Five Gifts of ADHD

ADHD is not, in and of itself, a gift. It is a disorder that often leads to significant challenges in various aspect of one’s life. And each person with ADHD has a unique profile of symptoms and difficulties. That said, once you’ve received the diagnosis, it is possible to reduce the impact of the challenges and even discover things about the ADHD “mindset” that can be advantageous. A complete understanding of ADHD allows us to see potential positives that can thereby help us focus less on the words “deficit” and “disorder.” Here are 5 of these “gifts” of ADHD:

1) Creativity – creativity correlates with positive personality traits including independence, risk-tasking, high energy, and curiosity, and also several negative traits including impulsivity, hyperactivity, argumentativeness. Researchers have found that many of these same traits overlap with behavioral descriptions of ADHD. These traits lead to higher levels of spontaneous idea generation, day dreaming, sensation seeking, high energy, exuberant emotions, and impulsivity. Want brilliant, new ideas and innovation at your company? Hire some folks with ADHD.

2) Calm in a crisis – Studies have found that ADHD brains tend to produce more Theta waves than do the brains of neurotypicals. Theta waves are the waves you produce as you’re daydreaming or peacefully nodding off to sleep. They indicate deep relaxation. So when a crisis or disaster hits and many people’s brains jump to a state of overload, the ADHD brain can stay calm. There seems to be a lot of ADHD in fields such as emergency medicine, law enforcement, journalism, professional sports, and entertainment. When others may be in a state of chaos or crisis, those with ADHD are able to function well – cool, calm, and collected.

3) Strong intuition – The ADHD brain is often overloaded with sensory input. Additionally, those with ADHD often struggle with executive functioning, as it relates to sorting, filtering, deciding, prioritizing, following through, checking for details, tracking progress, monitoring, and following step-by-step procedures. While it’s sometimes very difficult for folks with ADHD that their brains let in so much irrelevant noise, sometimes it is a gift that they notice small things others may filter out. Sometimes the small things are important.

4) Ready for action – Those with ADHD often have a great ability to be quick starters, to jump right in, and to be decisive. When people are risk-averse, resistant to change, and hung up on careful decision-making, it can take forever to get anything done! People with ADHD can be very decisive and can get things done.
5) Hyperfocus – A symptom of ADHD not often known to most people is hyperfocus, the ability to get extremely “in the zone,” essentially the opposite of drifting attention or daydreaming. Although distractibility can initially get in the way of starting a task, once folks with ADHD hit a sense of flow or hyperfocus, they can often buckle down and be extremely productive when focused on the right tasks.

While the focus of ADHD will probably always start with the challenging aspects of the disorder, it can be useful to reflect on the upside and possible advantages. When you think about your own ADHD, your partner’s, or your child’s, what are other gifts that come to mind?

Paige Fegan, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist