You’re not alone if your teen has displayed anger or dismay when you or another adult has set a boundary or enforced a rule. Every single child and teenager will be disappointed and frustrated somewhere along the way, especially when they are learning how to respect and obey adults. On the other hand, if you notice that your child tends to have more outbursts than not – or even begin to become hostile – then you might be dealing with ODD, or oppositional defiant disorder.
Known as a behavioral disorder, ODD occurs more frequently in males than females and is noted to happen at any age, but more particularly in younger children and teenagers. An article from the American Family Physician in 2008 indicated that anywhere from 1 to 16% of children show symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder. Unfortunately, most research today has not pointed to one specific reason for oppositional defiant disorder; according to Hopkins Medicine, there are two theories that might explain why a child might develop ODD. This includes:
Learning Theory: Essentially, these unwanted or negative behaviors that your child is experiencing are a result of behavior that they have learned. This could be due to what they have witnessed in the form of reinforcement methods that might not be in the most favorable light. For example, if a child acts a certain way and the adult gives in, they correlate their actions (bad or good) with how the adult then reacts.
Developmental Theory: This theory suggests that oppositional defiant disorder actually begins when your child is in their toddler years. Developmentally, they learn how to separate themselves from their caregiver over time, and not being able to do this can lead to issues as they approach adolescence.
While some of the symptoms between toddlers and teenagers will vary, there are some ODD symptoms in teens that you can be aware of. Based on information from the Mayo Clinic, this includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Speaking hateful or hurtful words when angry
- Plans and/or acts out revenge on someone or something
- Blatantly refuses to follow rules or adult direction
- Quickly and frequently loses their temper
- Tends to blame others for how they act
Along with those signs and symptoms, the Cleveland Clinic suggests that a child might develop oppositional defiant disorder if they are exposed to instability within the family home, if they have been exposed to violence, if they have experienced child abuse, or if they don’t have a strong foundation of discipline, to name a few. In addition, parents who are also experiencing mental or behavioral disorders themselves can be a risk factor for offspring developing ODD.
There isn’t one particular ODD test for children and teenagers; in most cases, your physician will work together with you to gather information regarding symptoms, frequency of symptoms, and your own health history. Often this condition can look similar to other mental and behavioral disorders, so it will require proper assessment from a mental health professional to ensure you get the appropriate diagnosis.
If there has been a proper diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, then your next thought is likely to be how to treat teen ODD. Based on information from Hopkins Medicine, common forms of treatment include certain medications, peer and family therapy sessions, and behavioral therapy so that your teen can learn how to regulate and cope with their emotions in a healthy way.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, two popular treatments include parent management training and problem-solving skills training, both of which are evidence-based methods of managing ODD in children and teens. However, these treatment methods appear to work best in conjunction with other types of training and education to ensure a well-rounded approach. This is especially true since it seems as though there isn’t one specific medicine that is the “cure” for oppositional defiant disorder.
Treatment for ODD will look different for each and every child; what works best for one might not be best for another. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to treatment. The best thing you can do is recognize the signs and symptoms at an early age and then get your child diagnosed as quickly as possible. Since we can’t actually prevent ODD from happening, it can seem challenging once it occurs. However, with guidance from medical professionals, the symptoms of ODD can be managed appropriately.
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