What Is the Key Difference Between ADHD and ODD
The difference between ADHD and ODD is that children with ADHD are easily distracted and disorganized, while children with ODD are angry and defiant

Between 30%-50% of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). The key difference between ADHD and ODD is that children with ADHD are easily distracted and disorganized, while children with ODD are angry and defiant.

For example, a child with ADHD may impulsively push another child and later regret it. However, a child with ODD may deliberately push another child and find pleasure in it. Differences lie in the intentionality behind the behavior. While children with ADHD are unable to pay attention and may disregard your rules as a result, children with ODD may hear what you say but purposefully defy you or refuse to obey.

What are the signs of ADHD vs. ODD?

Signs of ADHD may include:

  • Short attention span
  • Easily distracted
  • Careless behavior
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing things frequently
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks
  • Constantly moving from one activity or task to another
  • Having difficulty organizing tasks
  • Inability to sit still
  • Constantly fidgeting
  • Excessive talking
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Interrupting conversations

Signs of ODD may include:

  • Easily loses temper
  • Easily annoyed by others
  • Arguing with adults
  • Refusal to comply with adult requests
  • Refusal to follow orders and rules
  • Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people
  • Blaming others for their own mistakes or misbehavior
  • Resentment, spitefulness, or vindictive behavior

What causes ADHD vs. ODD?

The exact causes of both ADHD and ODD are unknown. 

Factors that may play a role in the development of ADHD include:

  • Genetics
  • Family history
  • Environment factors such as lead exposure
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Maternal substance abuse during pregnancy

Factors that may play a role in the development of ODD include:

  • Genetics
  • Psychological factors
  • Social factors

How are ADHD vs. ODD diagnosed?

There are no lab or clinical tests to diagnose ADHD or ODD.

Your primary care physician may refer you to a pediatrician or child psychiatrist who will perform a psychiatric evaluation and medical examination. You may be asked to accompany your child as they are asked questions to assess their condition.

How are ADHD vs. ODD treated?

Treatment for ADHD:

  • Medications: Stimulants are widely used FDA-approved medications for the treatment of ADHD. They work by balancing chemicals in the brain that contribute to the development of ADHD symptoms. Although they are fast-acting medications, they require patience because the right dosage varies from child to child. Medications may also need to be changed depending upon the side effects. Between 70%-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these medications.
  • Therapy: Some children may also benefit from therapies such as behavioral therapy, family therapy, and social skills training.

Treatment for ODD:

Medications are not widely used in the treatment of ODD. Medications given for ODD aim to only tackle the associated symptoms. Therapy typically involves:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Parent management training
  • Cognitive problem-solving training, which aims to reduce negative thought patterns in the child
  • Social skills training, which aims to improve the child’s social interactions with their peers


The abbreviated term ADHD denotes the condition commonly known as: See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 2/10/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Treatment of ADHD: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/treatment.html

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/918095-overview#

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/289350-overview