How are ADHD and ODD Different?

A psychologist diagnostic a child and try to understand if he suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ADHD


Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two of the most common behavioral disorders in children. ADHD and ODD have some similar symptoms but they are completely different from each other. Some children may have both ADHD and ODD but not all children with ADHD have ODD and not all children with ODD have ADHD.

About 40% of children with ADHD develop ODD. ODD may be caused by the impulsive emotions and behavior brought about by ADHD that they cannot control. ODD might also be a way for kids to cope with the emotional pain and frustration that is linked with having ADHD.

ODD is common in children who have ADHD. Kids with a combined type of ADHD, inattentive and hyperactive ADHD, have a higher risk of developing ODD. There are more boys with ADHD who frequently develop ODD than girls with ADHD. Poor children and children of divorced parents have a higher tendency of having ODD.

ADHD can be treated with medication while ODD cannot be treated with medication. The symptoms of ODD can be improved sometimes with an ADHD medication. ODD can be managed with the cooperation of parents and a therapist by setting up behavioral programs for the kid at home and in school and by learning how to manage ODD.

Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder in children. The diagnosis is made in childhood but the symptoms may persist until adulthood. There are three types of symptoms of ADHD. These are:

  • Hyperactivity: Kids with ADHD have trouble keeping still even for a short time.
    They cannot sit for a short period of time and they may run around or move restlessly once they get bored.
  • Inattention: Kids with ADHD have trouble paying attention. They get easily distracted. They have a hard time focusing on one task.
  • Impulsivity: Kids with ADHD tend to act before thinking. They are usually not willing to share their food, their toys, or their things to anyone else and they have a hard time waiting for their turn. This is what makes it hard for them to play and be friends with other children. They may also talk or laugh too loud or be angry more than the situation calls for.

Symptoms of ODD

ODD is a chronic condition that typically begins before the age of eight and can develop as early as four or five years old. It is caused by a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors. The main symptoms include:

  • Being easily angered or annoyed
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Overall irritable and negative attitude
  • Not following the rules or requests of adults
  • Being uncooperative on purpose
  • Arguing about small and unimportant things with adults and authority figures
  • Blames others for mistakes
  • Is resentful and seeks revenge
  • Often in trouble whether at home or in school

Differences Between ADHD and ODD

Given the overlapping symptoms of ADHD and ODD here are some of the characteristics that set them apart:

  • Impulsiveness vs Aggressiveness

Kids with ADHD are often impulsive making them act without thinking. Their behaviors are usually not malicious. Kids with ODD can act out on purpose.

Example: A child with ADHD will throw pebbles on another child and hit him/her on impulse. The child with ADHD will feel bad afterward. A child with ODD, on the other hand, might throw more pebbles because he/she wants the other child to get hurt. That child with ODD will not feel bad about his/her actions and may even laugh.

  • Not Following Instructions vs Defiance

Children with ADHD and ODD both tend not to follow rules and instructions. It’s a similar characteristic of both disorders but the difference lies in the reasons behind the behaviors. Not following instructions may be a sign of inattention in a child with ADHD because he/she might have heard the instructions but simply forgot about it or it could also be a sign of hyper attention because he/she is focused in doing something that is more interesting to him/her. Children with ODD frequently refuse to follow instructions or rules and tend to argue a lot with adults and people in authority and they can do this on purpose.

  • Short Temper vs Frustration

Children with ADHD get easily angry or frustrated and to cope with their anger or frustration, they may get upset and act out. Children with ODD also get easily frustrated but their acting out is not their way of handling their frustration but is rather a normal habit for them. They try to look for arguments and ways to break rules and rebel.

  • Difficulty with Friendships

Children with ADHD and ODD frequently have a hard time playing and being friends with other kids. Children with ADHD tend to interrupt others while talking or they may also miss social cues. They may be rejected by other kids because of their ADHD symptoms. Children with ODD are avoided by other kids because of their behavior. They have trouble making and keeping friends because of the way they treat others. Their overall negativity makes other kids want to avoid them.