- The Stars Who Aligned ADHD with Success
- How to Use ADHD as a Tool for Success
- 10 Advantages of Having ADD
- The Benefits of ADHD
- Celebrities With ADHD
- Personality Strengths and ADHD
- Research About ADHD Benefits
- WATCH: Is ADHD an Evolutionary Advantage?
- How I Take Advantage of My ADHD With Hyperfocus
The Stars Who Aligned ADHD with Success
Celebrities, Entertainers with ADHD
Comedian, actor, and game show host Howie Mandel, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), publicly revealed his diagnoses to the world on an impulse. An admission he regretted immediately afterward (sound familiar?) — until he realized just how many other people suffered from a combination of ADHD, OCD, and other comorbid conditions. Today, Mandel is not only a well-known entertainer, he’s also a well-respected advocate for mental health awareness, and one of many successful people with ADHD talking about it to the public. His autobiography, Here’s The Deal: Don’t Touch Me, is a humorous look at his life with OCD, ADHD, and mysophobia, the fear of germs.
Dancing With The Stars’ Karina Smirnoff has lived with ADHD her whole life, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she was properly diagnosed. After working with her doctor to find the best treatment for her inattention and impulsivity, she told ABC News, “ helps me control my symptoms.” In a way, the professional dancer is lucky; she can channel her energy into her work — literally.
Formally diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager, Roxy Olin, of MTV’s The Hills and The City fame, told ADDitude magazine, “I’ve learned, at this point in my life, that is a part of who I am. You don’t have to keep your ADHD a secret.” After struggling to fight distractions in school, Olin takes Adderall, sees a therapist, and uses organization and time-management strategies to keep her symptoms in check.
Even though he struggled academically, chef Alexis Hernandez, former contestant on the reality show The Next Food Network Star, and now among the growing ranks of successful people with ADHD told ADDitudeMag.com he has had success in every one of his professional ventures. Having seen the upsides and downsides to ADHD, he insists ADHD isn’t a curse: “When adults with ADHD realize they’re blessed and gifted, they’re going to be unstoppable.”
Yvonne Pennington, mom to Ty Pennington, admitted to ADDitude that her son has always been a rambunctious handful. Her bright if unfocused son had always shown an interest in building and design, but after he dropped out of college, she finally took Ty to a doctor who prescribed stimulants. As the exuberant host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Pennington focused his excess energy and enthusiasm on giving families in need the homes of their dreams.
Those of you who’ve dealt with a loved one’s (or your own) denial of ADHD will appreciate singer Solange Knowles‘ story of diagnosis. According to Health.com, she had to be diagnosed twice before she believed she had ADHD. “I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me,” Knowles said. “I guess I was in denial.”
Being diagnosed with dyslexia as a teen didn’t stop Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek from learning English and breaking into Hollywood as an adult. She admits to reading scripts very slowly but told WebMD, “I’m really a fast learner. I always was.”
He walks up walls in his videos, so maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that superstar recording artist and actor Justin Timberlake has OCD and ADHD. While he doesn’t often speak publicly about his comorbid conditions, he shared his frustration with his diagnoses with Collider.com in an interview, saying, “You try living with that .”
Comedy and acting have filled Patrick McKenna‘s need for spontaneity and professional creativity. Though he was chastised for doing poorly in school, McKenna told ADDitude he considers himself one of the lucky ones. “I have a very happy, successful life … I always craved something new and exciting, and all the scripts, characters I played, and bright lights fulfilled that desire.”
Academy Award-winning actress, author, and comedian Whoopi Goldberg may be known for cracking jokes, but she doesn’t think learning disabilities are a laughing matter. Diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, she has likened the public’s misunderstanding of dyslexia to the ways menstrual cramps were once shrugged off as a problem that only existed in women’s heads. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, she explained, “It’s like in the early days when little girls complained about having cramps. It took … years for people to understand that menstrual cramps are a real thing, that PMS is a real chemical change in the body.”
Adult with ADHD, Phillip Manuel, a New Orleans jazz musician, has never been one for a 9-to-5 desk job, but his creative spirit ended up being a professional and personal blessing. “He was always hands-on with kids,” his wife Janice told the Washington Post. “He went on field trips, helped with homework and class projects. All the teachers knew him.” Always a bit impulsive, Manuel eventually started taking ADHD medication, something that has made the couple’s relationship even smoother.
Athletes with ADHD
Diagnosed with ADHD when he was just 9 years old, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has always had one ally in his corner: his mom, Debbie, a middle school teacher who made sure her distracted son was always focused during school. Swimming was a therapeutic release for Phelps, who eventually stopped taking stimulant medication and compensates by working out, according to The New York Times. “I’m just different in the water,” Phelps told Sports Illustrated.
Before he was diagnosed, and subsequently treated, Major League Baseball pitcher Scott Eyre would get distracted after a conversation and not remember any of it. Eventually a team therapist pulled the southpaw pitcher aside and suggested he might have ADHD. In an interview with ADDitude, Eyre said taking Concerta daily has not only improved his game but it has also signaled to other pro players and famous people with ADHD that they can come forward about their condition and serve to inspire others.
The first woman to ski across Greenland and reach the North Pole by dogsled, polar explorer Ann Bancroft, has long struggled with dyslexia. Before exploring the outermost areas of the planet, she worked as a special education teacher, giving back to the community that helped her along the way.
Luke Kohl grew up hoping baseball would help his ADHD. Despite taking Ritalin, he often found himself in the principal’s office at school. Then, after tearing his rotator cuff at age 13, he thought it was clear he’d never hit another home run. Instead of giving in to the mood disorder that followed his injury, Luke picked up a five iron and started caddying for PGA players, according to ADDitude magazine. Participating in an organized activity has helped him channel his energy and frustration into something worthwhile and productive.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and football analyst Terry Bradshaw revealed in his book Keep It Simple that he has struggled with ADHD for years. He’s also battled a clinical mood disorder along the way, according to HealthCentral.com, but none of his diagnoses stopped him from being inducted into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame.
Leaders, Movers, and Shakers with ADHD
Political analyst, commentator, and educator James Carville may have helped former President Bill Clinton win his 1992 White House bid, but Carville’s ADHD — the condition that keeps him hyperfocused, adaptable, and full of the sort of excess energy politics demands — hasn’t always helped him achieve his goals. Before growing into his condition, he flunked out of college, according to Health.com. After acknowledging his condition on CNN in 2004, Carville has gone on to speak publicly about ADHD for organizations like Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
Erin Brockovich-Ellis, the legal clerk and activist portrayed in the Steven Soderbergh film bearing her name, is perhaps one of the most striking examples of overcoming the challenges of dyslexia. Her job has required her to read thousands of briefs — an exceptionally tedious task when coupled with reading difficulties. Though she lacked formal training in law (perhaps because of her learning difficulties), her research was instrumental in winning the largest class-action lawsuit settlement in U.S. history. In 2001, she told USA Today, “Early on I was told I probably wouldn’t make it through college. I knew I wasn’t stupid, but I had great hardships in school — since second grade.”
With an outsized personality so extreme he’s parodied on HBO’s Entourage, Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel is a force to be reckoned with. In an interview with ADDitude, he said, “As head of Endeavor, I have to be creative. My dyslexia helps me: I don’t think the way other people do.” By working out every morning, he’s also been able to do away with his need for Ritalin.
Nutrition and exercise are two natural ways to combat ADHD symptoms, and British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has long been a proponent of encouraging children to eat healthy foods. Working with schools to improve nutrition for grade school children, Oliver, who was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia as a child, hopes to do away with potentially hazardous additives in food that can make it even tougher for kids with ADHD to stay healthy and focused. He has also spoken out about his learning disabilities in school. The Telegraph UK reports that Oliver’s support of the dyslexia charity Xtraordinary People prompted him to announce on the organization’s website that he hopes other children can excel in school despite his own struggles. “It was with great regret that I didn’t do better at school,” he said.
Conservative TV and radio personality Glenn Beck has found relief from his ADHD by taking Vyvanse. Though he credits his success to his condition, he joked in an interview with Ty Pennington, where the two discussed ADHD on The Glenn Beck Show, that his show staff members know when he hasn’t taken his medication.
Though she struggled academically, writing gave journalist and author Katherine Ellison a chance to excel. Diagnosed at 49, after her son was diagnosed as having ADHD, and after winning a Pulitzer Prize at age 27, Ellison wrote about her son’s — and her own — challenges with ADHD in Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention.
Entrepreneurs with ADHD
Virgin Airlines founder Sir Richard Branson is a wealthy adventurer known for taking risks and for his big spending. While these thrill-seeking ADHD traits can be cause for concern, they’ve helped Branson become an inspiring, successful businessman — among the ranks of famous people with ADHD.
Kinko’s founder and serial entrepreneur Paul Orfalea struggled with severe dyslexia and ADHD as a child, which made it impossible to follow along in the classroom, according to his website. “Because I couldn’t read, I learned from direct experience,” he wrote about himself on his website. These challenges also taught Orfalea to rely on those around him and to appreciate everyone’s unique strengths and weaknesses in the hopes they’d recognize and respect his. “Because I have a tendency to wander,” he told ADDitude, “I never spent much time in my office. My job was going store to store… If I had stayed in my office all the time, I would not have discovered all those wonderful ideas to help expand the business.”
The founder and namesake of one of the nation’s largest brokerage firms, Charles Schwab didn’t recognize his own dyslexia until his 16-year-old son was diagnosed. For Schwab, excelling with a learning disability is about accepting your weaknesses and focusing on your strengths. “Find out what you can do well, focus on it, and work doubly hard,” he told ADDitude magazine in 2005. “Focus on your strengths. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to admit you need it.”
“If someone told me you could be normal or you could continue to have your ADHD, I would take ADHD,” JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman once told ADDitude. The airline entrepreneur forgoes medication and credits his natural state for the company’s success. “I’m afraid of taking drugs once, blowing a circuit, and then being like the rest of you,” he joked.
Alan Meckler, Jupitermedia founder and CEO of WebMediaBrands, wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until mid-life. But his ability to quickly digest complex information and his attention to detail, he told ADDitude, were what led him into the Internet tech world — long before many thought it would be a lucrative business market.
Updated on July 24, 2019
How to Use ADHD as a Tool for Success
After years of frustrating ADHD symptoms and treatment, it may be hard to believe that your adult ADHD has a silver lining. But it does: Your high energy and willingness to take calculated risks can actually be assets if you want to start your own business. And if you’re on that path, you’re in good company: Among the many successful self-starters with ADHD are brokerage firm chief executive Charles Schwab, Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, JetBlue and now Azul Brazilian airline founder David Neeleman, and television personality Ellen DeGeneres.
“If you look at the ADHD traits, they map extremely well with entrepreneurship,” says psychologist Shane Perrault, PhD, a clinical psychologist and founder of the ADHD Performance Clinic in Greenbelt, Md. Perrault lives with adult ADHD but says he wasn’t diagnosed until a graduate school adviser suggested it. Initially, he says, he was surprised, but after further reflection, it made sense given his talents and struggles. Perrault is now a successful entrepreneur who values his ability — thanks in part to ADHD — to identify the solutions his patients are seeking.
You, too, can leverage your ADHD to help you succeed. Traits that can work to your advantage include:
- High energy. Perhaps the most characteristic of ADHD symptoms is the high energy associated with hyperactivity. That dynamism may have caused problems in more controlled settings (like school), but it can be valuable in helping a business leader see his or her vision through. “When I was young, we didn’t have ‘ADHD’ — I was just hyper,” says Peter Shankman, 39, author of several books about public relations strategy, including Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World, and an entrepreneur who has developed and sold three businesses. Shankman says the coping techniques he learned as a youngster, such as going out to play, still help him today. “If I am in a meeting and find I am fading, I excuse myself, go into the hall, and do about 25 push-ups,” he says. That helps him refocus on the matter at hand.
