January 20


Is It a Tantrum or Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

By NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

January 20, 2021

Anyone who has lived with a child has probably experienced the dreaded temper tantrum. It’s perfectly normal for children to argue, refuse to cooperate, and disobey authority every now and then. However, you should be concerned if your kid is often angry or hostile and starts to have problems with their family members and friends. This may mean they’re suffering from oppositional defiant disorder, which can result in aggressive and violent behavior as they grow older. Check out this comprehensive guide to learn more about oppositional defiant disorder and how you can help your child overcome it.

What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

child with ODD
Image via Unsplash by 4dgraphic

Oppositional defiant disorder refers to a behavioral problem that causes an individual to become disobedient, defiant, and hostile towards authority figures. Typically, children with this condition tend to be stubborn and argue with adults. They also have difficulty controlling their temper, leading to frequent anger outbursts.

Oppositional defiant disorder can have a devastating impact on a young person’s life, both in the present and the future. They’re likely to have limited educational options because they may have difficulty adapting and conforming to rule-based school structures. In addition, the disorder can ruin their home and social lives as their anger and defiance can lead to strained relationships. If left untreated, a person with oppositional defiant disorder may pose a danger to themselves and the people around them.

How Does Oppositional Defiant Disorder Differ From Tantrums?

Children are generally less patient than adults, which makes them more susceptible to emotional outbursts. There’s a higher chance that your child will throw a tantrum if they feel tired after a hectic day or a bad night’s sleep. Also, they may show frustration or anger when they’re doing daily routines such as getting dressed or having a meal.

Tantrums aren’t a cause for concern because they’re part and parcel of normal child development. An outburst that isn’t typical is one that comes out of nowhere and becomes so intense that it causes your child to feel exhausted. If this happens on a regular basis, you may want to consider seeking the assistance of a neuropsychologist.

What Are the Causes of Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder affects children from all backgrounds, but it’s more common in boys than girls. While the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, there’s a wide array of factors that can contribute to its development, including:

  • Developmental factors: A young person with oppositional defiant disorder may have begun experiencing temperamental issues in their toddler years, which makes them easy to anger and hard to calm. This may be because they had a difficult time adapting to an adverse situation, such as separating from one or both of their parents.
  • Learned factors: In some cases, a child may have been mild-tempered in their early years but develops oppositional defiant disorder later on as a result of negative reinforcement or excessive punishment from a parent or another authority figure. They may respond to the negative reinforcement by trying to get the authority figure to pay them more attention. Consequently, they start a pattern of hostile and defiant acts to obtain that perceived “extra” attention.
  • Other possible factors: Other factors that may cause a child to acquire oppositional defiant disorder include a strong-willed personality, permissive parenting, lack of positive attachment to an authority figure, significant stress at home or in school, and the mother’s exposure to harmful substances during pregnancy.

What Are the Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

child with opposition deficit disorder
Image via Unsplash by spanic

In general, children who are suffering from oppositional defiant disorder start showing symptoms when they’re 6 to 8 years old. Nonetheless, symptoms can also emerge in toddler years or last until adulthood. If your kid displays persistent symptoms that continue for six months or more, they likely have the disorder. The following are some of the common symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder:

  • Hostility toward people and objects: It isn’t particularly worrisome if a child occasionally tries to hit or kick a parent or caregiver out of frustration. However, you may have a problem if your kid does that in more than half of their tantrums.
  • Numerous tantrums: A normal child may throw a tantrum several times a month. If you notice that your child has more than 10 outbursts per month, it can be an indicator of oppositional defiant disorder. You should also be concerned if tantrums happen five or more times a day on multiple days.
  • Long outbursts: The temper tantrums of a child with oppositional defiant disorder often last more than 25 minutes.
  • Tendency to inflict self-harm: Self-harm is one of the tell-tale signs of oppositional defiant disorder. You should be alarmed if you find your kid scratching or biting themselves, banging their head against the wall, or hurting their foot by kicking something.
  • Inability to calm themselves down: If your child has oppositional defiant disorder, they’ll likely have difficulty stopping their outbursts without help from other people. You probably have to promise them something or take them away from the environment to calm them down.

How Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder Treated?

Children with oppositional defiant disorder have a tendency to flout punishment and intentionally upset people around them, which makes traditional discipline ineffective. Instead, you should bring them to a qualified neuropsychologist who uses evidence-based treatment methods. These treatments usually include cognitive behavior therapy combined with support for parents and teachers. They’re aimed at helping your kid improve their anger management and communication skills.

After receiving treatment, your child should be able to talk to you with fewer escalating arguments. Also, they’ll become less stubborn and defiant, making it easier for them to build good relationships with other people. While they may still get into arguments or show defiance every now and then, there will be significantly fewer instances of such behaviors. As part of the treatment plan, you may have to undergo training to learn how to enforce positive behavioral approaches at home and work collaboratively with school staff.

If you suspect that your child is suffering from oppositional defiant disorder, consider bringing them to NeuroHealth Arlington Heights for a comprehensive diagnosis. Our award-winning clinic has helped numerous children and adults in northeastern Illinois overcome a wide range of behavioral disorders, including oppositional defiant disorder. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

NeuroHealth Arlington Heights

About the author

For over 20 years, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights has been offering neuropsychological and psychological assessments and treatments for people of all ages. These assessments and treatments address Behavioral, Emotional, & Social Issues, Neurocognitive Functions, and Neurodevelopmental Growth.