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ADHD & Defiance

By Beth Richards ; Updated August 14, 2017

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and defiance can go hand in hand. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is not unusual for children with ADHD to have other conditions or characteristics, including stubbornness. Defiance can be part of a secondary condition in children and adults called oppositional defiant disorder, or ODD.


ADHD and ODD are both included in a classification of disorders that encompasses problems with impulse control, according to the Harvard School of Medicine. Uncooperative, stubborn, negative, intentionally annoying behavior toward family, friends, parents and teachers are characteristics of ODD. ADHD is characterized by excessive impulsiveness, talking, interrupting, inability to sit still and problems paying attention. It is possible for a person to have both ODD and ADHD.


Behavior disorders are the most common reason for mental health care for children and adolescents. The National Institute of Health notes that boys are three times more likely to be affected by disruptive behavior disorders like ADHD and ODD.


In both ADHD and ODD, parents, teachers and other authority figures who are involved a child's life help identify characteristics of the disorders. Psychiatrists or other qualified mental health professionals usually complete an evaluation and diagnosis of children or adults suspected of having ADHD or ODD.


Specific treatment of disorders such as ADHD and ODD depends on individual situations. Behavior therapy is a common and effective form of treatment for both ADHD and ODD. Medication is used to treat ADHD, but does not work as effectively on ODD. However, there are some medication options used late in treatment, but only if other therapies are not helping, according to ADHD Health Central. Health Central also notes that the medications used for defiance are usually used to treat a different psychiatric disorder, including ADHD, or anxiety or a depressive disorder.


ADHD and defiance are both challenging behaviors to deal with but there are positive attributes to both behaviors. Learning to focus on the positive aspects of attention and defiance disorders helps both the person with the disorder and the people around him. Children and adults with ADHD tend to be creative and "daydreamers." Famous people who are considered to have had ADHD include Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Robert Frost and Leonardo da Vinci. Many are also considered to have had what has been described as a difficult temperament, but today would be called stubborn or defiant.

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