May 3, 2015 through May 9, 2015, is children’s mental health awareness week, dedicated to informing people of all ages about the vast spectrum of mental health disorders in children. For some children, an average day can be excruciatingly long. Especially when they had to go the grocery store with their mom and there is nothing for them to do there. Driving home and being told they now have to clean their room, the tantrum starts. There may be crying, screaming, time-outs executed and apologies given out. Overall, maybe 15 to 20 minutes for some; timing may vary. However, some children continue to throw tantrums for smaller incidents. Some will continue to harbor hostile behavior towards parents or authority figures for being told to put down their toy. This can be more than just a spoiled child. This can be a disorder that compels them to have such a strong defiance towards adults.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder –ODD—is a disorder starting in childhood, which involves defiant, negative hostile and disobedient behavior towards adults or figures of authority. This behavior needs to be continuous for six months before a child can be diagnosed with the disorder. Children with ODD will frequently argue with adults, lose temper, defying rules of adults or authority figures, choosing actions they know will annoy others and being spiteful or vindictive.
These symptoms are easily viewed as just a rebellious period in children, but can continue and increase in intensity. Children with ODD believe that they are right and the adults are wrong. The key factor in discovering if a child has ODD is by seeing a continuous behavior of anger and disobedience that does not stop, whereas other kids grow out of it or calm down.
The treatment for these symptoms is mainly found in therapy and the interaction of parents to child. There are also many self-help groups that can help parents in the similar situation to help each other out. Psychcentral.com writes, “Very little research has been conducted in the use of medications for oppositional defiant disorder. Therefore, medication is not recommended as a treatment option for this problem.” As with many other mental disorders and illnesses, there is no single cure-all method for ODD. There are however ways to manage it and learn to live with it.
There have been four tips listed by psychcentral.com as recommendations for interacting with ODD:
- Respond to this behavior without anger and pick your battles
- Be clear and concise with the child, follow through with what is said
- Do not take things personally; the behavior is about the child and not the parent — the child will lash out to familiar authority figures regardless
- Be a parent and not the best friend: discipline and do not become a friend just so the child will stop throwing a tantrum
While these tips are helpful, the real question is: What happens to those who continue to live with this disorder into adulthood?
What happens post treatment?
In most cases, ODD will continue on into adulthood for the child. Adults with ODD may continue to express angry behavior often and can continually claim that they are right, when someone else says they are wrong. They may even feel alone or that no one understands them. ODD has been found to be more of a subset of another conduct disorder such as ADHD. Russell Barkley, Ph.D. explains the cause for ODD in adults, “It’s unclear. It could be that a pattern of rebellion sets in when children with ADHD are constantly at odds with adults who are trying to make them behave in ways that their executive function deficit.”
In most cases, ODD is a manageable condition intermixed with another mental disorder. It mainly starts in childhood and is connected with another disorder, ADHD, which is why adults may not experience it as much. This is not to disprove that ODD can develop the child’s brain in such a way that they continue to express irrational obstinance to other adults later on in life. The key to learning how to manage these mental disorders is to seek treatment and diagnosis from a doctor, forms of therapy, family members understanding the condition and medication. Utilizing these resources, adults with ODD have learned mechanisms to cope with the mental illness.