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Oppositional Defiance Disorder

Real Solutions for Children and their Families

It’s normal for children of all ages to exert their independence. However, a child may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) when they show a persistent pattern of disobedient behavior toward adults and authority figures. ODD causes frequent problems at home, school and in the community.

At MultiCare Behavioral Health, we offer comprehensive care for children suffering from ODD, as well as compassionate support for their families.

Help for Oppositional Defiant Disorder at MultiCare Behavioral Health

We are uniquely positioned to help families struggling with oppositional defiant disorder thanks to our team of child mental health therapists. Our services include:

  • Treatment for children and their families: Our Child & Family Services program offers counseling services at our Behavioral Health Center, select schools, pediatric practices and at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital.
  • Parent peer support specialists: State-certified parent peer specialists are parents who share their own experiences with their children’s mental health conditions to bring hope and practical skills to you and your family. This may include encouragement and advocating your needs and preferences to your care team. Learn more our peer support program and the other specialty services we offer.
  • Help for parents: Our state certified family therapists offer information and training to help parents gain confidence in managing their child’s condition at home and in social settings.  
  • Community resources: Open to all families, Family Support Centers connect families in need with community resources, such as food, medical insurance through the Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) and parenting classes.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Having oppositional defiant disorder is more than being in a bad mood or having a bad day.

Children with oppositional defiant disorder often cause significant damage to family relationships, have difficulty participating in social activities and cause disruptions at school. In addition to acting out, it may seem as if nothing can be done to make your child happy.

Signs of oppositional defiant disorder usually begin during the preschool years. Sometimes they develop later, but usually show up before the early teen years.

Many children with ODD also have other mental health conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Learning or communication disorders.

Treating these other mental health conditions may help improve your child’s ODD symptoms.

What Causes Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

There's no known clear cause of oppositional defiant disorder, but contributing factors may include:

  • Biology: Oppositional defiant disorder has been linked to abnormal functioning in certain types of brain chemicals.
  • Environment: A child’s home environment may contribute to this condition, especially when there is a lack of adult supervision, inconsistent or harsh discipline, abuse or neglect.
  • Genetics: Many children with oppositional defiant disorder have close family members with mental health issues, including anxiety disorders and personality disorders.

What Are the Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Children may be experiencing oppositional defiant disorder if they are:

  • Quick to lose their tempers
  • Disobedient at home or at school
  • Likely to ignore or rebel against rules
  • Frequently blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior
  • Prone to annoy others or be easily annoyed

Every one of these behaviors is typical in children. However, children with oppositional defiant disorder act out so often that it affects their ability to succeed in school or get along with others.

The signs and symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder vary from child to child. There are also big differences in how boys experience this condition compared to girls.

How Do We Diagnose Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Our child and family experts provide a complete behavioral health evaluation to assess for oppositional defiant disorder and other disorders that may be contributing to the child’s behavior.

How Do We Treat Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

It is possible for children with oppositional defiant disorder to live normal lives. Treatment for this condition may include parent training and family therapy. We help you develop parenting skills that focus on recognizing and praising good behavior, while helping you learn how to deal with bad behavior. This may include teaching you how to help your child manage their anger. We also teach ways to show your child love even in the midst of disruptive situations.

We use interventions with a proven track record of success (evidence-based care) to treat children with oppositional defiant disorder. We use outcome measures to monitor progress and help families celebrate their successes.

Note: The condition description on this page is intended to be informational only, and should not be considered a diagnosis or medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional if you believe you have any of the symptoms described here.

Contact Us

Our services are available in convenient locations throughout Pierce and South King counties. 

Outpatient and Specialty Services

Call 888-445-8120 to make an appointment

Adolescent Inpatient Behavioral Health

Call the referral intake number at 253-403-0556

Adult Inpatient Psychiatric Care

Monday-Friday, 8am to 6pm

After hours and weekends

Geriatric Psychiatric Care

Monday-Friday, 8am to 4:30pm

After hours and weekends

Navos Services

Monday-Friday, 9am to 5pm

Navos 24-hours crisis line