- Calculated risk-taking. People with ADHD are often thought to be dangerous risk-takers, but Shankman, who’s a skydiver, says the key to success is calculated risk. “I like the thrill and the payoff,” he explains. “It’s the way I work best.”
- Thinking outside the box. Creative problem-solving is a hallmark of ADHD. This could be, in part, because intelligent men and women with adult ADHD have had to come up with dozens of unconventional ways to succeed. Perrault, for example, made it through college and graduate school by studying while inline skating. “I learn best when I am in motion,” he says, explaining that he would listen to lectures and study materials through headphones as he rolled.
- Intuition. “Entrepreneurs are very intuitive people, and people with ADHD are frequently very intuitive,” Perrault says. Plus, your natural charm and vivacity can draw people into your vision. The challenge? ADHD can sometimes make it difficult for you to maintain relationships, so be prepared to put some work into the daily details of those alliances and friendships.
- Big-picture thinker. People with ADHD are often criticized for being daydreamers. But in business leadership, that’s an advantage. For success, delegate the details and focus on the bigger picture.
- Multitasking. It’s often said that adult ADHD allows you to multitask more effectively, but this isn’t always the case. It works, however, when the tasks are designed to achieve the same goal. Perrault calls that “operating cross-functionally.” To him, it means being able to think like a psychologist, a marketer, and an accountant — and, as needed, to put himself into the position of his clients. Investing in a good organizational system can help you keep track of the many hats you wear.
- Hyperfocus. A common frustration for parents is that their ADHD children know every detail about one favorite topic, to the detriment of everything else, like homework. But Perrault argues that this ability to hyperfocus on one objective is an advantage in entrepreneurship. That intensity of focus and passion can lead to success.
- Intelligence. Perrault’s experience is that the majority of people with ADHD are highly intelligent — but that they are frequently talented in an area that is not the one in which they’re working. The best way to direct your intelligence purposefully, he argues, is to find the causes or fields that engage you the most.
Removing Distractions to Success
Despite all of these gifts, adult ADHD can impair your progress if you aren’t strategic. Organizational details and paperwork, for example, are often stumbling blocks on the ADHD road to success. Applying these strategies can help you reach your goals:
- Remove distractions. Shankman recounts one time when, up against a deadline to write a book, he bought a round-trip ticket to Asia and wrote the first half of the book on the first leg of the flight and the second part on the return trip. It sounds extreme, but with nothing else to do and nowhere to go, he was forced to focus on the task at hand.
- Hire a professional organizer. If you know that getting things in order or maintaining a navigable system isn’t your strong suit, pay someone to do it for you.
- Delegate organizational tasks or partner with an associate who is more organizationally minded. A reliable support system is key for any leader — regardless of whether he or she has ADHD. Find people who can benefit from your strengths and also compensate for your weaknesses. If you’re good at the big-picture stuff, find balance with a detail-oriented partner. Break down the work that you have to do (but hate) into smaller steps and time periods.
Shankman also offers this advice for people with ADHD: “Remember that not everyone gets as excited as you do about everything, all the time.” Sometimes you’ll have to take a deep breath and pause for 10 seconds before you walk into a room so that you don’t overwhelm people with your passion, energy, and success. But on the inside, you will know exactly how far ADHD’s upsides can take you.
10 Advantages of Having ADD
There is a widespread mistaken belief in the world that getting Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD is a dreadful thing. Even as the ADD afflicted brain without doubt holds out a few risks, it puts forward a few hard to believe advantages as well. Given below is a listing of mannerisms that I over and over again see in my patrons, friends, and contemporaries with ADD.
People with ADD have an incredible control to associate with other people. But it goes a notch ahead than that. We also have a highly developed capability to identify with others, and to see a lot of diverse point of views.
I have on no account come across an ADDer who was not ingenious. Painters, designers, sculptors, film makers, writers, musicians, and comedians – the list goes on. Creative aptitudes are plentiful. Composers Mozart and Beethoven are assumed to have had ADD.
When an ADDer is fed up with a job, finishing it can look as if like torment. But provide an ADDer an attention grabbing task to work on and look out. When we would like to achieve something, and we have the essential tools to do so, there is no stopping us.
4. Problem Solving Capability
ADDers flourish on deciphering puzzles and problems. Provide us with an attention grabbing problem to crack and we will not be able to leave it until we have established the explanation. Significant historical inventors such as Thomas Edison and Thomas Jefferson are assumed to have had ADD.
The capacity to hyper-focus is something that ADDers can make use of to our benefit. When kept under control and aimed towards fruitful jobs, like achieving objectives and living dreams, it can be an unbelievable positive feature that allows us to get the work done, and done well.
6. Sense of Humor/Flair for Comedy
Nearly all ADDers love to laugh, and a lot of them have an ability to make others laugh as well. Well known humorists such as Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams are believed to have ADD.
There is no doubt that despite the fact that there are many great traits that come alongside with ADD, there are also challenge. But ADDers have a hard to believe capability to spring back back from those challenges, and others’ condemnation of those challenges that we have undergone.
ADDers have a quick sense of perception. This may be as a result of extremely refrained intensity of awareness, or great innate knowledge of the human mind, or something else that we have thus far to comprehend. No matter what the explanation is, it is a very valuable gift.
9. Idea Generating
ADDers are brilliant proposal makers. We do not by and large like to be troubled with particulars, but we can crop up with thoughts in no time at all. We are a real benefit in brainstorming meetings.
10. That “Special Something”
A lot of ADDers believe that they have an exceptional way of looking at the world, a point of view that others simply do not comprehend. That is, until the ADDer comes across other people with ADD. You may say that we are on our own wavelength.
Positive aspects of ADHD and ADD
Benefits to Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder
© Darcy Andries Sep 5, 2006
With a name that’s 50-66% “deficit disorder,” it’s easy to focus on all the negatives and problems that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or attention deficit disorder, causes. But there’s a whole lot it brings to a person and everyone needs to stop and take a moment to realize that there is a reason that it is ADD and not MINUS.
Not everyone who has ADHD has all these traits, and sure people who aren’t ADHD have these traits too. This list is far from complete, but at least it’s a good start.
- Forgives mistakes easily
- Empathetic with the feelings of others
- Feels things deeply
- Doesn’t harbour resentment
- Charming personality
- Warm hearted
- Good judge of character
- Perceptually acute
- Intuitive (when you miss out on stuff because you’re distracted, you learn to figure things out)
- Observant (it seems like inattention, but it often is over attention)
- Sees unique relationships between people and things
- Looks past surface appearance to the core of people, situations, and issues
- Fast thinking
- Quick to grasp essentials
- Creative in nature (+: in problem solving)
- Mechanically inclined
- Takes risks (sometimes this can be good)
- Often sees things from a unique perspective
- Great at finding things that are lost (of course, we get lots of practice looking for things)
- Humorous with a great sense of humor
- Athletic (we like to move around)
- Less likely to get in a rut or go stale
- More likely to do things because they want to than because they should
- Wholehearted when making an effort
- Not secretive
- Down to earth
- Eager for acceptance and willing to work for it
- Responsive to positive reinforcement
- Quick if they like what they are doing
- Intense when interested in something or someone
- Difficult to fool
- Humble (it’s not hard when people are always telling you what’s wrong with you)
I advise everyone who is, or knows of someone who is, ADHD to print this list to keep it handy for those times you forget what a blessing being ADHD can be.
Complete the following charts:
Positive aspects of ADHD and ADD was last modified: December 9th, 2016 by Jake Chandler
Using ADHD as your superpower
When someone is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD,) the focus becomes how to manage the disability. But what if you could use that lightning-fast brain power to your advantage? Peter Shankman, a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and creator of the Faster Than Normal podcast
Last year, I had two weeks left on deadline for a book I was writing. My publisher was getting antsy, as I hadn’t sent her anything yet. I’d done all the research, the problem was sitting down and getting the writing done. But I wasn’t worried. I’d been here before.
