Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Why Am I So Angry All the Time?

Symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder are common in adults with ADHD, but seldom diagnosed. Here, Russell Barkley, Ph.D., explains what to look for, and how to get anger-management help.

A woman hits a man with boxing gloves due to adult Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms
Adult Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptoms

What are the Symptoms of 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 Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults?

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 oppositional defiant disorder, too.

How Does ADHD Relate to Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults?

It could be that the emotional regulation problems that come with attention deficit disorder (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.


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How is Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults 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. Learn more about oppositional defiant disorder in children here.

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