What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

While it is common for young children to have temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, some children have a chronic pattern of anger and disobedience that causes problems at home, school, or with peers, or causes emotional stress to the individual, colleagues, or loved ones.

Children and adolescents may be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder if they display a number of symptoms related to being frequently angry or irritable, defiant or argumentative with authority figures, or unreasonably fixated on revenge. As this behaviour may be common among siblings, it needs to be present outside of the sibling relationship for the diagnosis to be considered.

An angry/irritable mood may include things like losing one’s temper frequently, being easily annoyed, being frequently angry and resentful.

Argumentative or defiant behaviour includes things like arguing with adults or authority figures, refusing to follow rules or requests made by authority figures, annoying others on purpose, blaming others for one’s own mistakes.

Vindictiveness includes things like being spiteful or seeking revenge.

Under 5 years old: The frequency of such behaviours is most days, for at least 6 months

Ages 5 and up: The frequency of such behaviours is at least once a week for 6 months.

What causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

While an exact cause is unknown, certain temperaments may be related to the development of oppositional defiant disorder, such as high levels of emotional reactivity and low frustration tolerance. In terms of environmental risk factors, parenting styles that are harsh, inconsistent or neglectful may put children at risk.

Can therapy help my child overcome Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Therapy can help determine what seems to be leading your child to feel so angry or vindictive, and to provide coping strategies that both alleviate the emotional pain and teach skills to get along better with others. Where environmental factors are at play, techniques such as parent skills training might be helpful. This does not mean that parents are to blame, but that parenting skills may need to be tailored to meet the needs of a particular child’s temperament.

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