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What Does ODD in Teens Look Like?

a young man dealing with symptoms of odd in teens talks to a therapist

Adolescence is a period of major change. As teens start to develop their own identities, they’ll look for ways to establish themselves as independent, no longer relying on their parents. Many teens go through rebellious periods or act out as they navigate this transition. Sometimes, though, it goes too far. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is an issue where children and teens are spiteful and completely against authority figures. ODD in teens can lead to trouble at school, with the law, and within their families.

Oppositional defiant disorder treatment at Family First in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, can help. We know that teens act out because they are experiencing deeper emotional and mental health challenges. Our team helps teens explore their inner feelings so they can develop healthier ways to express them, leading to fewer confrontations and improved relationships. Call us at 888.904.5947 for help.

ODD Is More than Acting Out

Behavioral challenges like ODD make it difficult for teens to communicate their struggles effectively. As a result, they may resort to aggressive or defiant behavior as a way to express and cope with their emotions. ODD is more than just acting out; it’s a serious behavioral health issue that can benefit from professional treatment.

Children, adolescents, and teens all lash out at times. Diagnosing ODD is difficult because many of the symptoms can be confused for typical teen angst or rebellious behavior.

Identifying Symptoms of ODD in Teens

The symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder go beyond normal tantrums or reckless behavior. Teens with ODD:

  • Lose their temper regularly
  • Are irritable or touchy
  • Harbor resentment
  • Argue with authority figures
  • Refuse to follow rules
  • Deliberately annoy others
  • Blame others for their own mistakes
  • Act spitefully or vindictively1

Vindictive behavior is a standout symptom of ODD. Teens will actively seek revenge for perceived wrongdoings, even if it’s against their own self-interest. They may also show patterns of defiance and disobedience across a variety of settings, such as at home, in school, or with friends.

Backlash in Different Settings

Depending on the severity of a teen’s ODD, they may only argue back in one setting or may present challenging behavior in multiple settings. For instance, a teen with mild ODD may only act out at home but exhibit model behavior at school. A teen with more severe ODD may engage in defiant behavior no matter the environment.

When teens argue with authority figures, especially in every setting, it can lead to serious consequences. Teachers may recommend expulsion, classmates may avoid them, and loved ones may feel powerless to help.

Finding Help for ODD

Mental health experts are able to diagnose ODD. They may ask about a teen’s history, as there are two primary theories about what leads to ODD: developmental challenges and learned behaviors.2 Gaining a better understanding of the root causes behind teens’ challenging behavior can help mental health professionals develop an appropriate treatment plan.

At Family First, we specialize in helping adolescents and teens work through behavioral challenges like ODD. Teens engage with our therapists in individual, group, and family settings to help them explore their inner feelings and how they feed their behaviors. Expressive art therapy, sand tray therapy, and other experiential methods help teens physically connect with their emotions, providing them with tools to express themselves in healthier ways.

Contact Family First Online Now

If you suspect your teen may be struggling with ODD, it’s essential to seek professional help. Our South Florida treatment center offers a safe and supportive environment where teens 13–18 can work through their challenges and develop healthier coping mechanisms. We offer a boys-only residential program and a co-ed partial hospitalization program (PHP).

Contact us online or call 888.904.5947 to start the conversation about your teen’s mental health and how we can help them on their journey to emotional wellness.


  1. StatPearls (accessed via the National Library of Medicine) – Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine – Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in Children