Have you ever heard anything about oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)? Probably not. Recently, you notice more and more often that your child looks like alien kid: he is constantly irritated, aggressive, rebellious. He arranges a tantrum for any, even the most insignificant matter. He contradicts the whole, and even fights with other children (or just beat them). Teachers at the school, friends and acquaintances – everybody converges in the belief that something is wrong with your baby.
If you’ll look closely, you will notice that in the presence of adults, especially you (the parents), the child behaves quite differently. Some tension has appeared in your relationships, formerly tender and cloudless. What happens to your baby? Are these attacks of unwarranted aggression only the signs of maturity? And will they go away with time or the nature of the child has changed forever?
Confusion and helplessness that you feel now, will not help you solve this difficult situation. Only armed with information, you can once again get close to your child. Find out what caused his alienation, and where to apply for help in this situation.
How common is oppositional defiant disorder?
Two-year children, adolescents and even young people can suffer from oppositional defiant disorder. This disorder is characterized by the fact that the child is constantly quarreling with adults, raises a stink, and has a strong feeling of resentment and anger. Before the beginning of puberty, ODD disorder occurs more often in boys than in girls, but after the beginning of puberty it is observed equally often in boys and girls. ODD disorder symptoms occurs in 6-25% of children and adolescents.
Children with oppositional defiant disorder also have other behavioral problems: a syndrome of impaired attention or hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, mood and anxiety disorders. In severe cases, the child may have conductive disorder (behavioral disorder).
Ordinary protest or real disease?
Outbreaks of aggression and anger occur in all children because they often do not like to obey to adults and do what they say to do. But every child, depending on his age, expresses his dissent and protest in different ways. Some of them argue with adults, others weep, others arrange a tantrum, and some kids turn in on themselves. All these actions are different ways to protest. But if the child protests all the time, it may be a sign of psychological disorder.
Defiant attitude toward adults and peers, hostile and aggressive behavior can cause conflict in the family and school. Therefore, it is important to know more about the oppositional defiant disorder, to be able to recognize and diagnose it in a timely manner.
The reasons for oppositional defiant disorder
Medical experts have not yet come to the only right conclusion about the root cause of oppositional defiant disorder. Extensive studies on this subject have shown that this decomposing may develop under the totality of biological, genetic and environmental factors.
Biological factors: the development of oppositional defiant disorder is associated with changes in the neurotransmitters of the brain. Neurotransmitters are made up of amino acids that are found in food proteins. Neurotransmitters are chemical transmitters of impulses between nerve cells.
Raising or lowering the level of neurotransmitters (i.e., deviation from the norm) leads to a sudden change in mood and changes in the thinking process because of impaired transmission of nerve impulses. That’s why people with ODD have a sense of irritation, they have no fear of punishment, they often cannot adequately perceive the reality and communicate normally, which leads to the development of psychiatric disorders and neurological disorders.
Genetic factors: the evidence obtained by scientists suggest that oppositional defiant disorder may be a hereditary disease. Often it turns out that close relatives of children and adolescents with this disorder also have propensity to this disease. Psychologists believe that with the genetic predisposition risk of the disease is much higher.
External factor: psychological environment at home and in school plays a crucial role in the development of oppositional defiant disorder. In unfavorable psychological situation a child or young person with an unstable level of neurotransmitters or genetic predisposition has a very severe risk to be among those who suffer from oppositional defiant disorder. The major external factors that contribute to the development of ODD disorder: domestic violence, abuse by peers and adults, sexual abuse, indifference of parents, disastrous financial situation (poverty), or poor quality of life, drug and alcohol use by parents.
Family problems can cause ODD disorder
Parents of oppositional defiant children often are overly concerned about the control over the younger generation. They are stubborn and have a passive-aggressive personality traits.
In many cases, children with ODD disorder were unwanted. Therefore, oppositional defiant behavior is a way of adapting the child to excessive parental demands.
This disorder commonly appears in the age of the typical conflict between the usual dependence on the parents and the desire for separation, emancipation. Negativism, and nonconformity can be des-adaptive attempts to resolve this conflict. Oppositional behavior apparently argues for a child’s autonomy, while maintaining an unconscious belief that it will increase attention of parents to him.
