What Does Oppositional Defiant Disorder Look Like in Adults?
An adult with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) may feel mad at the world, and lose his temper regularly — even daily. This may manifest as road rage or verbal abuse. It may cause tension with authority figures, and trouble at work. It may tear apart relationships. Here is what you need to know about oppositional defiant disorder and its overlap with ADHD.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults
Adults with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) display a pattern of negative, hostile, and defiant behavior that lasts at least six months and includes four (or more) of the following symptoms:
- 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 are more than just aggressive and irritating from time to time. They feel mad at the world every day, 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. They see themselves as mistreated, misunderstood, and unappreciated. They see themselves as the victim rather than the cause of the pain in the family system.
Causes of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults
ODD has a strongly genetic component. It runs in families and several people in the same family may be affected. It often begins in childhood with patterns of rebellion against adults and their rules. Some children with ODD outgrow the condition by age eight or nine. But about half of them continue to experience symptoms of ODD through adulthood.
People with ODD 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.
Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults 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 of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Adults 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
- Fired for being physically aggressive with 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.
Updated on February 7, 2021