ODD vs CD: Are They the Same?

We all have good days and bad days, right? Well, that saying applies to children and teenagers too. Some days, your child may seem like an angel. The next day, they may seem difficult or emotional. Unfortunately, there is not a single person capable of having all good days.

Children are very different from adults. Their brains are still developing and they do not handle situations the same way that adults do. If something happens and it bothers them, they probably won’t tell you. They will show you through their behavior. This means that they may be angry, or sad. They may not understand why they feel the way they feel. But that does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong. 

If your child begins to display patterns of angry behavior or simply seems angry all of the time, you may need to consult with a professional. Consult your child’s doctor or another child development expert to determine whether your child’s behavior is abnormal. 

When considering a child with intense and frequent anger or poor behavior, a mental health professional may mention ODD or CD. ODD, or oppositional defiant disorder, and CD, or conduct disorder, are two disruptive behavior disorders. They are relatively common 

ODD: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder is a disruptive behavior disorder that emerges during childhood. Signs of ODD can be noted in children younger than eight years old. The disorder may begin with angry, hostile, or oppositional behavior within the household and grow to disrupt situations outside of the home as well. This behavior may include arguing and defying authority figures or angry and vindictive behavior. 

Signs and Symptoms

ODD is diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or (DSM-5). Published by the American Psychiatric Association, the manual lists the symptoms, or criteria, that must be met to diagnose ODD. The behavior must include behavioral and emotional symptoms that have been frequent for at least six months.

  • Anger and Irritability
  • Frequently and Easily Losing Temper
  • Touchy or Easily Irritated by Others
  • Resentment
  • Argues with Authority Figures
  • Defies and Refuses to Obey Adults Rules
  • Intentionally Upsets Others
  • Blames Others for Poor Behavior
  • Displays Vindictiveness

Oppositional defiant disorder tends to start in one setting and grow to affect other settings. This disorder is classified by severity, depending on the number of places symptoms occur. Mild ODD describes a child that only displays the symptoms in one setting. A child with moderate ODD would display symptoms in two settings. Severe ODD applies to cases where the child displays symptoms in three or more settings. The severity of the disorder affects the form and length of treatment. 


Similar to most other mental disorders, there is no obvious cause of oppositional defiant disorder. The disorder is likely caused by many contributing factors including genetics and environment. Children who experience harsh parenting, abuse, and neglect are more likely to suffer from ODD. However, children with emotional temperaments are also more likely to struggle with this disorder.

What to Do

If you feel as though the symptoms listed above apply to your child, consult your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor. He, or she, will be able to refer you to a child psychologist or make a recommendation. 

CD: Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in adolescence. Somewhere between 6% and 16% of boys have been diagnosed with CD. In comparison, roughly 2% to 9% of girls have been diagnosed with CD. 

This disorder is characterized by persistent behavior in adolescence that violates the rights of others or basic social rules. These behaviors are often displayed in an array of settings, including home and school. 

Signs and Symptoms

As with ODD, Conduct Disorder is diagnosed using the DSM-5. If the child meets the criteria for CD, they must display the following symptoms for at least six months.

  • Frequent Acts of Aggression
  • Purposely Causing Harm to People or Animals
  • Threatening to Cause Harm to Themselves, People, or Animals
  • Bullying and Intimidation Tactics
  • Destruction of Property
  • Acts of Theft
  • Lying or Deceitfulness
  • Serious Violations of the Rules

Many children with conduct disorder struggle with expressing remorse and empathy. They often misunderstand other people’s intentions and can not read normal social cues. This may cause the child to create conflict. This tendency may be associated with issues in school and risk-taking behavior. As the child approaches their teenage years, conduct disorder could result in substance use, burglary, and fighting.


The cause of CD is unknown, however, it seems to be linked with certain genetic and environmental factors. Children who suffer from abuse and neglect are at a higher risk of developing conduct disorder. If a parent or grandparent struggles with mental illness, the child is more likely to be diagnosed with CD. 

What to Do

If your teen or child displays the symptoms listed above, it is imperative that you contact your pediatrician or primary care doctor. Children with CD could become a danger to themselves or others. Your doctor will be able to help you evaluate the symptoms and refer you to a mental health professional. 

Related Mental Health Disorders

Both conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder can exist in addition to other mental health disorders. A few of these disorders include ADHD, depression, anxiety, and learning, or communication, disorders. A mental health professional will be able to correctly diagnose your child with the applicable disorder(s). 


Attention Deficit- Hyperactive Disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by an individual’s inability to focus. In children, this results in hyperactivity. A child struggling with ADHD may throw more tantrums than what is considered normal. They may have a hard time calming themselves down and focusing on a task.


Depression is the most common mental illness. Children with disruptive behavior disorders are more likely to struggle with depression. This is due to the constant anger that these children seem to fear. Occasionally, children with disruptive behavior disorders are misdiagnosed with depression because it is characterized by frequent sadness, exhaustion, and anger. 


For some reason, disruptive behavior disorders tend to coexist with anxiety. The two disorders seem extremely different, but the distrust children with disruptive behavior disorders have for authority figures could be the cause of this connection. 

It Is Not the Same

CD and ODD are not the same disorder at all. Conduct Disorder is characterized by poor decision making and the tendency to cause conflict. Oppositional Defiant Disorder is characterized by feelings of anger. These feelings lead to defiant and oppositional behavior towards authority figures. 

The two disorders are very different and that means that the treatment for the disorders is very different. It is important to be completely honest with your child’s mental health professional to ensure that your child is properly diagnosed. Both of these disorders can lead to problems in adulthood if not treated properly. 

Published by alswartz

I am an aspiring novelist working on my first book. I have an interest in mental health and each of my works is related to mental health in some way.

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