Oppositional Defiant Disorder Is NOT A Real Diagnosis

Oppositional Defiant Disorder Is NOT A Real Diagnosis

Stop trying putting labels on children.


When I was no older than 13, I had already had labels applied to me by the people who were supposed to be helping me. I was given the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type II, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Two out of those three were wrong. Can you guess which was right?

In case you don't know what those are, Bipolar Disorder Type II is a mood disorder in which one cycles between an extremely high mood (hypomania) and low moods (depression) (DSM V). These moods can last from a few days to months, but they don't happen in a single day.

My diagnosis should have been Borderline Personality Disorder which is "a pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity" (DSM V).

ADHD is a chronic condition marked by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (DSM V). This is the only accurate diagnosis given to me at the time. I take medication to help me with my attention problems. I am happy to say that for the first time in seven years, I am taking a lower dose of my primary ADHD pill.

ODD is a behavioral or defiance disorder defined by chronic aggression, frequent outbursts, and a tendency to ignore requests and purposely irritate others (DSM V). It's a fancy way of saying that your kid is a brat.

The thing that makes this diagnosis different from the other two is that there is nothing physiologically wrong with the brain. No chemicals or markers are consistently abnormal in children who have been tested.

You know, the funny thing about mental health disorders and diagnoses is that they never leave you. I will likely always carry those labels. And I despise them with every ounce of my being.

I would argue that the "diagnoses" put on children are worse than name-calling at school by their peers. They're both harmful labels. But the difference is that the diagnosis was applied by the professional. This is the person who is supposed to help you and make you feel better. You trust this person. You don't trust bullies when they call you names. You may be hurt, but you don't rely on the bullies emotional support. You know that they are just mean people.

How would like being told as a kid that you have a mental health disorder that makes you angry and vindictive and forces you to misbehave? I was so angry all the time because I was told that I had this mental illness that was synonymous with being a brat.

Every therapy session, every new psychiatrist, every hospitalization I was told this over and over again. So I started to believe I was a crappy, bratty kid. And I got depressed. It was incidentally at a hospital where I started cutting.

For most of my childhood, I was going in and out of therapy, hospitals, treatment programs, even homes. I would live with this family for a while and then that family, but I wasn't even in foster care. I was put on all sorts of medications.

Now, whenever a doctor asks me about previous hospitalizations and medications, I can't even begin to name them all. Not even my parents can. I'm not even a record of all of it exists.

Sooty (left), Pepper (right) Tori Renovitch

Before I was in middle school I was abusing my family's puppies. The two toy poodles in the picture above were named Sooty (left) and Pepper (right). They weighed no more than 10 pounds. I am ashamed to recall all the times I would kick, hit, and otherwise hurt them.

They were completely innocent and I hurt them on a regular basis when I got mad. The guilt I feel now is only somewhat veiled by the fact that I now love and pamper my current cat Simba. I have never laid an angry hand on him and give him only the best care and the healthiest food.

Even so, I frequently wonder what happened to Sooty and Pepper after we gave them up to another family. They must be very old now. I wonder if they are still alive or if my abuse lethally damaged their small bodies. I pray that they are happier now wherever they are.

I don't believe for a second that Oppositional Defiant Disorder is real. There is nothing wrong happening in the brain. According to the DSM V, it is a behavioral issue that results from "harsh, inconsistent, or neglectful" parenting. Why are we putting extra, unnecessary labels on children that will mark and follow them for their entire lives? They will grow up and mature and, with any luck, those behaviors will fade away.

My message to the medical community is to stop trying to put a label on every behavior. There is no reason to give a child that kind of diagnosis. ODD isn't a mental health problem that needs medication to be treated. It's a behavior problem that can be reversed through therapy and better parenting. There is no need for a label that will only create problems for the child in the future.

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Despite What The Media Says, Video Games Don't Cause Violence And Aggression

The answer to a question that has been asked for many years.


Often at times when a young teen (usually a male) commits an act of violence such as a school shooting, people try to blame the tragedy on violent video games and other forms of media. What I'm here to argue is that violent video games do not cause violence among children. The one question that needs to be asked, though, is where this blame is coming from, and my answer is the media who distributes this claim to society.

Although there may be some valid arguments as to why violent video games lead to aggression that can turn into potential violent behavior, there is plenty of research that proves that violent video games do not contribute to aggression as much as the opposing view tells you. Right now, there are thousands upon thousands of children who play video games every day and don't become aggressive and violent. In instances such as school shootings, people love to steer the conversation away from topics like gun legislation, which is generally how the NRA prefers things. It's less pressure on their department and more questions and pressure on departments such as The Entertainment Software Association.

The ESA is a U.S. association representing companies that publish computer and video games. The NRA is the National Rifle Association of America, a U.S. nonprofit organization that advocates for gun rights. In 2012, after a shooter killed 20 children and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NRA president Wayne La Pierre said, "There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people."

He was talking about video games, not the gun industry.

Most of the time people who blame video games for being the cause of these problems don't play them themselves. According to a study the researchers at the University of York performed with more than 3,000 participants, video game concepts do not "prime" players to behave in certain ways, and increasing the realism of violent video games does not necessarily increase aggression in game players. Another study corroborates the ongoing body of evidence that being good at video games plays an important part in our cognitive development and improves our ability to learn new things.

An article from Psychology Today states, "after surveying over a thousand 14- and 15-year-old adolescents of both genders and their parents in Great Britain, the researchers found that teenage gamers who played violent video games did not exhibit higher levels of aggressive behavior than age-matched peers who didn't play violent video games." This evidence along with the numerous other arguments provided suggest that violent video game play does not have a detrimental effect on levels of aggression.

