What Are the Signs and Symptoms of ODD?

Blog-What Are the Signs and Symptoms of ODD

What’s the first thing you think of when you see ODD? “Odd” in all caps, right? What’s odd about Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is how often it’s confused with other mental health conditions. However, even though some of its symptoms overlap with those of other disorders, ODD is its own unique psychiatric diagnosis.

What is ODD?

One of the first words most children learn is “no.” Resisting authority seems to be ingrained in our DNA. Occasional disobedience and talking back to parents is, to a certain extent, normal for kids. However, when these argumentative or challenging behaviors persists over time, a child might be exhibiting the symptoms of ODD.

As defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (5th Edition), ODD is “a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness.” People displaying aggressive behaviors for at least 6 months may be exhibiting symptoms of ODD. Some sources estimate that 5% of all children may have ODD.

Symptoms of ODD

• Frequent outbursts/loss of temper
• Excessive arguing with adults
Blaming others for their mistakes
• Easily annoyed by others
• Instigating conflict with others
• Ignoring, questioning or resisting established rules
• Saying mean or spiteful things when upset
• Swearing or using obscene language

Other symptoms may include: anxiety, depression, negativity, low self-esteem, learning and conduct disorders and drug or alcohol abuse.


Since both diagnoses share several the same symptoms (i.e. impulsivity), many medical practitioners have linked ADHD with ODD. Further blurring the lines between the two diagnoses is that an estimated 40 – 65 percent of children with ADHD also develop ODD. It has also been theorized that ODD is a way for kids with ADHD to cope with their emotional and psychological symptoms.

Do Children Outgrow It?

The good news is that roughly half of all preschoolers with ODD outgrow the problem by age 8. The bad news is that while some children with ODD will outgrow certain aspects of the diagnosis, defiance and other negative behaviors may persist into the teen years and even into adulthood. The reality for those struggling with ODD is that some aggressive behaviors may go away with time while others may be lifelong.

Further Complications

Children and teens with ODD may have problems at home, school or work. Those with ODD may also struggle to make and keep friends. ODD can lead to further complications, such as:

Antisocial behavior
• Poor school/work performance
• Impulse control problems
Substance abuse

Though there’s no guaranteed method to cure the symptoms of ODD, proper parenting techniques and early prevention can help to improve the situation. If you’re struggling with how to handle a family member with ODD, here are some practical strategies that can help:

Stay Positive

Positive reinforcement is an effective way to treat a child with ODD. Rather than constantly indicating a child’s mistakes, seek out opportunities to acknowledge their good behaviors. Be sure to explain why their actions deserve recognition.

Give Rewards

Show enthusiasm when praising a child for their good behavior. Reward positive conduct and use non-verbal gestures (high fives, hugs) to encourage your child. Always celebrate the little victories.

Don’t Yell

When dealing with a defiant child, it’s important not to fight fire with fire by yelling at them, which will only escalate the conflict. Always exercise self-control and, if needed, take a break from the argument to allow yourself enough time to cool down. Remember that overcontrolling parents breed oppositional behavior in kids. Instead of trying to correct every problem you see, which may create resistance and negative reinforcement, learn to pick your battles.

Be Consistent

Even though kids instinctively find new ways to push the boundaries, always be consistent. Make sure your children know what behaviors are (and aren’t) acceptable and that the rules are fair and uniform for all your kids. Establish clear goals and stick to them.

The Traditional Way of Treating ODD

In the field of psychiatry, the default method is to treat ODD with medications. If that fails to correct ODD symptoms, behavioral modification techniques may be considered. If an ODD child still struggles past these steps, it may be recommended that the child see a family therapist trained in childhood behavioral problems. More extreme measures may include group therapy by a medical staff and hospitalization.

The Natural Way of Treating ODD

The best way to heal the brain is the natural way. At Amen Clinics, we look for the least harmful, most effective way of healing the brain, which typically means treating patients naturally (supplements, nutrition, lifestyle recommendations) rather than with high-powered psychiatric medications.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any of the symptoms associated with ODD, our method of integrative psychiatric support can help. Using innovative and personalized care, our outcomes consistently demonstrate improvement for patients—including many who have tried and failed prior treatment.

