Therapy – may be used to help improve family interactions and communication among family members. It is important for parents to be involved in helping their child work on and overcome the problems/issues that have developed as a result of the oppositional defiant disorder. Group Therapy – working on oppositional defiant issues in a group setting can be beneficial in that teenagers are able to get feedback and guidance from their peers. Medication – while there is not a specific medication designed to treat oppositional defiant disorder, various medications can be used to treat some of the accompanying symptoms, as well as any other coexisting mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD.

The program at Logan River Academy is ideal for working with adolescents who have been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder. The milieu program is designed to provide the type of structure, limits, behavior modification, and clinical intervention that often cannot be provided in a typical home setting, while at the same time providing as much life-like experience as possible for the adolescent.