Oppositional defiant disorder may be the result of a painful estrangement at an early age. In addition, this disorder can also occur because of a combination of high constitutional self-affirmation ability of the child and emotional immaturity of parents, which they try to compensate by the authoritarianism in relation to their kid.
In this case, the child’s struggle for independence can become a sustainable strategy for protection against any encroachments on its autonomy. According to behavioral theory, oppositional disorder is a familiar response to the guidance of parents, a means of controlling parental behavior.
Oppositional defiant disorder may be diagnosed after 3-year age, but it usually attracts attention in elementary school. The child uses indirect means to demonstrate his aggressiveness. Compared with other disorders of social behavior, in this case the kid isn’t characterized by impulsive and a tendency to violate the rights of others. His qualitative identity is determined by the predominance of passive-aggressive personality traits. His aggression is addressed primarily to parents and teachers.
Oppositional Behavior and Differential Diagnosis
Patients are usually slovenly, unassembled, forgetful. This impression is reinforced when parents attempt to make their behavior more organized. A characteristic feature is the struggle for the defense of their position in a dispute with the elders, in which the child would rather lose important benefits for himself than will be defeated. But oppositional behavior may also shift with episodes of excessive complaisance.
Learning difficulties are usually caused not by the intelligence reduction, but by the lack of diligence and refusing to aid others in solving problems. Poor performance in school is usually paired with low self-esteem, but these kids don’t have feelings of guilt because they shift the blame on others. The state of stress due to the disorder affects surrounding people more than the patients themselves. Oppositional defiant patients have troubles not only in teaching, but also in social adjustment, these people often do not have friends, they are not satisfied with relations with others.
There is a high comorbidity of ODD with affective disorders and psychoactive substance abuse. Behavioral abnormalities are manifested mainly in the interaction with familiar people and nearly invisible in the first clinical interview. It is not clear yet whether this disorder is transient psychological reaction, or a precursor of personal or other mental pathology.
Oppositional defiant disorder differs from the normal phase of childhood oppositional actions by more persistent and different child’s behavior from the majority of his peers. Episode of opposition, as accented response to situational stress, is diagnosed as adaptive disorder. Anxiety disorder due to the separation in childhood may also have the features of the oppositional disorder.
What complications it may cause
Many kids with ODD have other disorders and mental problems, such as:
- Attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD)
- Learning and communication disorders
- Asperger’s syndrome and autism
If these accompanying disorders are left untreated, coping oppositional disorder can be very hard for parents and physicians, and painful for the affected kid. Children with ODD may have problems in school with lecturers and other authority people. They may experience difficulties with making and keeping friendship.
Oppositional defiant disorder may be a harbinger to other, even more severe disease such as conduct disorder, severe delinquency or substance abuse.
Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder
It is very difficult to distinguish headstrong and disobedient child and his peer, suffering from oppositional defiant disorder. The days when children and young people respected and implicitly obeyed their parents, teachers and other adults are long gone. Today’s kids love to argue and do not hesitate to say what they think on a particular occasion. Therefore, the detection of oppositional defiant disorder should focus on the extent and frequency of symptoms of aggression, stubborn and unruly.
Compare the child with his peers. Keep an eye on his behavior, to understand how often occur his conflicts with children and adults. Observe his relationship with family members, teachers, peers and strangers. If the conflicting behavior continues for more than six months, and if you notice at least four of the following characteristics, then your kid is likely to suffer from oppositional defiant disorder.
So, here are 12 symptoms of ODD:
- The child often loses control of himself;
- The child behaves aggressively;
- The kid argues with his parents and other adults and do not obey to them;
- The child deliberately irritates others;
- The kid is apathetic or cannot play with other children;
- The child with oppositional defiant disorder is often angry or nervous;
- The kid refuses to comply with the rules (at school and at home);
- The child is too stubborn;
- The kid often occur hysterical attacks;
- The child with oppositional defiant disorder cannot communicate normally with other children;
- The kid does not want to study or engage in other organized activities;
- The child with oppositional defiant disorder symptoms remembers the hurt for a long time and do not forget to remind about them.
We have described the main symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder, but if you want to learn more, visit other sections of our site.
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