Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) are often closely linked, with many people experiencing both disorders at the same time. Doctors usually diagnose these disorders in children.

According to a 2017 study, more than half of people with ADHD also have ODD.

Although the two conditions often occur together they are notably different neurodevelopmental disorders. They have different symptoms, treatments, and diagnoses.

Read more to learn about what ADHD and ODD are, their connection, and their similarities and differences.

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ADHD and ODD are neurodevelopmental disorders that frequently occur together.


ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. A person with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, be overly active, and be unable to control their impulses.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), about 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD.

Doctors usually diagnose this condition during childhood. Parents or teachers may notice that a child has difficulty focusing on their schoolwork.

Although many children display characteristics resembling ADHD — such as an inability to sit still for long periods — symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity are much more noticeable in children with ADHD. Usually, a child will cause disruptions at school and at home.

In adults, symptoms may present differently. For example, hyperactivity may present as extreme restlessness. Symptoms may also increase due to the demands of adulthood.

The APA divides ADHD into three diagnosable categories:

  • Inattentive type: People with the inattentive type of ADHD may be easily distracted, seem to not pay attention, and overlook details.
  • Hyperactive/impulsive type: A person with this type of ADHD may appear fidgety, talk excessively, and be constantly active. They may also act reckless and frequently interrupt others.
  • Combined type: People with this type will have symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD.


ODD causes irritability and anger, and children with the disorder may act disobedient or defiant. It usually begins before 8 years of age, but typically no later than 12.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1–16% of children and adolescents have ODD.

The condition can continue into adulthood, especially if no one diagnoses or treats it. However, doctors rarely diagnose adults with ODD.

A child with ODD may come across as resentful or spiteful, argue with adults often, and lose their temper often. They are more likely to act defiant or oppositional around the people they know best, such as family members and teachers.

About 60% of people with ADHD also have ODD.

Although medical professionals do not know the precise connection between the two disorders, they may share risk factors. Genetics and environmental factors likely play a role in people with a higher risk of having both conditions.

A 2017 study published in European Child & Adolescent Psychology found that risk factors for both ADHD and ODD together include:

  • parents who have ADHD
  • adverse life events
  • harsh discipline and critical parents
  • deviant peer affiliations
  • lower socioeconomic status
  • higher birth weights

While the two disorders may show some overlap, they can also be very different.

The symptoms and treatments for ADHD and ODD can vary greatly. Additionally, the reasons why a person behaves a certain way can also vary.

For example, a child with ADHD may act impulsively by grabbing a toy from another child. Someone with ODD could act the same way, but they may do so out of aggression.


ADHD symptoms may include:

  • making mistakes often
  • being easily distracted
  • having trouble organizing tasks
  • being unable to follow instructions or listen
  • losing things and appearing forgetful
  • having an inability to sit still
  • fidgeting
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • talking excessively
  • interrupting conversations
  • having little or no sense of danger


ODD symptoms may include:

  • feeling angry and resentful
  • losing one’s temper
  • blaming others for their behavior and mistakes
  • being easily annoyed
  • arguing with adults and people in authority
  • refusing to obey rules
  • exhibiting spiteful and vindictive behavior at least twice during the diagnostic period
  • annoying others deliberately

A doctor or mental health professional can diagnose both ADHD and ODD.

ADHD diagnosis

Doctors most often diagnose ADHD during childhood, but they can also diagnose adults.

In children, it can be difficult for a doctor to diagnose ADHD, as many of the symptoms are similar to the typical behavior of children. Because of this, teachers are often the first people to notice the disorder.

For a diagnosis, a person will have to meet with a doctor or mental health professional. There is no specific test for an ADHD diagnosis, so the goal is often to rule out any other causes of the symptoms.

ODD diagnosis

A doctor may diagnose ODD in a person as young as 5 years of age, although the symptoms usually present most prominently in school-aged children.

A doctor may perform a psychiatric evaluation with various people in the child’s life. These can include parents, teachers, and siblings.

They may also require an academic assessment and intelligence test to check for any learning disabilities. They can also check for risk factors, such as poor performance in school and co-occurring disorders, such as ADHD.

For a doctor to diagnose someone with ODD, the person should show at least four of the previously listed ODD symptoms. These symptoms should be present on most days for at least six months.

A doctor or mental health professional will often treat ADHD with a combination of medication and therapy.

Medication cannot cure ADHD, but it may help a person manage their symptoms, feel calmer, and be better able to concentrate.

Doctors commonly prescribe five types of medication to treat ADHD:

It can be more difficult to treat ODD. The causes of a person’s behavior can be complex, meaning treatment will vary from one person to another.

The goal of treatment is to help the child cope with stress, express their emotions, and deal with authority in healthy ways. Doctors usually suggest psychotherapy, but they do not generally prescribe medication for ODD alone. However, if a person has both ADHD and ODD, a doctor may prescribe medication.

ADD and ODD often occur together in children. However, they are distinctly different conditions with their own symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and treatments.

If a doctor diagnoses a child with one or both of the conditions, a doctor may treat them with medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.