Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) in adults might appear as an anger problem. Typical signs are severe negativity, drug and alcohol use, fighting, self-destructive behavior and engaging in criminal acts such as shoplifting. Although oppositional defiant disorder is primarily a diagnosis in children, symptoms can persist past childhood. It can evolve into conduct disorder in adolescence, a more serious condition, or even antisocial personality disorder when the individual reaches maturity. Adults are usually then diagnosed with pervasive, overall personality disorders.
Kids can act out for many reasons, perhaps to draw attention to a problem in the family. Children and adolescents change and grow in drastic ways, so behaviors that suggest problems don’t necessarily point to a personality disorder. Many people who have stormy childhoods become more responsible as they grow up. If symptoms have been going on for a long time and continue into adulthood, this suggests that such a disorder might be present.
According to psychologists, some adults are difficult by temperament. This does not mean that they have a personality disorder. They can still be reasoned with and do not go against societal norms. Oppositional defiant disorder in adults does not allow for this, nor do antisocial personality or conduct disorders, unless there is a direct benefit for the individual.
Oppositional defiant disorder in adults is not a psychosis, although some behaviors appear to go against common sense. These might include defiance of authority, aggressiveness, lying, being irresponsible about financial obligations and work and a tendency to blame others for one’s problems. As of 2010, for a licensed mental health professional to make a diagnosis of ODD or antisocial personality disorder, it was recommended for the person to have shown five or more of the symptoms over a long period of time. The symptoms would have had to have been severe enough to interfere with the person’s normal functioning.
With prompt treatment, children who have ODD can outgrow their symptoms. Oppositional defiant disorder in adults is more difficult to treat. Adults mired in these behaviors are capable of superficial change, to avoid consequences or losing something important. They can manage their behavior for a short time on their own, but this rarely lasts. Drug and alcohol abuse only worsens symptoms.
Oppositional defiant disorder in adults cannot be cured. Despite this, there are ways for the individual who has ODD to learn better decision-making skills. There also are clinics and programs for anger management — many of them court-mandated after the person gets into trouble. Family members of adults who have this problem often find themselves seeking ways to cope, because the ODD individual can make life very difficult. Online resources, 12-step programs and local mental health organizations can help find support groups for people who are close to someone with a personality disorder.