Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

The symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder are shown below as they are listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is the bible of classifying all mental illnesses.

The symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder according to the DSM are:

  1. often loses temper
  2. often argues with adults
  3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
  4. often deliberately annoys people
  5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  7. is often angry and resentful
  8. is often spiteful or vindictive

A child must exhibit at least four of the above behaviors and do so for a period of at least six months, for oppositional defiant disorder to be diagnosed per the DSM.

The behavior of an ODD child also:

  • must cause significant problems at work, school or home
  • must occur on its own, rather than as a symptom of another mental health problem, such as depression or bipolar disorder
  • must not meet the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder or, if the affected person is older than age 18, antisocial personality disorder

That second point above is one of the keys to the diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. The similarity between different mental illnesses and the fact they often co-exist in a child make accurate diagnoses very difficult.

The Everyday Impact of ODD

The DSM symptom descriptions above are at the clinical definition level. In most households, the way that the symptoms of ODD appear are expressed this way:

  • the child argues with adults and refuses to follow their direction or orders - such as when asked to do homework, take a bath, or join the family for a meal
  • the child's defiance of the adult can be loud, very argumentative, and result in yelling, profanity, and even violence. This behavior can be directed not just toward adults but toward siblings or friends.
  • the child blames others for their own mistakes or shortcomings - arguments erupt and it's always the other person's fault
  • the child enjoys annoying others and is often annoyed by minor things - they like to instigate trouble, either from the giving end or receiving end of conflicts
  • the child expresses hatred toward parents, teachers or caregivers - they claim to hate the adult ("You're the worst mom/dad ever!") and make threats

While these symptoms appear to be extreme, it still can be difficult to discern between a strong-willed child and one with oppositional defiant disorder. The discussion of diagnosis of ODD in children delves into this issue in greater detail.


Return from Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder to Oppositional Defiant Disorder In Children.