What are the Different Treatments for Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Tara Barnett

Oppositional defiant disorder, sometimes called ODD, is a disorder caused by a combination of chemical features and nurturing strategies used by parents. This disorder is usually diagnosed only in children and teenagers and is characterized by extreme misbehavior and intent to cause annoyance to others. Given that one of the major factors that causes this disorder is parenting style, treatments for oppositional defiant disorder almost always involve changes in the way a child is disciplined and given structure. In extreme cases, a patient with these symptoms may be medicated for the convenience of parents. Most of the time, a combination of therapy, discipline, and parental training can overcome even the most difficult symptoms of this disorder.

Often, parents of children with ODD must learn how to appropriately discipline their children.
Often, parents of children with ODD must learn how to appropriately discipline their children.

In many cases, treatments for oppositional defiant disorder involve treating not the child but the caretaker. This is because the treatment for the child is an increase in discipline, which involves extensive parental interaction. A caretaker who has not provided sufficient structure or appropriate punishments for the type of behavior deemed oppositional must learn a new style of parenting in order to help the child. Treatments for oppositional defiant disorder must always be centered in the home, because disorder in the home affects all other aspects of the child's life.

Therapy may be useful for those suffering from oppositional defiant disorder.
Therapy may be useful for those suffering from oppositional defiant disorder.

Family therapy can be very successful for children with oppositional defiant disorder. When communication is opened up in a controlled environment and the child is taught to identify which behaviors are problematic and why, improvements can be made overall. Additionally, family therapy emphasizes improving relationships between people, not just changing one person's behavior, and so this kind of therapy is a particularly good fit for a problem that involves multiple people.

Medications for oppositional defiant disorder usually do not treat the disorder directly. ODD often occurs in combination with another behavioral, mood, or attention problem and is often improved by resolving that problem with medication. Sometimes it is possible to improve behavior with a change in diet that includes more vitamins or by engaging in activities such as yoga or karate that improve focus. The main problem with using medications for this disorder is that the problem will almost certainly resurface if medications are not taken, so these drugs may become a lifetime commitment.

When a parent can no longer handle the child whose behavior has become problematic, possible treatments for oppositional defiant disorder include special schools and alternative parenting situations. Military schools, boot camps, and other facilities that encourage discipline and structure are often used as treatments for oppositional defiant disorder, and many of these institutions have developed specifically to cope with children who have discipline problems. Some parents find that releasing a problematic child to the custody of other adults, such as grandparents, aunts, or uncles, simplifies the problem of treatment because other adults have more appropriate parenting styles for the child’s needs and the child does not feel the same compulsion to defy other adults that he or she may feel toward parents. In extreme cases, children may be placed in foster care or given up for adoption in the hope that new parents will be able to solve the discipline problems more effectively. Often, these treatments for oppositional defiant disorder are successful, but at the expense of a strong family unit.

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