Oppositional Defiant Disorder

What Does Oppositional Defiant Disorder Look Like in Adults?

ODD in adults can make you feel mad at the world, and lose you temper regularly — even daily. Here is what you need to know about the real condition that might be behind your persistent bad moods.

A man explodes in anger, showing symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder in adults.
Frustration with your job, such as this man here, is a possible sign that you might have adhd.

Some children with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) outgrow the condition by age eight or nine. But about half of them continue to experience symptoms of ODD through adulthood. These people report feeling angry all of the time, and about 40 percent of them become progressively worse and develop antisocial personality disorder. Understanding ODD can help provide a neurological explanation for gut-wrenching feelings, and is an important first step to finding treatment.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults

ODD may be genetic. It often begins in childhood with patterns of rebellion against adults and their rules, particularly those that try to make children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) behave in ways that their brains simply can’t. Adults with ODD are more than just aggressive and irritating from time to time; to be diagnosed with ODD, a person must display a pattern of negative, hostile, and defiant behavior that lasts at least six months and includes four (or more) of the following symptoms:

[Self-Test: Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults]

  • Often loses temper
  • Often argues with family and coworkers
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with rules and laws
  • Deliberately annoys people
  • Blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Easily annoyed by others
  • Angry and resentful
  • Spiteful or vindictive

Adults with ODD feel mad at the world, and lose their temper regularly. This may manifest as verbal abuse or road rage. Adults with ODD defend themselves relentlessly when someone says they’ve done something wrong. They feel misunderstood and disliked, hemmed in, and pushed around. Constant opposition to authority figures makes it difficult for adults with ODD to keep jobs and to maintain relationships and marriages. They are particularly quick to anger, they are impatient, and they have a low tolerance for frustration.

[Why Am I So Angry All the Time?]

Symptoms at Home

Your spouse seems overly argumentative. Your roommate is unnecessarily hostile. These and other common manifestations of ODD may be apparent at home:

  • Always needs to win the argument with a parent or spouse
  • Continues to fight against ‘the man’ — authority figures and society
  • Leaves socks on the floor just because he knows it annoys his roommate
  • Cited for disorderly conduct by police
  • Involved in bar brawls or physical altercations in public
  • Has a hair-trigger temper — the littlest thing can set her off

Symptoms at Work

These or similar manifestations of ODD may be apparent at work:

  • Near constant arguments with a boss or coworkers
  • Commonly feeling oppressed by office rules
  • Purposely engaging in behaviors that irritate coworkers, like eating smelly foods for lunch
  • Sanctioned by human resources for violating company policies
  • Previously fired for pushing coworkers in heated moments
  • Has meltdowns during meetings or annual reviews after receiving constructive criticism

If you experience these or similar symptoms of ODD, consult a doctor or mental-health professional for a formal assessment.

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