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What is ODD?

April 3, 2014 in Advice

Is your child defiant and hostile towards authority figures? Are they often angry and disobedient? You might think they’re simply naughty or badly behaved. But could this be ODD? We speak to an expert.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a childhood disorder described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as an ongoing pattern of anger-guided disobedience, hostility, and defiant behaviour towards authority figures that goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behaviour. Children suffering from this disorder may appear stubborn and often angry, and experts say the disorder causes significant impairment in social, academic and occupational functioning.

Who’s affected by ODD?

Although ODD can begin at three years of age, it’s typical in children of eight years and older, and rarely occurs after adolescence. The disorder is known to occur more frequently in boys than girls and is often likely to be caused by the functioning of the family and whether there are other factors such as ADHD or intellectual impairment present at the same time.

When should a mom be worried?

It’s normal for children to assert themselves at some point; they are after all developing into their own person. They’ll be stubborn and defiant; an example of this is the terrible twos, but you should be concerned if the negative behaviour occurs more frequently and beyond the normal years. Professor Richard John Nichol from the child and adolescent mental health services of the Free State Psychiatric Complex says you should look out for the following signs:

Your child:
• Is malicious and spiteful;
• Loses his or her temper often;
• Often argues with authority figures, is actively defiant and refuses to comply with the rules;
• Deliberately tries to annoy people;
• Often blames others for their mistakes;
• Is touchy and easily annoyed;
• Is often angry and resentful.

What to do when your child has ODD

If your child does suffer from ODD, Professor Nichol advises you maintain a healthy relationship with them. “Love, after all, is spelt T-I-M-E. Be sure to create specific guidelines. There must be effective discipline with specific rules for your child, rules that work for them and provide security. It is important to be consistent and reasonable. If your child has been naughty, don’t say to them, ‘For that you can’t watch TV for the rest of your life!’ Tell them that because they were naughty and didn’t listen, they can’t watch TV for the next three days. And do not give in on the second day; see it through.”

Here’s help

Professor Nichol recommends reading a variety of books on ODD. However, if you feel you’re not winning in terms of issues at home, it’s best to speak to your family physician about a referral to a psychologist or child psychiatrist. It’s important your child is diagnosed before further action is taken.

-Londiwe Dlomo

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