What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)?

Many children and adolescents are oppositional and defiant at times. A little bit of this behaviour is normal and expected as they learn to recognize their boundaries. Typically, this behaviour can be curbed through different parenting strategies, such as defining boundaries and following-through on set consequences. However, sometimes the behaviour may indicate a deeper issue.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is classified as a disruptive, impulse-control and conduct disorder that is characterized by issues with emotional and behavioural regulation. Children, adolescents and adults with ODD may struggle with self-control, which may bring them into conflict with social norms and authority figures. While some people with ODD only exhibit behaviours at home, others may display these traits throughout life, causing significant issues in relationships, school, employment, and social settings.

While there is no single known cause of ODD, risk factors include genetics/biology, environmental factors, and psychological factors. ODD is more prevalent in males than females, and usually sets in prior to adolescence.


Symptoms of ODD may appear similar to those displayed in other mental and physical health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and substance use. Therefore, people are typically not diagnosed with ODD unless they exhibit the following symptoms without the presence of other mental and physical conditions:

  • Spitefulness (vindictive and/or holds grudges)
  • Frequently loses temper
  • Easily irritated and annoyed
  • Often angry and resentful
  • Argues with authority figures (e.g., parents, teachers, police)
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with set rules
  • Deliberately annoys others
  • Blames others for their behaviours


ODD is treated through a variety of different interventions, which need to be tailored to the specific needs of the person with ODD and their family. Family therapy and skills training, problem-solving skills training, psychoeducation, counselling, and medication are typically options for those seeking treatment for ODD.


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