What is the Relationship Between ADHD and ODD?

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  • Written By: Lori Smith
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are sometimes identified as having secondary behavioral problems. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), for example, may be suspected in young people with violent dispositions who frequently defy authority. ADHD and ODD may be offered as a combined diagnosis when hyperactive children show a pattern of hostility to peers and authority figures. Aggressive or cruel behavior and other harmful, disturbing actions may lead to this diagnosis.

ADHD and ODD can be difficult to diagnose. While many children throw temper tantrums occasionally, some of them behave in ways that are dangerous to themselves and others. Teenagers with ADHD and ODD may react vindictively when they are punished, destroy the property of others and become defiant and aggressive with people in positions of authority. They may refuse to comply with rules and display their lack of respect in outrageous ways.

While children with ADHD typically have poor social skills, they are usually capable of empathy and compassion, even if they are not able to articulate it. When they do something wrong, they have the ability to recognize it and feel remorse for their actions. Children that also have ODD, however, appear to have no regret, feelings of guilt or shame for any of their wrongdoings.


When these destructive behavior patterns last for six months or more, children and teenagers may be diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder. Quite often, the symptoms first present after a major disruption within the home, such as divorce. Children with ADHD and ODD may behave aggressively as a coping mechanism. Some of them are even victims of abuse.

In cases in which children exhibit an unwillingness to follow rules, behave violently and purposely desecrate other people's property, concerned parents may schedule an appointment with a family doctor or counselor. Talk-therapy sessions with a child psychologist can sometimes uncover the source of the defiance. With the cooperation of caregivers, behavior modification plans can be established to rehabilitate a person with ADHD and ODD. Medication may also be prescribed.

Many times, depression or anxiety disorders accompany ADHD and ODD. It is important for mental health professionals to understand the family dynamic and other challenges the child may be facing in order to establish effective modes of treatment. ODD is rarely diagnosed as a person's only behavioral issue. Identifying the underlying cause for a violent or intolerant nature may take time. The earlier a diagnosis is made, however, the better a child's chances are of making a positive change.

Some teenagers with ADD and ODD also battle with drug or alcohol addiction. Identifying a substance abuse problem early on may circumvent long-term physical and mental health conditions. Under certain circumstances, an inpatient treatment center is the best option for troubled teens. Group therapy and individual counseling sessions are then combined with a behavior modification program. If needed, detoxification and addiction recovery treatment may be necessary as well.


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