Frequently Asked ODD Questions

Frequently Asked ODD Questions

What follows are a number of questions about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) parents, grandparents, teachers, and counselors have sent Dr. Sutton through the years. The answers to these questions are brief, but informative. We welcome your questions, also. 

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 The questions are listed first. Simply scroll down through the answers to the number of the question for the response to it. 

1. Exactly what is ODD? 

2. How is ODD diagnosed? 

3. What is the difference between an ODD child and a youngster who is just stubborn? 

4. What is the difference between ODD and ADD? 

5. Can a youngster be diagnosed as both ODD and ADHD? 

6. I find my child is defiant toward some teachers at school, but not others. Why is this? 

7. Is ODD inherited? 

8. My son walks half a block down the street to help a senior citizen bring in her groceries, but he won’t ever take out the trash at OUR house? Why is this? 

9. Is there any connection between ODD and the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol? 

10. What is the likelihood that an ODD youngster will become more severe in his or her behaviors (aggressive and anti-social)? 

11. What are some of the signs that a child might become Conduct Disordered? 

12. Are some ODD behaviors more serious or severe than others? 

13. What happens when ODD youngsters become adults? 

14. I took my child to a counselor and was told after one visit that there was nothing wrong with him. I was totally frustrated about the whole thing. Why would a counselor say this? 

15. What about “passive-aggressive” behavior? Is that the same as oppositional defiant? 

16. My child’s behavior is causing her to fail in school, yet I was told that she does not qualify for Special Education assistance. How could this be? 

17. If a child does not qualify for Special Education programs, but is still failing, what do we do? 

18. Sometimes it seems to me that my child actually enjoys it when I become upset with her. Why is this? 

19. Is lying a typical behavior of ODD? 

20. How much do external events and circumstances play into ODD? 

21. I’ve heard that many ODD youngsters are depressed? Is this true? 

22. If my ODD child is depressed, what can be done to help them? 

23. What would happen if an ODD child is depressed, but the depression goes unaddressed or untreated? 

24. Are there any other conditions that can be associated with ODD? 

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1. Exactly what is ODD? 

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a diagnosed condition of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior that includes symptoms of low frustration tolerance, argumentativeness, defiance, noncompliance, oppositionality, provocation, blaming, spitefulness, irritability, resentment, anger or vindictiveness. (Not all need to apply for a diagnosis to be made.)  

2. How is ODD diagnosed? 

ODD is diagnosed by an appropriately certified or licensed health service professional that assesses a youngster and makes the diagnosis as it pertains to established criteria. The most commonly used criteria are found in the most current edition of a book entitled, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

3. What is the difference between an ODD child and a youngster who is just stubborn? 

Stubborn youngsters know when to give it up. They don’t continue with their stubbornness to the degree and point that it creates serious hardships for them. Stubbornness can even be an attribute, such as a resolve that can shine through in tough times. Not so with ODD, which, by nature of being a disorder, works against the child’s best interest. 

4. What is the difference between ODD and ADD? 

ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) is a psychological condition that, favorably or not, is responsive to external situations and circumstances. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is brain-related, a neurological condition or immaturity that causes a youngster to have difficulty focusing on tasks. The condition of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) states that the child is additionally hyperactive and impulsive. 

5. Can a youngster be diagnosed as both ODD and ADHD? 

Absolutely. 

6. I find my child is defiant toward some teachers at school, but not others. Why is this? 

ODD behavior is highly reactive to the environmental situations and circumstances.  This certainly includes differences in authority figures, how they relate to the child, and how they “package” their expectations. 

7. Is ODD inherited? 

Although there probably isn’t an “ODD gene,” characteristics like disposition and temperament can probably be inherited.  

8. My son walks half a block down the street to help a senior citizen bring in her groceries, but he won’t ever take out the trash at OUR house? Why is this? 

First of all, he wants to look like a good, kind and caring young man. But consider that the job of helping the lady with her groceries is essentially a one-shot deal. Taking out the trash at home could last for years, not to mention the fact that we are much more direct in our behaviors of resistance and refusal with those who already know us well. 

