what is oppositional defiant disorder

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder? 

As children grow and develop, it is common to run into some difficult behavior. While this is normal for children and teens, it’s also important for parents to assess their child’s behavior and ensure that it is not rooted in an underlying mental health condition. Oppositional defiant disorder, also known as ODD, is characterized by a consistent pattern of defiant behavior toward authoritative figures, as well as anger, irritability and uncooperativeness.1

Although the cause is unknown, there are two theories to help understand why someone may develop ODD.2 The first is referred to as the developmental theory, which is when a child is unable to become autonomous from their primary caregiver, thus resulting in unresolved developmental issues. The second is known as the learning theory, which is when they are in an environment of negative reinforcement that increases behaviors associated with oppositional defiant disorder.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Teens

Although some children outgrow ODD with proper treatment, it will likely persist into their teen years as they continue to develop. Males are more likely to have oppositional defiant disorder in their younger years, making teenage boys at a higher risk for having ODD. Although ODD is difficult to manage in younger children, it can become increasingly difficult to deal with in teenagers, as they are bigger, stronger and capable of making more decisions for themselves that can be dictated by their ODD. If you suspect that your teen is struggling with ODD, it is important to get your physician involved and create an effective treatment plan.

ODD Symptoms

Oppositional defiant disorder can present itself differently with age. In younger children, it may look like frequent tantrums or outbursts. If a teen has developed ODD, some of the most common symptoms3 they will experience include:

  • Argumentativeness
  • Defiance
  • Becoming quick to anger
  • Irritability
  • Vindictiveness
  • Impulse control problems
  • Antisocial behavior

It can be easy to pass off the above signs as normal teenage behavior or hormones. However, if you notice that your child’s behavior is frequent and disruptive of their daily life and relationships, you should contact their healthcare provider.

ODD and Substance Abuse

Since defiance is a primary symptom of ODD, it can lead to substance abuse in teens struggling with this disorder. More specifically, a teen is at higher risk for substance abuse if they battle oppositional defiant disorder along with co-occurring issues, like learning disabilities or disruptive disorders. It is important that you place your child into a tailored treatment program so that they have the greatest opportunity to learn healthy coping mechanisms and avoid substance abuse.

ARCH Academy: Resources and Treatment for Teens 

ODD can be easy to overlook, especially in the turbulent teen years where you expect outbursts and learning moments from your child. This disorder can make daily life increasingly difficult while your child and family navigate this disorder. However, there are many treatment options and resources that can be used to help along the way.

If you have begun to notice substance abuse in your teen due to ODD, it is important to act quickly to get the help that they need. ARCH Academy specializes in working with teen boys through challenges like substance use disorder. With a combination of adventure and academics, your teenager can experience recovery and growth. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your child and family as you navigate this difficult time.  


  1. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” 
  2. Johns Hopkins: “Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in Children”
  3. Cleveland Clinic: “Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)”