An Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) can be devastating. We think, “This can’t be good! ‘Disorder’ is right there in the name.” Yes, inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity can cause problems at school, at work and in relationships.[i] And people with ADHD face a lot of stigma.[ii] But we find what we look for, and we’ve been looking for the problems ADHD causes for a long time. Remember, mental health isn’t only about not having an illness or disorder. Mental health is about recovery, coping, well-being and flourishing.[iii] With ADHD, your brain works differently, but not all those differences are bad.[iv] Broader studies find ADHD attributes like high energy, creativity, hyperfocus, agreeableness, empathy and a willingness to help others.[v]
There are many successful people with ADHD
That fact alone is a clue. But even better, these people often succeed because of the positive traits of their ADHD. Their ADHD helps them flourish.[vi] ADHD impairments exist across a spectrum, and there’s no denying severe impairments can make life tough.
But as we expand our search, we’re finding more positive aspects of ADHD. ADHD helps with divergent thinking[vii] and creativity that delivers real world achievements[viii]. People with ADHD use hyperfocus to enhance productivity. The “focused work-rate that hyperfocus produces enables creative genius to flourish”[ix]. People with ADHD “don’t fit in,” feeling like outsiders.[x] This individuation lets them blaze their own trail instead of following the crowd[xi]. Life with ADHD has taught them self-acceptance. Impulsivity, showing up as adventurousness or intuition, is an advantage in many careers. Hyperactivity can make it hard to sit still in school, but many adults harness that ADHD drive. When you are passionate about a goal, your ADHD energy drives performance and productivity.[xii]
You can have a successful life with ADHD; however, like anything else, it will present challenges. But there are positive aspects of ADHD. And when you can see these as benefits, resources, skills or strategies you can begin to use it to overcome many challenges.
About the Author
Duane Gordon, President, Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA). Gordon lives in Montreal, Canada. An adult with ADHD, Gordon has been a passionate advocate in the ADHD community for over 25 years.
[i] Able SL, Johnston JA, Adler LA, Swindle RW (2007) Functional and psychosocial impairment in adults with undiagnosed ADHD. Psychol Med 37(1):97–107
[ii] Thornicroft G, Brohan E, Kassam A, Lewis-Holmes E (2008) Reducing stigma and discrimination: candidate interventions. Int J Ment Health Syst 2(3):1–7
[iii] Repper J, Perkins R (2006) Social inclusion and recovery: a model for mental health practice. Bailliere Tindall, UK
[iv] Epstein JN, Loren REA (2013) Changes in the definition of ADHD in DSM-5: subtle but important. Neuropsychiatry (London) 3(5):455–458
[v] Mahdi S, Vijoen M, Massuti R, Selb M, Almodayfer O, Karande S, de Vries PJ, Rohde L, Bölte S (2017) An international qualitative study of ability and disability in ADHD using the WHO-ICF framework. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 26(10):1219–1231
[vi] Sedgwick J, Merwood A, Asherson P (2018) The positive aspects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a qualitative investigation of successful adults with ADHD. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders 11:241–253 https://doi.org/10.1007/s12402-018-0277-6
[vii] Guilford JP (1967) The nature of human intelligence. McGraw-Hill, New York
[viii] White HA, Shah P (2006) Uninhibited imaginations: creativity in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pers Individ Differ 40:1121–1131
White HA, Shah P (2011) Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pers Individ Differ 50:673–677
[x] Jung CG (1921) Psychological types. In: Collected works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 6, Eds., G. Alder and RFC. Hull (1971), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
[xi] Jung CG (1921) Psychological types. In: Collected works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 6, Eds., G. Alder and RFC. Hull (1971), Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
[xii] Deci EL, Vansteenkiste M (2004) Self-determination theory and basic need satisfaction: understanding human development in positive psychology. Ricerche di Psicologia 27:23–40