Our Full Evaluation of your biological/psychological/social/spiritual history, coupled with two brain SPECT imaging scans (in concentrating and resting states), cognitive testing, and clinical assessment is designed to address your unique needs and offer targeted treatment options.

If you would like to learn more about how brain imaging can provide customized solutions for your needs, call us today at 888-288-9834 or visit us online to schedule a visit.


  1. Can you email me some costs and time you need to be st your clinic. My husband and I live in Redding Ca.
    He has bipolar/ depression
    Thank you
    Marianne Nobmann

    Comment by Marianne Nobmann — May 28, 2018 @ 7:22 AM

  2. My husband and I raised 4 children to adulthood and for a period of 7 yrs I operated a full time licensed family daycare in my home. That being said, I feel I am somewhat qualified to weigh in on this subject. As a young parent I learned early on with my own kids, that children thrive on consistency and routine. Most of my daycare kids began as infants and left between ages 3 – 5 to go on to preschool/kindergarten. Other children however entered my daycare e at various ages, Some were sent through the Resource and Referral Agency Creative Child Care, others by word of mouth. The children exhibited the gamut of behaviors through all the developmental stages. As a licensed daycare provider I was always alert for certain behaviors to look out for. Resource and Referral often sent me parents who were in the system for one reason or another. Some, not all mind you, bore the brunt of their parent’s life choices. One of my first daycare clients neglected to tell me her child had been asked to leave the previous 3 daycares for disruptive behavior but only after I sat her down to discuss said behavior. That’s when I learned the 4 yr old suffered from OCD and she being at her wits end and chosen to omit this all too important info. The behavior….the child would become enraged if anyone stepped over whatever line on the floor he’d created with the toys at hand. None of the other children could play with said toys and he reacted violently, hitting the offending child or head butting them. My solution was head to the library where I learned about OCD behavior. Part of the child’s behavior also stemmed from a lack of discipline of any kind so he truly ran the roost at home. In the end, i worked with the child, the parents and we all saw some improvement but the OCD remained a constant until his family moved to another city. Then there was the brother and sister who had been removed by CPS while their mom went to jail and rehab. The older sibling was 1 yr old when removed. After being reunited with mom at age 4, the child found he had a 2 yr old sister, also removed at birth by CPS. Not too long after they came into the daycare, the older child began hitting his sibling and throwing her to the ground by her hair. That’s when I learned mom was being abused at home. My point is that either the children are being raised with no discipline, some discipline accompanied by inconsistency or no routine at all. Children will do everything they can to tell you the only way they can that something is wrong through behavior. Sadly many of them, thanks to well meaning social workers, teachers, doctors and yes, daycare providers, are often labeled ADHD, ADD or disruptive etc.. I often found too that many of the kids simply never had a routine naptime or true activities/exercise and I am amazed at how parents stay on the go all day dragging exhausted crying children along and then blame the child not themselves. Overall, yes, there are children who genuinely benefit from medical intervention but for the most part, behavior I’ve learned has a direct correlation to whatever is going on at home or the parenting or lack of parental skill much less poor life choices. Too there are children as I cited earlier who are the exception to the rule and yes, more than I care to think of and am glad there is medical help for such kids and their families. I just felt I needed to speak up for the kids who all too often fall between the cracks because they are branded a problem for being healthy active kids. Thank you

    Comment by lee Martinez — May 28, 2018 @ 11:59 AM

  3. Unfortunately, society today is quick to relinquish responsibility for child rearing to ‘psychology’ experts. We quickly drop children at daycare centers, rush to find experts to diagnose every behavioral difference, and fail to realize a majority of children are born to single parent women with no foundational cultural grounding or traditional understanding of marriage. Someone, like a mature mother and father must stay together and be responsible for their offsprings…Not the government, psychologists, or childcare facilities…

    Comment by Henry Sinopoli — May 30, 2018 @ 3:33 AM

  4. Do you accept insurance for Military folks w/ Tricare Insurance?

    Comment by Kim Stoner — May 30, 2018 @ 4:05 AM

  5. Lee Martinez: You have written a very wise & insightful view of your experiences with children & their parents. I agree with you on allowing the child to have to learn to accept the consequences of their actions. I had three children. Two could obey the rules, one could not. My husband always stepped in & saved that one from the consequences of said actions. He is now deceased, but that one is still finding people to blame & others to step in save the situation; usually churches & shelters. He thought he was doing a good thing by “not being the bad guy”, however, all these years later my child is still playing “the blame game”, & still defiant & oppositional.

