Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Learn More About ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a disorder that frequently develops during childhood, yet it impacts the lives of many adults as well. ODD is defined by patterns of hostility, disobedience, and defiance, which result in individuals experiencing difficulty interacting in the community, at home, at work, and amongst peers. Individuals with ODD will display behaviors that include often losing one’s temper, arguing with others, and refusing to comply with rules. They will purposely annoy others and blame other people for their mistakes. Additionally, they are often easily annoyed, resentful, spiteful, or vindictive.

While signs of oppositional defiant disorder tend to appear during the preschool years, it is possible for symptoms to develop later in life, though not common. When ODD does develop, the symptoms tend to start off gradually and continually worsen over time. The symptoms of this disorder are present in multiple settings, but may be more noticeable at home or in occupational settings.


Statistics of ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder is believed to be one of the most common behavioral disorders diagnosed in people. While its true prevalence is still not known, it is estimated that 10.2% of young people will develop ODD. However, approximately two thirds of those who are given a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder when younger will overcome their symptoms, with studies showing that 70% of those previously diagnosed with ODD are no longer displaying symptoms by the time they reach the age of 18.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for ODD

There is not a known or clear cause for the development of oppositional defiant disorder; however, contributing causes may include a combination and variety of factors. The following are some examples of the different causes and factors that may be attributed to the development of ODD:

Genetic: It is common for individuals who are diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder to have family members who also suffer from some form of mental illness. This suggests that there is most likely a genetic component to ODD that leads a person to have a higher susceptibility.

Environmental: The environment in which a person lives is believed by many to have a significant effect on whether or not an individual will develop ODD. Experiencing stressful changes in life, such as divorce, can disrupt an individual’s sense of consistency and increase the risk of maladaptive behavior. Additionally, if a person is exposed to violence, or has peers who behave in destructive, reckless manners, he or she is also more likely to begin exhibiting symptoms that are typical of oppositional defiant disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Delays in one’s emotional development
  • Dysfunctional home life
  • Repeated exposure to violence
  • Lack of parental involvement / inconsistent parenting during one’s formative years
  • Experiencing abuse and/or neglect

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of ODD

The signs and symptoms of ODD will vary from person to person. There also tends to be a significant difference in how symptoms present in females as opposed to how they present in males. The following are different signs and symptoms that maybe be present in a person who has oppositional defiant disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Acting hostile towards others
  • Blaming others for their own negative behaviors
  • Seeking revenge, even when unwarranted
  • Blatant and repeated disregard for requests from authority
  • Excessive arguing
  • Refusing to follow rules
  • Willingly destroying friendships

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Easily and frequently becoming frustrated
  • Experiencing difficulty concentrating
  • Lacking the ability to, or refusing to, think before speaking

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Rage
  • Frustration
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Persistent negativity


Effects of ODD

People who do not receive treatment for ODD may end up suffering from a number of long-term effects. Some examples of these effects may include:

  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty or an inability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships
  • Occupational failure
  • Development of conduct disorder
  • Substance abuse or addiction

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder can often occur along with other behavioral or mental health problems, and sometimes the symptoms may be hard to distinguish from one condition to the next. Some of the most common disorders that co-exist with ODD include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance use disorders
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