Short Fuse? Hot Head? It Could Be Adult ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder in adults? ODD is often associated with temper tantrums in unruly ADHD children. But ADD expert Russell Barkley, Ph.D., explains ODD in adults with attention deficit.

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WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER (ODD) IN ADULTS?

Adults with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) feel mad at the world, and they lose their temper regularly, sometimes daily. Adults with ODD defend themselves relentlessly when someone says they've done something wrong. They feel misunderstood and disliked, hemmed in and pushed around. Some feel like mavericks or rebels.

WHAT CAUSES ODD?

It's unclear. It could be that a pattern of rebellion sets in when children with ADHD are constantly at odds with adults who are trying to make them behave in ways that their executive function deficit prohibits. By the time kids have had ADHD symptoms for two or three years, 45 to 84 percent of them develop ODD, too.

HOW DOES ADHD RELATE TO ODD?

It could be that the emotional regulation problems that come with attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) make it more difficult to manage anger and frustration. The impulsive emotion associated with ADHD means a greater quickness to anger, impatience, and a low frustration tolerance, which can be the spark that lights the fire of ODD. Venting and acting out toward others leads to conflict. Maybe that's why adults with ODD are more likely to get fired, even though poor work performance ratings are caused more by ADHD.

HOW IS ADULT ODD TREATED?

In many cases, the stimulant medications used to treat ADHD also improve ODD.

WHAT IF ADHD MEDICATION DOESN'T HELP?

Enroll in an anger-management course given by a mental health professional at a health clinic or a community college. Taking Charge of Anger, a book by Robert Nay, offers practical advice that may benefit an adult with ODD. Some adults require a second medication, in addition to stimulants, to manage ODD.

Symptoms of ADHD and bipolar disorder are often confused—and often coexist in the same person. Download your free digital copy of Is it Bipolar Disorder or ADHD? Plus, receive more email updates on managing ADHD at school.

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