Clinical correlates of oppositional defiant disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adults

Postgrad Med. 2011 Mar;123(2):177-84. doi: 10.3810/pgm.2011.03.2276.


Objective: Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a common comorbidity of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children and adolescents. Although there is research demonstrating that ADHD persists into adulthood, less is known about the frequency of its persistence, clinical characteristics, and impairment when associated with comorbid ODD in adults with ADHD.

Method: Data from a randomized clinical trial of adults with ADHD were analyzed to determine the prevalence and clinical correlates of comorbid ODD. As per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria, patients who reported having ≥ 4 symptoms "often" or "very often" were classified as meeting the symptom criteria for the disorder.

Results: Forty percent of this sample met symptom criteria for ODD. Subjects with ODD were more likely to have other comorbid disorders, lower investigator ratings of overall functioning, and lower patient life satisfaction (P < 0.05). A regression analysis using these variables predicted 40% of the variance of ODD as a comorbid condition in addition to ADHD. Although the presence or absence of ODD at baseline does not moderate response of ADHD symptoms with treatment, improvement in ODD symptoms was mediated by improvement in ADHD symptoms (P < 0.0001). Oppositional defiant disorder treatment was more responsive to dextroamphetamine than paroxetine, despite the contribution of irritability and reactive tantrums, as symptoms of the disorder.

Conclusion: Oppositional defiant disorder is a valid and impairing disorder requiring evaluation and treatment in adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult