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What is oppositional defiant disorder? A guide for parents

Posted on Thursday, 09 February 2023, in Behavioural Issues

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As a parent, it can be challenging to understand and help your child or teenager's behavioural problems. If you have concerns about their behaviour or someone has suggested you seek help, this article will provide you with valuable information.


What is oppositional defiant disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavioural condition commonly diagnosed in children under 10 years of age. It is characterised by anger, irritability and seemingly cruel or vindictive behaviours that significantly impact the child's life.

Children with ODD display three common symptoms: irritability, hurtful behaviour, and being headstrong. Some children with ODD only display these behaviours in the home environment, while others display them in various settings and with a higher frequency.

Early intervention is key to preventing the behaviours of ODD from escalating. Seeking help for your child's behaviour can make a real difference in their life and your family's life. Some of the benefits of seeking help for ODD include:


Prevent future problems: Children with behavioural difficulties in childhood are more likely to have a mood or anxiety disorder later in life. Early intervention can prevent these problems from escalating.

Increase understanding: An assessment will help you understand your child's condition and the best treatment plan. This information can also be shared with the child's school, which will help teachers support your child better.

Improve family life: Behavioural problems can take a toll on family life. Seeking help for your child's ODD can improve the parent-child relationship and enable you to carry out normal family activities.

Your child's future: Children with ODD may develop antisocial personality disorder as adults, impacting their ability to hold a job, form relationships, or even lead to criminal activity. Early intervention can help prevent these outcomes.

Your child's mental health: Approximately 50% of children with ODD have another mental health condition, such as ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. Treating the underlying condition can help improve your child's behaviour.


Treatments for ODD

Knowing if your child has ODD or another mental health condition causing behavioural problems can be challenging. A child and adolescent psychiatrist is the best person to assess your child and will spend time understanding if there are other underlying conditions.

A diagnosis can help you understand and communicate with others why your child behaves as they do. It may seem scary to get a diagnosis, but many parents describe feeling relieved after getting an explanation for their child's behaviour and getting recommendations on how to help them.


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