Oppositional Defiant Disorder Signs & Symptoms

Rolling Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with oppositional defiant disorder build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Ada, near Oklahoma City, Rolling Hills Hospital is the premier provider of mental health & addiction treatment for adolescents, adults & seniors.

Understanding ODD

Learn about oppositional defiant disorder

A disorder that is typically diagnosed during childhood, oppositional defiant disorder, also known as ODD, is characterized by a number of behavioral and emotional symptoms that can cause a great deal of disruption in a person’s life. Often obvious when a sufferer of this condition interacts with a person in a position of authority or power, those with ODD are defiant, disobedient, and hostile towards others. Additionally, people with oppositional defiant disorder behave in the manner they do without much regard for potential consequences that can occur.

The angry and irritable moods associated with this disorder frequently cause a person to become easily agitated and act out in response to even the most menial of triggers. Seeking treatment for a condition such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder is often necessary so as to avoid long-lasting or permanent consequences. Such care does, in fact, exist and can be of great assistance to those who are battling symptoms of ODD. What is crucial to know is that it is possible to live without the disruptive symptoms of this destructive mental illness.


ODD statistics

Conclusive research on oppositional defiant disorder has stated that more boys are affected by this condition than girls. This finding is supported by the fact that 11% of boys meet criteria for this disorder as compared to 9% of girls. Generally speaking, however, studies have found that over 10% of young people meet diagnostic criteria for oppositional defiant disorder. Within that percentage, though, roughly 70% of young people with ODD eventually outgrow the symptoms of this mental health condition by the time of late adolescence.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for oppositional defiant disorder

Mental health professionals and experts in the field agree that several contributing factors are at work when ODD symptoms develop. Consider the following when trying to understand the origins of oppositional defiant disorder:

Genetic: Research has concluded that there are certain mental health disorders that, if they are present in a person’s family history, can make a person vulnerable to eventually showing symptoms of ODD. If an individual has biological relatives with depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders there is an increased likelihood for oppositional defiant disorder symptoms to eventually appear. Because of this link, experts believe that ODD possesses a genetic component.

Physical: The development of oppositional defiant disorder is, for some, caused by chemical imbalances that occur in the brains of sufferers. Specifically, neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating impulses and mood have been found to be imbalanced and ultimately cause a person to present with aggressive behaviors. Additionally, these imbalances can prevent a person from appropriately interpreting social cues and controlling urges to act out in unhealthy manners.

Environmental: Because oppositional defiant disorder is a condition that is diagnosed in childhood, professionals in the field of mental health believe that there is a strong link between the development of this condition and the environment in which a child is raised. Being the victim of abuse or neglect, experiencing trauma, and being reared in a home where chaos and stress are prevalent are known to contribute to the development of ODD symptoms as these factors can cause a child to act out.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of mental illness
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Being the victim of abuse and/or neglect
  • Being raised in a chaotic environment
  • Living in a stressful home
  • Inconsistent parenting
  • Exposure to substance use or abuse
  • Bearing witness to violent or aggressive behaviors

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ODD

Key indicators that suggest an individual is grappling with symptoms of ODD can vary depending on the age and gender of the person suffering from this mental health condition. Consider the presence of the following symptoms when trying to deduce if an individual is suffering from oppositional defiant disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Temper tantrums
  • Belligerent behaviors
  • Being uncooperative
  • Blaming others
  • Constant disobedience
  • Seeking revenge
  • Breaking rules or laws
  • Arguing
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Fighting
  • Instigating behaviors
  • Intentionally destroying relationships

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Physical injury due to violent behavior

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Poor decision-making

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Persistent negative attitude
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Inept social skills


Effects of ODD

Various effects are known to occur if a person does not seek treatment for oppositional defiant disorder. The following have the potential to happen in a person’s life when ODD symptoms are not cared for:

  • Disciplinary action at school
  • Academic failure
  • Expulsion from school
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Increased conflict within interpersonal relationships
  • Inability to formulate meaningful relationships
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Development of another mental health condition

Co-Occurring Disorders

ODD and co-occurring disorders

Individuals who struggle with oppositional defiant disorder often experience symptoms of other mental health conditions. Listen are examples of such conditions that could also require treatment if a person receives care for symptoms of ODD:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Language disorders
  • Intellectual development disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorder

So thankful to have made some great friends at Rolling Hills who could understand what I was going through.

– Former Patient