    Comment by Lynn Rawls — June 4, 2018 @ 11:47 PM

  6. Oh my gosh, this sounds like me and my children! We have gone through so much traumatic routes in hopes of getting help; multiple medications, multiple types of therapies, and some needing institutional help to prevent suicide; all only have made things worse, and finding no resolution to this lifelong issue. I want to learn so much more on this topic, as my adult children and I struggle with this every minute of every day.

    Comment by Smilie — August 30, 2018 @ 7:19 AM

  7. advice welcome!

    My grandson is 2.5 years old. He can be sweet and kind much of the time, however he has been exhibiting unprovoked, aggressive behavior for the past year. In the playground things can be going fine, and for no reason, he will go over to another child and bite, pinch, strike, or kick another them. He is tall and very strong so most of the time the children he attacks are hurt. We have tried everything but nothing seems to work. Now he demands that certain people do things such as take him in and out of the car seat, wheel the stroller, etc. Last week, he told me that Pop-pop (his grandpa) is disgusting. If disciplined, he has a tantrum. I an very concerned because he is starting school in 9 months. I feel this situation must be remedied before then or the problem will grow.

    Thank you,


    Comment by Diane — October 8, 2018 @ 5:09 AM

  8. Hello Diane, we’d love to have a Care Coordinator reach out to you via email. Thank you for sharing about your grandson. If you’d like to reach us directly, please call 888-288-9834.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — October 8, 2018 @ 8:25 AM

  9. I have a five-year-old grandson who is a sweet boy but can turn into a mean little guy at the drop of a hat. Also say mean hurtful things to people and can be very defiant. Very strong-willed. I could go on and on but My question is are these vitamins that the Amen’s clinic sells suitable for children that age? Thank you

    Comment by Trese — May 23, 2019 @ 4:30 AM

  10. Hello Trese, for questions regarding BrainMD Health supplements please contact their team here: https://www.brainmdhealth.com/contacts/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 23, 2019 @ 7:28 AM

  11. Your right.I was the bad cop thru our divorce and marriage.He has since died and our oldest child blames me for her institutions stays and has now alienated our grand children

    Comment by 8ev A Peltz — August 19, 2019 @ 3:01 PM

  12. ODD is a frequent issue in children with PANS/PANDAS
    I wonder if many of these people have that – causing an encephalitis and these behaviors. That would explain why some are lifelong issues. I wish I could read brain scans!

    Comment by GG — July 11, 2022 @ 7:05 AM

  13. Your observations on ODD are very interesting. Have you found any patterns of blood flow in the brain of those children having ODD vs. not having ODD? What parts of the brain get too little blood versus parts of the brain getting too much blood, causing the ODD? That could help parents try to identify what is actually going on in the children's brains. It may also increase your clinics' brain scans for those children having serious ODD problems for the parents who can afford your services. Your costs for the scans are not out of line compared to other medical procedures, it's just that people are used to insurance covering the costs of other medical procedures whereas your parents, families, individuals, have to pay for their own SPECTs' scans in your clinics. In your similar article on brain fog in this issue, you identified that the prefrontal cortex we is getting too much blood bringing high anxiety and probably too little blood to the hippocampus reducing the consolidation of long-term memories from individual experiences. Similar comparisons with ODD or other problems with brain health would be even more useful in future articles. Thanks for what you have done and what you're trying to do for us in the public.

    Comment by Jim Lohr — July 14, 2022 @ 7:38 AM

  14. So, what happens when people now in their 80’s and had ADD and ODD as kids and it was mostly untreated. The person got by due to a job that kept him challenged. Now it looks like frontal lobe dementia

    Comment by Wendy — October 28, 2023 @ 7:57 AM

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