Signs & Symptoms of ODD in Adolescents

Understanding ODD

Learn about oppositional defiant disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder is a conduct disorder that can be characterized by irritability, defiant behavior, or vindictiveness. ODD must consist of four or more symptoms and last up to six months to warrant an official diagnosis. The symptoms of ODD are often independent of the individual’s mood. Like most disruptive, impulse-control, or conduct disorders, ODD is typically more common in men than in women. Often those with ODD only display their behaviors around close family and friends or those with whom they are most comfortable, and ODD most often manifests itself in the home.

However, the likelihood that a person experiencing ODD exhibits symptoms of the disorder around other people — including coworkers, acquaintances, and strangers — is related to the disorder’s severity. The more severe the disorder, the more likely the individual will display the symptoms of ODD around those outside their closest circle. If ODD symptoms occur in more than one setting, the individual is at greater risk for social isolation, and ODD can often lead to impaired functioning in daily life.

ODD is a relational disorder, and sometimes the symptoms of ODD can impact others to the extent that it damages relationships. It is important to note that a person experiencing ODD might react in a way that is out of proportion to a situation or event. While teenagers naturally experience a lot of angst or defiant moods, an individual with ODD might exhibit symptoms that significantly impede relationships, challenge authority figures, and cause detriment to their home life. ODD can affect not only your child, but also your child’s friends and family members. It is important that you do not delay treatment if you believe your child may be experiencing ODD.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms for ODD

Certain signs and symptoms accompany oppositional defiant disorder. If you believe your child may live with ODD, it is important to notice some of their behaviors and responses to various triggers. While ODD often occurs in the home, when first looking for signs and symptoms of the disorder, it is helpful to note how your child behaves in other settings as well. The following symptoms of ODD encompass the main qualities of the disorder: angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, and vindictiveness.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Frequently loses their temper
  • Habitually disobedient
  • Deliberately hostile toward others
  • Argumentative with others
  • Often tries to defy authority figures
  • Experiences frequent temper tantrums
  • Is mean or hateful when upset
  • Frequently tries to annoy or provoke others
  • Usually blames other people for their mistakes (i.e., “They made me angry”)
  • Repeatedly takes action out of spite

Mental symptoms:

  • Angry, irritable mood
  • Easily bothered, annoyed, or provoked
  • Resentful
  • Indignant
  • Often possesses a strong sense of justice (i.e., “an eye for an eye”)


Effects of oppositional defiant disorder

Short-Term Effects: Your adolescent or teen may experience some short-term effects if they don’t receive treatment for oppositional defiant disorder. Although these effects are considered “short-term,” please do not take them lightly or consider them temporary. Any indication of the following short-term effects of untreated oppositional defiant disorder is a sign you should seek immediate professional treatment:

  • Problems at school
  • Bullying or being bullied
  • Family conflict
  • Social rejection
  • Job loss
  • Loss of romantic relationships
  • Arrest or incarceration
  • Drug or alcohol experimentation
  • Self-harm

Long-Term Effects: If treatment for oppositional defiant disorder is further delayed, your child may be at risk for long-term, or chronic, effects. The longer the delay in treatment, the further at risk your child might be for harmful long-term effects. It is encouraged that your child seeks professional treatment as soon as possible.

  • Expulsion from school
  • Social isolation
  • Strained family relationships
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Little to no romantic relationships
  • Addiction
  • Legal problems due to poor choices when angry
  • Imprisonment

Co-Occurring Disorders

Oppositional defiant disorder and co-occurring disorders

If your child has oppositional defiant disorder, they might be at a higher risk for certain co-occurring disorders, or experiencing other mental health disorders at the same time. The co-occurring disorder(s) may precede a diagnosis of ODD, or their symptoms may manifest themselves during or after the onset of ODD symptoms.

  • Substance use disorders (addiction)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Conduct disorder
  • Anxiety

The symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder can become severe enough that they can negatively impact an individual’s social life, family life, and love life. If left untreated, someone with ODD might be at further risk for more troubling behaviors and strained interpersonal relationships. Someone with ODD may feel that they can’t control their feelings and behaviors, but ODD is a conduct disorder that can be treated. At Southstone Behavioral Health in South Boston, Virginia, treatment for ODD is possible. Through inpatient treatment and therapy at Southstone Behavioral Health, your child will learn to control their emotions, develop distress tolerance, and acquire conflict management skills. Oppositional defiant disorder does not have to negatively affect your child’s life. Seeking treatment can help.