Adult Oppositionality Defiant Disorder 10 Signs You Need to Know

Overcoming Adult Oppositionality Defiant Disorder

As a business owner, one of the biggest obstacles to growing and scaling your business isn’t the marketing, promotion, or even sales. It is actually you. And some of us are unconsciously ruining our business because of our past issues.

Specifically, stuff between I’m talking about stuff that went down with our parents.

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I help clients identify the ways in which we can sabotage ourselves and break free from toxic messages from the past. In this article, we are going to discuss this idea of oppositionality, what that looks like, and how you can finally own the direction of your life.

What happens when you don't like your parents

When I was dating my now ex-fiancé, Jason, he told me he absolutely hated how controlling his parents were. They wanted to scrutinize every single decision he made, even though he was single and living alone as an adult. What made it weird was that he still wanted to spend time with them. It confused me.

But for some of us, we’re connected to people who drive us mad and crazy. Because we fear being away from them, there’s an idea in psychology called oppositionality, where we actually self-sabotage ourselves. I’ll go more into that in the next section.

Oppositionality is a way of expressing the lasting pain or frustration from the past, leading to behaviors like rebelling against your parents' preferences, deliberately avoiding success, or pushing away their support.

What is oppositionality?

Oppositionality is when your actions go against what your parents value or believe. It happens when deep down, you still carry pain from the past, and your subconscious mind thinks that failing at things your parents would be proud of is the way to get back at them. It’s like a form of rebellion that can affect your personal and professional life.

What does oppositionality in adulthood look like?

Imagine one of these scenarios:

  • You may want to finish school, but right before graduation, you quit a program you and your parents liked because you suddenly don’t enjoy it anymore.
  • You sabotage jobs or relationships because you know one of your parents is really into them.
  • Your weight fluctuates based on how your parents talk about health and weight.
  • You get lots of tattoos just because your parents don’t believe in them.
  • You adopt or reject a religion based on your parents’ faith or lack thereof.
  • You might have goals, but a part of you says, “nope,” and somehow, things always go wrong, causing pain and disappointment, especially for your parents.

All of this behavior is oppositionality and those who have it are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), a common condition affecting around 200,000 Americans each year.

asian family arguing

Why would an adult be oppositional to their parents?

Oppositionality in adults can stem from past experiences that created feelings of being upset, unsafe, or misunderstood by parents. These feelings might linger into adulthood. When faced with situations connected to your parents’ expectations or values, your brain might react by wanting to do the opposite.

It’s a way of expressing the lasting pain or frustration from the past, leading to behaviors like rebelling against your parents’ preferences, deliberately avoiding success, or pushing away their support.

Still unconvinced you or someone you know has ODD? Read on the next section for more signs.

Other Common Adult Oppositionality Defiant Disorder Signs

Some of us don’t recognize we struggle with a problem because we don’t know what to look out for. Not sure if you or someone you know might have ODD? Here are some signs to look out for:

  1. Avoiding Success on Purpose:

    • Example: You purposely don’t go for a job promotion or participate in activities your parents value, just to upset them.
  2. Difficulty Taking Responsibility:

    • Example: Blaming your parents for everything that goes wrong in your life, even when it has nothing to do with them. Not taking responsibility for your own actions.
  3. Rebellion in Decision-Making:

    • Example: Making decisions opposite to what your parents would want, not because it aligns with your values, but just to rebel against their wishes.
  4. Ignoring Advice:

    • Example: Disregarding advice from your parents, even if it could be helpful for you. Choosing the opposite path just to prove a point.
  5. Refusing Help:

    • Example: Rejecting any support from your parents, even when you really need it. Preferring to struggle on your own instead of accepting their help.
  6. Undermining Achievements:

    • Example: Downplaying your own accomplishments, especially if they align with what your parents value. Avoiding giving them the satisfaction of seeing you succeed.
  7. Excessive Criticism:

    • Example: Being overly critical of your parents, finding fault in everything they say or do, regardless of the actual circumstances.
  8. Isolating Yourself:

    • Example: Avoiding family gatherings or cutting ties with your parents to create distance. Choosing to be alone or with others who share similar rebellious attitudes.
  9. Overemphasis on Independence:

    • Example: Overemphasizing independence to the point where it becomes a rebellion against any form of connection or reliance on your parents.
  10. Holding onto Resentment:

    • Example: Clinging onto past grievances and resentments, letting them affect your present decisions and actions. Refusing to forgive and move on from past conflicts. 
The image below summarizees this. Next, let’s talk about what to do if you think you suffer from oppositional defiant disorder.
Adult Oppositionality Defiant Disorder 10 Signs You Need to Know

You Have Adult Oppositionality Defiant Disorder. Here’s What to Do Next.

I’ll save you a co-pay and a trip to your shrink and break something down for you. If you have rage for your parents, it’s screwing up your life.

I think about one particular client who scaled his business to multi-millions only to ruin it the moment his father said he was proud of him. On the surface, he said he was tired of the business, but as he talked about the relationship with his father, I noticed his teeth clenched and his hands would ball up as he recalled the only time his father paid attention to him was when he reported making a lot of money.

The point of this message is to say that if you identify with at least half of what I wrote above, you show the signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

Untangling complicated emotions takes time and patience 

Moving past the denial is the first part; the second part is working through all the anger, shame, fear, denial, and embarrassment that come along with it. Your parents knew how to keep you under their thumb, and that really, really bothers you, even as a grown adult.

Untangling all those complicated emotions is going to take some work on your part. It will take honesty, vulnerability, and finding someone who can actually see through your sophisticated smoke and mirrors you created to hide your complicated relationship with your parents.

I highly recommend you work with a therapist or a trauma-informed coach like myself to help you sort through these feelings so that you don’t create some serious damage to yourself, your relationships, or anything else that really matters to you. In this next section, I will share my final thoughts.

Final thoughts on Adult Oppositionality Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder is super messy because it involves unearthing all those pain-filled, unresolved emotional issues from the past. But as famed psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, ‘What you resist, persists,’ so go those unresolved feelings that cause you to screw up things that are important to you.

Seeking help isn’t a sign of failure; actually, it is a sign of victory and empowerment. Too many people are failing in this business called life because they haven’t owned the origin of their rage.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, want to dig deeper on this issue? Click here to listen to this episode from my podcast.