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Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment Plan

October 18, 2023

What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a type of behavior disorder mostly seen in children. Children with ODD have consistent behavior patterns which include being argumentative and defiant towards parents and other figures of authority. This is a different condition to Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) where the drive to avoid demands is related to anxiety.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment Plan

According to documentation from the DSM-5, oppositional defiant disorder is “a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least 6 months as evidenced by at least four symptoms from any of the following categories, and exhibited during interaction with at least one individual who is not a sibling.”

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment Plan

Most children have bouts of ODD from time to time, but it usually disappears on its own. However, ODD may be diagnosed when the behavior persists for months.  Children with ODD consistently show signs.

Oppositional defiant disorder symptoms are:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Being easily annoyed
  • Arguing with parents and other adults
  • Resistance to rules
  • Intentionally displaying annoying behavior
  • Blaming others for his/her own mistakes
  • Being vindictive

ODD is often diagnosed when kids are in elementary school up until adolescence. To be diagnosed as ODD, a child would need to have an established pattern of one or more of the symptoms for about half a year.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Causes

The cause of oppositional defiant disorder remains unknown to this day. However, studies and research have determined several factors that may contribute to a child developing ODD.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, studies have found brain defects or injuries can cause behavioral problems in children. There is also enough evidence to suggest ODD is linked to abnormal brain function. Children diagnosed with ODD can also experience other diagnoses such as ADHD, learning disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology confirmed the genetic factor that can cause ODD and two other disorders: ADHD and conduct disorder (CD).

It is also possible that dysfunctional family life, and/or having a parent with a mood disorder or alcohol/drug addiction may contribute to the development of behavior disorders.

Other environmental factors are also suspected of causing or triggering ODD. This includes:

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Poor living conditions
  • No consistent discipline

While there are many studies that identify the possible/various causes of ODD, none of them are substantial enough to arrive at a definite conclusion. Additional research is needed and is being done for scientists to understand ODD.

How is ODD Diagnosed?

To come to a diagnosis, a qualified doctor will interview the child’s primary caregiver and family to gather information about the child’s behavior. He/she might also want to look at the child’s medical history and request a physical exam.

There are no laboratory tests to detect ODD, but neuroimaging studies or a blood test might be done to check for underlying physical conditions that might cause the behavior.

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) Treatment

There are different approaches to treating ODD. Treatment is often tailored to the child’s specific symptoms and needs.

Parent Management Training and Family Therapy

This training is for parents and caregivers to learn how to discipline and work with the child effectively. Parents are taught how to set clear expectations, reinforce good behavior, and implement consequences.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches children to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. Its goal is for the child to manage his/her emotions and solve problems on his/her own.

ABA therapy and Social Skills Programs

Social Skills programs are created to help children relate to their peers. The program can also be extended to the child’s school, so he/she can learn to deal with the social and academic demands of being a student.


Medication is not necessary for all children with ODD. It is used only in cases where the child needs to manage ODD along with accompanying disorders such as ADHD and anxiety.

Autism and ODD: What You Need to Know

ODD symptoms can look similar to symptoms of autism. This makes it doubly hard for a parent of a child with autism to know for sure if his/her child has ODD.

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treatment Plan

The key to identifying ODD symptoms from autism is the underlying reason for the child’s defiant behavior. Is the child truly frustrated, causing him/her to be angry, or is he/she just being difficult for the sake of it? The former is likely to be just a part of being autistic while the latter is more likely to be a sign of ODD.

Oppositional defiant disorder strategies

Managing a child with ODD can create tension at home and in school. There is a danger the parent-child relationship will become strained. The child might also become uninterested in school or even going out with his/her friends. Parents and caregivers should seek professional help to correctly resolve this problem.

How to Deal with Kids with ODD

  • Be consistent – For the child to learn what is permitted and what is not, parents need to be consistent when laying down rules and implementing consequences for these rules.
  • Reinforce good behavior with a reward system.
  • Ignore negative behavior or take away privileges if ignoring behavior is not an option.
  • Avoid activities and/or objects that trigger negative behavior (ex: smartphone, specific toy).

Having a child with autism and ODD can be a challenge at times. However, with the right treatment plan and consistent discipline, a child with ODD can thrive and lead a happy, productive life.

A common genetic factor explains the covariation among ADHD ODD and CD symptoms in 9–10 year old boys and girls. 2009 February. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2634815/#R45

Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/oppositional-defiant-disorder#1

Autism and ODD: What You Need To Know. Retrieved from https://blog.theautismsite.greatergood.com/oppositional-defiant-disorder/

How to Treat Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/oppositional-defiant-disorder-odd-treatment/

Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=oppositional-defiant-disorder-90-P02573

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