ODD – What Is It?

Parent frustrated with ODD

ODD – or Oppositional Defiant Disorder – can be difficult, scary, and frustrating for parents to address. The DSM 5 (the handbook psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors use to diagnosis mental health concerns) defines ODD as:

ODD Symptoms

A pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least 6 months as evidenced by at least four symptoms from any of the following categories, and exhibited during interaction with at least one individual who is not a sibling.

Angry/Irritable Mood

  • Often looses temper
  • Often touchy or easily annoyed
  • Is often angry or resentful

Argumentative/Defiant Behavior

  • Argues with authority figures or, for children and adolescents, with adults
  • Frequently actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules
  • Often deliberately annoys others
  • Often blames others for their mistakes or misbehavior


  • Has been spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past 6 months

What Does It Look Like?

So, that is the technical description of ODD. This doesn’t always capture the experiences of the parents/teachers/etc. or child. ODD is not the occasional temper tantrum or argument. Parents trying to manage a child with ODD can often feel like their child – and their outbursts, anger, and violence, are running their life. Like the child – and parents – don’t have control. Things can get that overwhelming, frustrating, and confrontational.

What Can Help ODD?

Family counseling, individual counseling, and play therapy can all be very powerful to help the child with ODD – and their family.

  • Family Counseling can help the parents of a child with ODD learn how to help their child through his or her specific behaviors. It can also help the rest of the family learn how to maintain their calm, even when the child is being destructive.
  • Individual Counseling can help the child work through their behavior once they can better manage their emotions. Individual counseling can also help parents specifically address the impact their child has had to them.
  • Play Therapy can help teach boundaries, rules, and ways to manage emotions without the child feeling directly confronted. It can help to build the therapeutic relationship between the counselor and child, and can also bring out difficult to manage behavior for the counselor to directly address.
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