Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD, often cause emotional and behavioral challenges for children and those who care for them. The two conditions may be confused because they share some similar and overlapping features. Additionally, ODD and ADHD often occur together, resulting in an even more complicated picture. Children and adults can have ADHD, but ODD is a condition specific to children and teens.
ADHD is characterized by a triad of symptoms that fall into the categories of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Children with ADHD display one or more of these behavioral components significantly more than most children. It is normal for children without ADHD to have trouble with attention or sitting still in some situations. ADHD is more likely to be the root cause if the symptoms consistently occur in a variety of settings. Consistency can be validated when parents, teachers, coaches, doctors and others caring for a child with ADHD concur that the child demonstrates these problems.
Attention Deficit Symptoms
Attention deficit symptoms of ADHD include trouble staying focused, a severe lack of organization and difficulty remaining on task. People with ADHD exhibit superficial involvement in activities and frequently drift from one activity to the next. They have an increased tendency to lose items and become very easily distracted, often not paying attention to or following instructions. Frustration can result when the child, teen or adult feels unable to meet milestones of achievement.
Hyperactivity and Impulse Control Symptoms
Along with the trademark symptoms of a deficit in attention, people with ADHD, especially children, can demonstrate hyperactivity and lack of impulse control. Hyperactivity includes inappropriately grabbing and touching objects, physically moving around without a clear intention, fidgeting or excessive talking. Symptoms of a lack of impulse control include speaking or yelling out of turn, interrupting and a marked lack of thinking before acting.
ODD shares some traits with the hyperactivity and impulsive behavior seen in ADHD but with trademarks of defiance and deliberate antagonism. Frequent anger, a short temper and lack of cooperation are common in ODD. However, these problems can also occur as a result of frustration in people with ADHD. A distinguishing feature is that people with ADHD are generally not observed to be intentionally resistant or hostile, whereas children and teens with ODD are.
ODD and ADHD
ODD and ADHD are frequently accompanied by other behavioral problems. A study of 131 children published in the October 2003 issue of "Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology" demonstrated that 60 percent of children age 3 to 7 with ADHD also qualified as having ODD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 50 percent of children with ADHD also have another behavioral problem, with ODD being the most common. A study published in the July 2010 issue of "Comprehensive Psychiatry" evaluated the additive effects of having both ADHD and ODD. The researchers found that children with both disorders have more ADHD symptoms, their behavioral problems are more severe and delinquency is more likely.