Treatment for Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adolescence

by Polaris Teen Center | Sep 7, 2018 | Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Resources

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Oppositional defiant disorder in teens (ODD) is one of the more common mental health disorders and falls under the umbrella of disruptive behavior disorders.  Adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder demonstrate disobedient, defiant and/or hostile behavior, often when interacting with authority figures. Adolescents with ODD tend to be rebellious, stubborn, and argumentative, and are prone to anger outbursts and struggle to control their temper.  Other common behaviors that adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder display are:

  • Negativity
  • Spitefulness
  • Hostility and verbal aggression
  • Defiance
  • Mean and/or hateful speech
  • Questioning rules or guidelines
  • Deliberate attempts to upset others
  • Revenge seeking

Statistics of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adolescents

Oppositional defiant disorder is diagnosed in many adolescents.  Studies show a range of estimates (between 1%-16%) for how many adolescents struggle with oppositional defiant disorder  

Treatment for Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adolescents

Oppositional defiant disorder in adolescents is highly treatable, if caught early.  The first step is to talk with a medical or mental health professional. A comprehensive evaluation will likely be done, in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.  Once a diagnosis is assigned, an appropriate treatment plan can be created. Treatment for oppositional defiant disorder in adolescents usually consists of a combination of the following:

Cognitive problem-solving therapy is a therapeutic approach used to teach adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder new, positive ways to respond to certain situations and interactions.  Not only does cognitive-problem solving provide adolescents with solutions, but also can help them understand why certain old behaviors were unhelpful/unsuccessful.

  • Social-Skills Training

Youth with ODD tend to struggle in relating and interacting with peers.  Social-skills training therapies are aimed at teaching ways to have more positive, successful peer interactions.  This therapy is frequently conducted in natural or “real-life” environments, such as school or social groups.

When an adolescent displays difficult or defiant behaviors, the whole family can be affected.  Thus, therapy for the entire family unit could be necessary. Family therapy can help family members gain a better understanding of the adolescent’s behavior, as well as provide education on better ways to cope with their own emotions and better support one another.

  • Parent-Management Training

Studies around treatment for ODD have shown intervening with parents as one of the most effective ways to manage the difficult behavioral symptoms of adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder.  Parent-management training teaches positive parenting practices and encourages consistent (and appropriate) punishment and predictable parental response(s) for disruptive behaviors. Parent training also educates parents on how to change their reaction to the child’s behavior, more clearly demonstrate and define their expectations, and remove common “bad behavior” triggers.

  • Medication

Medication is rarely used alone in the treatment of oppositional defiant disorder in adolescents.  Instead, prescribed medications are frequently a part of a more comprehensive treatment plan for managing the disruptive behaviors of ODD in adolescents.

Beyond psychiatric medications, some doctors and mental health professionals may encourage your child to take certain supplements, as a natural way to approach mood and behavior management.  

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – widely used to regulate mood and emotions; often used along with Vitamin E, which helps the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Melatonin – can help normalize your child’s sleep habits, helping him or her to fall and stay asleep.
  • Zinc – can moderate the chemicals in the brain that often lead to hyperactivity and/or impulsivity.

Healthy Lifestyle to Manage Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adolescents

Having an overall healthy lifestyle is an important aspect to managing any behavior problems in young people.  Staying consistent with a healthy daily routine can greatly reduce challenging and disruptive behaviors.

Core elements of a healthy lifestyle include:

  • Physical activity – engaging in regular physical activity, whether it be vigorous exercise or simply moving one’s body, is an essential element to expending energy and thus, can help decrease certain disruptive behaviors.
  • Healthy diet – a well-balanced diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, etc.) can help the adolescent brain receive the necessary nutrients, which can in turn, help manage ODD behaviors.
  • Adequate sleep – sleep is essential to anyone’s mental health and well-being.  Getting enough sleep is obviously recommended, but also making sure your adolescent does not get too much sleep is important (there is such a thing as “too much” sleep).   

Other Ways to Help Manage Your Child’s Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Parents and caregivers of adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder use various techniques to improve everyday life for themselves and their child, while working to decrease difficult behaviors. Some commonly used approaches include:

  • Acknowledge the positives – praise your child by offering positive reinforcement for things he or she does well or shows cooperation or improvement on.  This means even recognizing the things that might seem small or insignificant.
  • Pick your battles – an adolescent with ODD will likely engage in power struggles with you.  Thus, prioritizing the demands you put on your child could be helpful in engaging in less of these struggles.
  • Manage burnout – make sure not only your child’s life has a healthy balance, but yours does as well.  While having an adolescent with oppositional defiant disorder can consume much time and energy, it is important to manage your own stress and have other interests and hobbies.  This might mean getting your own support as well.

Polaris Teen Center offers residential treatment for mental health disorders. For more information on our youth programs, or to speak with an admissions specialist, call 1-844-836-0222 today.

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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).