9. Is there any connection between ODD and the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol? 

There probably is a connection, but not necessarily a direct one. ODD behaviors can occur in youths who are unhappy. Alcohol and drugs are one kind of “self” medication.  

10. What is the likelihood that an ODD youngster will become more severe in his or her behaviors (aggressive and anti-social)? 

Here we’re talking about serious, acting-out behaviors that could involve the law. Current data indicates about one in three ODD youngsters will move on into a more serious disorder called Conduct Disorder. CD youngsters don’t just irritate, frustrate, pester and annoy folks; they will hurt them or their property. 

11. What are some of the signs that a child might become Conduct Disordered? 

Things like family history, especially parents and siblings having trouble with the law, the activities of a child’s “friends,” a history of abuse or severe neglect in the home, use of alcohol and drugs, and a youngster’s level of regard for others could all be indications. 

12. Are some ODD behaviors more serious or severe than others? 

Any behaviors which would cause a child to fail in school or have serious difficulty in relationships with others (especially peers) could have strong, negative consequences. 

13. What happens when ODD youngsters become adults? 

They can take their problems with them, causing difficulty in their relationships, marriage and work. The divorce rate, employment difficulties and the abuse of alcohol or drugs is usually higher in this population of young adults. 

14. I took my child to a counselor and was told after one visit that there was nothing wrong with him. I was totally frustrated about the whole thing. Why would a counselor say this? 

The ODD youngster can, for awhile, look perfectly fine in every regard. This is why a good therapist or counselor puts more stock in the “hard” facts about the child or adolescent, not what the youngster is saying or doing in early visits. 

15. What about “passive-aggressive” behavior? Is that the same as oppositional defiant? 

“Passive-aggressive” behavior is a term that was used to describe both children and adults before there ever was a classification of ODD. Specifically, passive-aggressive behavior is but one type of oppositional and defiant behavior. 

16. My child’s behavior is causing her to fail in school, yet I was told that she does not qualify for Special Education assistance. How could this be? 

According to current IDEA (federal guidelines for Special Education classification and services) criteria, ODD is a behavioral disorder, not an emotional one. Eligibility for Special Education services requires an “emotional” diagnosis. Eligibility is often met when it is determined that a child meets both emotional and behavioral criteria for placement and services through Special Education. 

17. If a child does not qualify for Special Education programs, but is still failing, what do we do?  

There are other alternatives or programs, such as Section 504, that can be used. 

These are sometimes difficult to implement, however, because they are not funded. Schools are pressed to be creative using existing programs and faculty. 

18. Sometimes it seems to me that my child actually enjoys it when I become upset with her. Why is this? 

She has gotten the satisfaction of knowing she has gotten to you. This “trap” is one of the toughest ones for parents to deal with. 

19. Is lying a typical behavior of ODD? 

It certainly can be. Usually, behaviors like lying differ from youngster to youngster as they become more severe in their behaviors. Many professionals believe that lying and stealing often go together. 

20. How much do external events and circumstances play into ODD? 

They can easily make the ODD much better or much worse. 

21. I’ve heard that many ODD youngsters are depressed? Is this true? 

A solid piece of research done in 1993 indicated that, of the ODD youngsters evaluated, half of them also met the criteria for depression.  

22. If my ODD child is depressed, what can be done to help them? 

The depression needs to be evaluated and treated. It is common for oppositional and defiant behaviors to lessen as the depression is addressed. Sometimes medication helps. 

23. What would happen if an ODD child is depressed, but the depression goes unaddressed or untreated? 

Both the ODD and the depression will continue to worsen to the detriment of the youngster. Self-injury or even suicidal attempts are a possibility. 

24. Are there any other conditions that can be associated with ODD? 

Yes there are. Sometimes conditions like diabetes, ADD, mutism (a child doesn’t speak), serious health conditions or learning disabilities create a “hiding” place for oppositionality and defiance. In these cases, ODD behaviors “hide” behind the primary condition, which provides an “excuse” for noncompliance. (Example: a learning disabled youngster refuses to do any of his work, continually claiming he doesn’t understand it.)