How is oppositional defiant disorder diagnosed?

As with adults, mental disorders in children are diagnosed based on signs and symptoms that suggest a particular disorder. If the child has symptoms, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical examination.

Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose conduct disorder, the doctor might use various tests, such as blood tests, to rule out physical illness or medication side effects as the cause of the symptoms. The doctor also will look for signs of other disorders that often occur along with ODD, such as ADHD and depression.

If the doctor cannot find a physical cause for the symptoms, he or she might refer the child to a child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist. These healthcare professionals are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses in children and teens.

Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a child for a mental disorder. The provider bases a diagnosis on reports of the child’s symptoms and observation of the child’s attitude and behavior.

The doctor often must rely on reports from the child’s parents, teachers and other adults because children often have trouble explaining their problems or understanding their symptoms.

The doctor then determines if the child’s symptoms point to ODD as it is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, which is the standard reference book for recognized mental illnesses.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy