Attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects a person’s ability to focus, pay attention, or manage their behavior.
Healthcare providers usually diagnose this condition in childhood. However, some people aren’t diagnosed until adulthood.
The three main characteristics of a person with ADHD are:
ADHD can also cause a person to experience very high energy levels.
There’s no definitive test to diagnose ADHD. However, healthcare providers can evaluate children or adults for the condition based on symptoms.
Symptoms associated with ADHD include:
- being highly impatient
- having difficulty performing tasks quietly
- having difficulty following instructions
- losing things frequently
- often seeming as if they aren’t paying attention
- talking seemingly nonstop
ADHD can be difficult for a person to live with. Some people think those with ADHD are “out of control” or difficult because they have trouble following directions.
While ADHD can mean behavioral challenges, having the condition has proven to be an advantage to some.
Not every person with ADHD has the same personality traits, but there are some personal strengths that can make having the condition an advantage, not a drawback.
Examples of these traits include:
- Being energetic. Some individuals with ADHD often have seemingly endless amounts of energy that they’re able to channel toward success on the playing field, in school, or at work.
- Being spontaneous. Some people with ADHD can turn impulsivity into spontaneity. They may be the life of the party or may be more open and willing to try new things and break free from the status quo.
- Being creative and inventive. Living with ADHD may give the person a different perspective on life and encourage them to approach tasks and situations with a thoughtful eye. As a result, some with ADHD may be inventive thinkers. Other words to describe them may be original, artistic, and creative.
- Being hyperfocused. Some people with ADHD may become hyperfocused, according to research. This makes them so intently focused on a task that they may not even notice the world around them. The benefit to this is that, when given an assignment, a person with ADHD may work at it until its completion without breaking concentration.
Sometimes a person with ADHD needs assistance in harnessing these traits to their benefit.
Teachers, counselors, therapists, and parents can all play a role. They can help a person with ADHD explore a creative side or devote energy to finishing a task.
Research into the benefits of ADHD is often based more on stories from people with ADHD than actual statistics. Some people with the condition report that the condition has affected them for the better.
A small 2006 study published in the journal Child Neuropsychology found that ADHD sample groups displayed greater levels of creativity in performing certain tasks than their peers without a diagnosis of ADHD.
Researchers asked participants to draw animals that lived on a planet that was different from Earth and to create an idea for a new toy.
A 2017 study explored creativity in adults with ADHD. Study participants were asked to come up with new ways to use a belt, book, tin can, and towel.
In general, people with ADHD and people without ADHD came up with the same number of ideas. The researchers also found that there were no differences in creativity between people who took medications for their ADHD and those who didn’t.
However, when study participants were told that they had the opportunity to win a bonus, people with ADHD generated more ideas than people without ADHD.
Previous research also suggests that rewards and competition may be useful motivators for people with ADHD.
These findings help to support the idea that those with ADHD are often creative and innovative.
A NOTE ON CREATIVITY
In a 2017 study, people with ADHD were more likely to report that they were creative in the performance domain (e.g., acting or playing music in public) or mechanical/scientific domain (e.g., setting up experiments) than in the artistic domain (e.g., drawing a picture of something they’ve never seen, like an alien).
Many people with ADHD have turned their unique behavioral challenges into well-known success. Athletes with ADHD may even use the extra energy toward their respective fields.
Celebrities who say they have ADHD include:
- musician Adam Levine
- actor Channing Tatum
- musician Dave Grohl
- political commentator James Carville
- musician Justin Timberlake
- ballroom dancer Karina Smirnoff
- journalist Lisa Ling
- swimmer Michael Phelps
- entrepreneur Richard Branson
- astronaut and U.S. Senator Scott Kelly
- baseball player Shane Victorino
- gymnast Simone Biles
- musician Solange Knowles
- NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw
- soccer player Tim Howard
- TV host Ty Pennington
- actress and musician Zooey Deschanel
A diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t have to put a person at a disadvantage in life.
Instead, ADHD can and has contributed to the success of many performers, athletes, and businesspeople. There are many people who’ve reached the pinnacle of their respective fields with ADHD.
When taught adaptive techniques to help with time management and organization skills, people with ADHD are able to achieve better levels of concentration.