Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder-Not a Helpful Label

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Mar 27, 2013 9:26 PM

It really hurts when a little boy acts up at home, at school and in the neighborhood, then gets labeled ODD-Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The mom says, "He has ODD." But, folks, it's not a disease. You don't "have" it. It's not a disease.It means "misbehavior" and there's a reason for such acting out.Usually, there's violent modeling, depression and anger.

In a recent case, a sweet little boy acted out in school and didn't concentrate because he was having flashbacks of abuse at his father's house that his mother didn't even know about. He was bullied by kids at school and the principal ignored it. His life was chaos, and he was depressed and angry, had no one to understand and didn't know what to do. His cries for help landed him drugged, diagnosed, and punished. What a mess! Instead, the adults in his life need to reorganize his life better, provide good role models, teach him coping methods and offer experiences which generate self-respect. Then, he won't act out.

Forget the label ODD. It's meaningless. Just realize that kids who act out, whether passively refusing to cooperate or actively tantruming or rebelling, have problems and need help. Even ADHD, in this case and the medication, was not appropriate, as it sometimes is, because he was distracted by post-traumatic trauma, which needed to be addressed, not his neurological tendencies.

The psychological profession, like the medical profession, should consistenly remind itself to look at people in all the complexity of their lives, not just seek a cookbook connection between symtoms and label and then try to medicate it away. Look at the context.

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