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What is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

To be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, a child must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. 

Criteria for oppositional defiant disorder to be diagnosed include a pattern of behavior that lasts at least six months and includes at least four of the following:

  • Often loses temper 
  • Often argues with adults 
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules 
  • Often deliberately annoys people 
  • Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior 
  • Is often touchy or easily annoyed by others 
  • Is often angry and resentful 
  • Is often spiteful or vindictive 

These behaviors must be displayed more often than is typical for your child's peers. 

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavior disorder, usually diagnosed in childhood, that is characterized by uncooperative, defiant, negativistic, irritable, and annoying behaviors toward parents, peers, teachers, and other authority figures. Children and adolescents with ODD are more distressing or troubling to others than they are distressed or troubled themselves.

Oppositional defiant disorder, called ODD for short, is a repeated pattern of defiance and disobedience against authority figures. Symptoms of the condition usually develop by the time a child is eight years old. The behavior patterns of ODD must be ongoing for six months or more before a diagnosis can be confirmed. Because ODD shares some characteristics with depression, children showing signs of ODD should be carefully evaluated for depression as well. ODD is treated with behavioral therapy and, in some cases, medication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.