Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Teen ODD

Understanding Teen ODD

Learn More About Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Teenagers

Oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD, is a type of mental health disorder that is typically characterized by a pattern of disruptive behaviors, including but not limited to anger, hostility, disobedience, and violence.

Teens who have ODD will challenge or openly defy parents, teachers, and other authority figures, and may regularly flaunt rules and break laws. They will often be quick to anger, easily take offense, retain a sense of vindictiveness toward those who they believe have slighted them, blame others for problems that they have caused, and deliberately annoy peers, fellow students, and others with whom they come into contact.

The symptoms of ODD can make it difficult, if not downright impossible, for a teen to experience success in school, form and maintain positive relationships, and function in an employment setting. Teens who develop with ODD will also often struggle with diminished self-esteem, low self-worth, and a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

Since the behaviors that are associated with ODD are symptoms of a mental health disorder that may be beyond a teen’s capacity to control, he or she will not respond well to punishments or other negative consequences. However, engaging in effective professional treatment to address the ODD, as well as any co-occurring mental health disorders, an adolescent or teenager whose life has been disrupted by oppositional defiant disorder can learn to manage his or her symptoms and begin to regain control over his or her thoughts and actions.


Statistics of ODD in Teens

Expert estimates of the prevalence of ODD ranges from as low as 1 percent of the population, to as high as 11 percent, with the average of most estimates falling just above 3 percent. Among individuals who demonstrate ODD symptoms prior to adolescence, the disorder is slightly more common among boys than among girls; however, among adolescents and adults, males and females develop ODD at similar rates.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder

As is the case with many other mental and behavioral disorders, a teen’s risk for developing ODD may be influenced by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including the following:

Genetic: According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), researchers have noted an association between oppositional defiant disorder and several neurobiological markers, including lower heart rate, reduced basal cortisol reactivity, and abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. The APA also notes that heritable temperamental factors such as poor frustration tolerance and high levels of emotional reactivity may predict ODD.

Environmental: The APA reports that the most common environmental precursors to oppositional defiant disorder appear to be inconsistent, neglectful, or harsh parenting.

Risk Factors:

  • Gender (pre-adolescent ODD is slightly more common among boys than among girls)
  • Chaotic home life
  • History of trauma
  • Emotional regulation problems
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal or family history of substance use

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Adolescents and teenagers who have oppositional defiant disorder may exhibit a variety of symptoms based upon the severity of the disorder and a host of other personal factors. The following are among the more common signs and symptoms that may indicate that a teen has developed ODD:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Defying rules
  • Refusing to take personal responsibility for problems
  • Persistent argumentativeness
  • Acting with hostility or aggressiveness
  • Engaging in violence toward others
  • Refusing to complete tasks

Physical symptoms:

  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Tension in muscles
  • Prevalent headaches and stomachaches
  • Cuts, bruises, and other injuries that result from violent behaviors

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor judgment
  • Impulsivity
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Minimal attention span
  • Substandard stress management

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Sense of persecution, resentment, and vindictiveness
  • Outburst of anger or rage
  • Low self-worth
  • Hopeless outlook
  • Pessimism


Effects of Teen Oppositional Defiant Disorder

When a teen who has ODD fails to get effective professional treatment, he or she may experience a wide range of short- and long-term negative outcomes. The following are among the many detrimental effects and consequences that can impact a teenager who has untreated ODD:

  • Family discord
  • Conflicts with peers
  • Academic failure and/or expulsion
  • Inability to get a keep a job
  • Injury due to violent, aggressive, or otherwise dangerous behaviors
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Involvement in illegal activities
  • Legal consequences, including arrest and incarceration
  • Rejection, ostracization, and/or withdrawal
  • Self-injuring or self-harming behaviors
  • Pervasive hopelessness
  • Suicidal ideation

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of Teen  ODD

Adolescents and teenagers who develop oppositional defiant disorder may also have an increased risk for certain co-occurring mental health disorders, including the following:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Substance use disorders
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