Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry

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What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Teenagers are known to go through a phase where they become moody, brooding, and irritable, especially with parents. They will begin to argue and get angry as they are now emerging from the innocence of childhood, where they were fully dependent on their families, to the independence of an adult.

These years can be extremely difficult at times, for both the parents and the teenager. Sometimes, the teen’s behavior is so erratic and intense; it becomes unbearable and may cause some parents to worry if they had done something wrong along the way.

Although this phase is quite normal, parents should keep a lookout for signs that this behavior is not a sign of oppositional defiant disorder. This disorder is characterized by severe anger and defiance, argumentativeness, or an inability to control temper.

The teenager will frequently argue or act against those in authority, such as adults, teachers, or parents, and blame others for his or her mistakes. This behavior may cause significant problems in the teenager’s school life as well as at home.

Although it may subside in the late teen years or early adulthood, it can be challenging for the parent to constantly endure the endless arguments and it may prove to be an intolerable experience to simply wait it out.
In some cases, this behavior may lead the teenager to develop more serious problems, as he or she rebels against acceptable standards. This rebellious behavior may lead to depression, bipolar disorder, the use of substances, and in worst cases, lead to an addiction.

Oppositional defiant disorder can vary from mild symptoms to severe symptoms. Mild symptoms usually mean that the teen only exhibits defiant behavior in a single setting, such as at home, or with family members specifically.
Moderate symptoms are slightly more intense, as the behavior can be exhibited even in a school setting, with teachers and classmates. This can disrupt the teen’s learning capability and interfere with their education.
The most severe of symptoms will usually cause the teen to act out in all places, not limiting their selves to one setting. They will demonstrate irritable behavior in school, at home, and in other public places.

To those concerned for these argumentative teenagers, keep a lookout for any signs that their lashing out could be signaling something more serious. Though it’s important to also note that oppositional defiant disorder is not only limited to teenagers, but can also be seen in children as young as 5 years old, sometimes even below this age.
If the child is 5 years old or younger, the symptoms may occur for at least six months on most days, but for teenagers, the symptoms only appear once a week, also for a period of at least six months.

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