ODD Symptoms & Effects

Learn how to recognize the signs, symptoms, and effects of oppositional defiant disorder. Resource Treatment Center provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric treatment for youth who are suffering from ODD.

Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Learn about oppositional defiant disorder

Part of being a child is defying authority from time to time and most children will argue with, talk back to, or completely disobey their parents and/or teachers at some point. However, when this behavior continues to persist beyond a period of six months and it is excessive compared to other children that age, it may mean that the child has oppositional defiant disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a behavior disorder that is characterized by an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant, hostile, and annoying behavior toward parents and others in a position of authority. The behavior associated with ODD can become so severe that it disrupts a child’s life and daily routine. Additionally, it causes them to be unable to perform adequately at school, engage in social activities, or have relationships with their peers.

In addition to behavioral symptoms, there are a number of associated mood-related symptoms that occur in someone with ODD. Most commonly present in a child with ODD are irritable and angry moods, which can lead a child to act out under certain circumstances. Due to the blatant disregard for authority and the resulting consequences, as well as the mood symptoms, children with ODD can develop a number of lasting effects if the proper treatment is not implemented.


Oppositional defiant disorder statistics

Experts estimate that over 10% of children meet criteria for an ODD diagnosis. Boys are said to be more susceptible to this mental disorder, with about 11% of pre-pubescent boys having oppositional defiant disorder and 9% of pre-pubescent girls having ODD. Additionally, boys and girls are said to present with symptoms differently and at varying levels of severity. However, even though there are differences in prevalence and severity of symptoms between boys and girls, research has found that almost 70% of children with oppositional defiant disorder no longer struggle with symptoms by the time they reach late adolescence.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for oppositional defiant disorder

While the exact cause for this disorder is unknown, researchers agree that there are a number of causes and risk factors that lead to the development of ODD. The most accepted explanations include:

Genetic: Many children who have developed ODD have close family members with a history of mental illness, which is an indicator that a vulnerability to ODD is inherited.

Physical: It has been frequently suggested that deficits in the brain or injuries to certain areas of the brain have the ability to lead to serious behavioral problems among children. Additionally, chemical imbalances in the brain, as a result of abnormal functioning of neurotransmitters, are known to bring about symptoms of mental illnesses. More specifically, neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other and when they are not working properly nerve messages may not be received properly leading to symptoms of ODD.

Environmental: Finally, it is a widely accepted belief that a person’s environment has a significant impacts on the development of mental health disorders such as ODD. This may be especially important because the onset of ODD symptoms occurs in childhood, making the environment in which a child is raised extremely influential. Factors such as a chaotic home life, inconsistent discipline by parents, and being exposed to abuse, neglect, or trauma at an early age can all lead to the onset of ODD symptoms.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Witnessing violent or aggressive behaviors
  • Exposure to trauma / abuse/ neglect
  • Being raised in a chaotic / stressful home
  • Inconsistent parenting
  • Exposure to substance use or abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder

Since each child and adolescent is unique the presenting signs and symptoms of ODD will vary based upon the individual child and their personal characteristics as well as the life circumstances they have experienced. The following symptoms may present themselves in a child with ODD:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Constant disobedience
  • Repeatedly throws temper tantrums
  • Excessively argues with adults or other authority figures
  • Deliberately tries to annoy or upset others
  • Is easily annoyed by others
  • Blames others for their mistakes
  • Seeks revenge or is spiteful
  • Refusing to adhere to rules
  • Aggressive behaviors or fighting
  • Instigating behaviors
  • Swears or uses obscene language
  • Intentionally destroys relationships
  • Belligerent behaviors
  • Is uncooperative
  • Says mean and hateful things when upset
  • Abuses drugs or alcohol 

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to think before acting or speaking 

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Easily frustrated
  • Feelings of being constantly annoyed
  • Persistent negativity


Effects of oppositional defiant disorder

Untreated ODD can produce an assortment of effects that will only make life more difficult for the child. In order to prevent the development of more serious behavioral health problems and additional negative consequences treatment needs to be sought as soon as possible. Some potential long-term effects can include:

  • Rejection by classmates and other peers
  • Poor social skills
  • Increase aggressive behavior
  • Development of conduct disorder
  • Inability to formulate meaningful relationships
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Disciplinary action at school including suspension or expulsion
  • Engagement in risky behaviors
  • Substance abuse
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Incarceration

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oppositional defiant disorder and co-occurring disorders

Many children and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder also have other behavioral problems or mental health disorders. Some of these include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Language disorders
  • Intellectual development disorder
  • Substance use disorder

I always felt so misunderstood, but at Resource it was like someone finally took the time to get to know me. That made a huge difference. This place helped me so much.