Oppositional Defiant Disorder and how to spot it

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Most children will misbehave and defy their parents and others at some point in their lives either by answering back or by refusing to do something that is asked of them and this is considered perfectly normal. However, when the bad behaviour is extreme and persistent, it could be that they are suffering from a condition known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD.

ODD can be diagnosed when a child’s behaviour is so out of control that it becomes difficult to cope with and can disrupt home and school life. It is also common in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.

So what are the symptoms of ODD?

ODD can be diagnosed when a child displays hostile, aggressive and defiant behaviour towards parents and other people in authority for a period of at least six months and this behaviour is not the result of something else, for example, medication or an underlying health problem. Symptoms include:

¨      Frequent angry outbursts and temper tantrums

¨      Constantly arguing with adults

¨      Breaking rules consistently

¨      Deliberately annoying others

¨      Blaming others for their own mistakes

¨      Being easily irritated or annoyed by others

¨      Behaving in spiteful and vindictive way

¨      Taking revenge on others

¨      Swearing and using obscene language

If ODD isn’t dealt with then it can develop into something known as Conduct Disorder. Symptoms of conduct disorder include physical aggression and hurting others, stealing, hurting animals, vandalism and other destructive behaviours.

No one knows what causes ODD but many experts believe it can be a combination of factors including genetics, biological and environmental factors. If you suspect that your child’s behaviour may be ODD then speak to a doctor in the first instance.

The problem with diagnosing ODD is that there isn’t a laboratory test that can identify ODD so a diagnosis is made purely by identifying the symptoms. However, a doctor is best able to determine if there is an underlying physical problem or indeed another reason that could be triggering the behaviour.

If no other reason can be identified then a doctor may refer you to another expert such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist that may be able to help. Treatment is usually in the form of psychotherapy or medication or a combination of both.

It’s interesting to note that children suffering from ADHD, depression and other mental health problems have often been found to have a low level of Omega 3 fatty acids in their blood and more and more research is highlighting how supplementation with fish oil can be helpful for ADHD and other conditions.

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