In the future, video games will become more and more life-like and violent, which will inevitably cause people to question whether teenagers playing such games might become more aggressive. I just only hope for one day when people will examine the value of gaming in an open-minded manner and put all options on the table instead of one.

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6 Things I Learned From My Time Inside The Psych Ward

Sometimes our darkest moments have the most to teach us.


Only the nurses were awake when I arrived at 4 a.m., shaky and exhausted. It had been a long night spent in the ER, and I just wanted to sleep. One of the nurses showed me to my room, a small space with a bed, a bathroom, and a large chair. The intake paperwork only took 20 minutes or so, and then they left me alone to rest.

The built-in radio by the window was mostly static, but if I tuned it just right, I could listen to Frank Sinatra on the '50s station. Something about that music playing softly in my hospital room made me feel safe. I watched the lights of downtown Cincinnati sparkle like fallen stars in the dark and could feel myself healing, as cheesy as that sounds.

I still felt uneasy by morning but made my way to breakfast anyway, then to group therapy, then to lunch, and so on. I kept my days full like that for the next week, going to every scheduled activity and therapy session. For the first time in a long time, I was putting real work into my recovery.

Here are some things I learned during my hospitalization.

1. Getting help is not a sign of weakness.

The EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance with me had a kind smile. He let me crack as many jokes as I wanted in my poor attempt to cope. I told him that I asked for help because I felt unsafe and wanted to start treatment again. I shared how afraid I was to be admitted to a hospital an hour from campus in a city I'd never even spent the night in before. I was scared that the doctors there wouldn't be able to help me. I dreaded the scissors at the nurse's station they'd soon use to cut the strings out of my favorite sweatpants. I was terrified that the state I was in would break my mom and dad's heart.

At the same time, those anxieties didn't hold a candle to the fact that I still needed help, and as scary as it was to ask for, I got it. That is a strength I didn't know I had. As we pulled up to the hospital, the EMT gave me a tiny package of cookies and told me that I was brave.

2. Friendship is a healing force.

The other patients, ranging in age from 18 to late 60s, were some of the most loving people I've ever met. There's always an air of comfort among those who understand you, a feeling of freedom to just exist as you are. We paced the hallways during the slow afternoon singing songs from "High School Musical." We made ice cream sundaes with snack pack Oreos and half-melted ice cream. We could cry with no questions asked besides "what do you need?"

There was no hiding, no stigma, no shame.

The oldest patient, a woman who lived to make other people laugh, treated me and the other college-aged girls like daughters. She told us jokes at breakfast and gave life advice at lunch. There was a mutual understanding between all of us there that we were not fighting this alone. To connect with others like that during such a lonely time is like breaking through the water's surface for a breath of fresh air. The way we bonded together like a makeshift family was unexpected and utterly beautiful.

3. A week without internet is good for the soul.

The moment I was admitted, my cell phone was shut off and put in a locker somewhere else on the floor. Without the internet and social media, the days felt a lot longer, conversations were more fulfilling, and I had less generalized anxiety about checking my accounts. I couldn't read any depressing news headlines, and I couldn't get left on read. There was no longer a tiny screen to filter the world through.

I found that time away from my phone provided me with a lot of opportunities to ground myself in the present. Instead of sitting on my phone at dinner, I could focus on the meal and the people I was sharing it with. I went to sleep much faster at night without an endless scroll of tweets to read. I know life without the internet is practically unheard of in the real world, but it was nice to be separated from my screen for a while.

4. There's nothing wrong with needing medication.

The stigma surrounding psychiatric medication had gotten to my head during the year leading up to my hospitalization. I thought if I stopped taking my pills, I could learn to manage and adjust to the world without needing them. Obviously, I was very wrong. During my stay, I had to change the way I thought about medication, working to perceive it as an aspect of my treatment instead of a punishment for being sick.

Adjusting back to my doses helped me to slowly feel like myself again. The brain is an organ like all the others, and sometimes the right chemicals aren't being made. It's nobody's fault, but it's still something to be managed. For some people, medication can help with that. Once I pushed past my own internalized resentment, I was able to utilize that resource and take control of my recovery.

5. Recovery isn't a choice you make one time.

I had to choose recovery every morning I woke up in the hospital. Going to therapy, taking my medications, and practicing self-care took energy and effort. Breaking unhealthy patterns and relearning how to manage a chronic illness is difficult, and on some days, it felt nearly impossible. With encouragement and patience from my treatment team, it became more natural each day.

I also learned that recovery is not linear.

There will be times when I'm thriving and others when I'm definitely not. The ups and downs of life make no exception for me, even when those dips and highs become extreme in ways that disrupt my life. I kept forgetting that I do have a choice, that I've always had a choice, to keep going and striving towards a healthier state. My problems won't be gone, they'll just be a little easier to carry.

6. There is a time to leave.

On my last day, I was hesitant to leave. In the hospital, you are protected from the world and its chaos. A week staying inpatient wasn't going to fix all my problems, and I knew I'd have to go back to school and finish the semester. I had to return to my life. This would be the starting point to a brand new treatment plan for me. Of course I was worried I'd make the same mistakes again, but a stronger part of me felt ready to face both the good and bad times ahead. I left the ward with a collection of new coping mechanisms and a newfound hope for the future of my mental health.

I am grateful for the beautiful stories and lessons that were born from the dark, and I will never forget my time there, the people I grew to love, nor the single stretching hallway that we made into a home.

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