With 12 days left until my deadline, I went to the United Airlines website, and bought a round trip business class ticket to Tokyo, leaving the next day.
I got on the plane, armed with nothing but my laptop, a power cord, and my phone.
When the plane took off, I took out my laptop, and in the 14 hours it took us to get from Newark to Tokyo, I wrote chapters 1-5. We landed in Tokyo, I went through immigration, walked outside, took a deep breath of fresh air, turned right around, went back through security, back to the gate, and boarded the same plane back from Tokyo to Newark. I even sat in the same seat. On the 12-hour flight home, I wrote chapters 6-10. I landed 31 hours after I took off, with a completed book, and my second best-seller.
When I tell this story to “normal” people, they look at me like I’m insane. Why? Because what normal person would spend upwards of $5,000 to not really go anywhere, and write a book in 31 hours?
Not one normal person.
But then, if you’ve ever met me, you know: I’m not normal. I’m faster than normal. Like, waaaay faster than normal. And what does that mean?
It means I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. But instead of medicating myself with amphetamines, or acting out, I’ve learned to use my ADHD to my advantage, and as a key to improving my life.
I understand that my brain works differently than normal people. It moves quick, darting in and out of ideas at light speed. I do things to encourage that, and “drive” my brain differently than people without ADHD.
What’s normal for regular people could be deadly for me, so I’m hyper-aware of that. I don’t drink. I workout every single day. I know what triggers I have and how they affect me, and I go out of my way to avoid them as much as possible.
Having a “faster than normal” brain is responsible for a lot of my success, if not all of it. Thinking differently helps, as does realizing that what other people think of me doesn’t matter, as long as I’m happy with myself. I focus my time on doing things that improve my life. I’m a constant reinvention of myself, always striving for the next great thing. In the end, the goal is to create, build, and keep myself occupied with things that work for me, so I’m focused on doing positive things, as opposed to that which could negatively affect me.
I fall out of airplanes, for example. It drives my family crazy, but I’m a licensed skydiver. Why? Because it keeps me grounded, ironically enough. It keeps me focused, keeps my dopamine and serotonin levels at good, normal doses. It allows me to drive my faster-than-normal brain all the way to success.
For years, we’ve been looking at attention deficit disorder (ADD) and ADHD as a disability, because it makes us not normal. Well, it does make us not normal. But that’s a gift, not a curse. It makes us Faster Than Normal! In the end, who doesn’t want to be faster?
Peter Shankman is the founder of ShankMinds Business Masterminds, a day-long business mastermind series in multiple locations around the world. He’s perhaps best known for founding Help a Reporter Out, the world’s largest source repository in the world, which fundamentally changed how journalists source their stories. Peter is the author of four books, including his most recent best seller, “Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans.” Peter recently launched the Faster Than Normal Podcast, helping people understand that ADD and ADHD is a gift, not a curse.
The Benefits of ADHD
Attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects a person’s ability to focus, pay attention, or control their behavior. Healthcare providers usually diagnose this condition in childhood. However, some people are not diagnosed until adulthood.
The three main characteristics of a person with ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD also can cause a person to experience very high energy levels. Some symptoms associated with ADHD include:
- being highly impatient
- difficulty performing tasks quietly
- difficulty following instructions
- trouble waiting for things or showing patience
- losing things frequently
- often seeming as if they aren’t paying attention
- talking seemingly nonstop
There is no definitive test to diagnose ADHD. However, healthcare providers can evaluate children or adults for the condition based on symptoms. A number of treatments are available to improve a person’s concentration and behavior. These include medications and therapy. ADHD is a highly manageable disease. When taught adaptive techniques to help with time management and organization skills, people with ADHD are able to achieve better levels of concentration.
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.
Celebrities With ADHD
Many people with ADHD have turned their unique behavioral challenges into well-known success. Examples of celebrities whose healthcare providers have diagnosed them with ADHD include:
- Adam Levine
- Albert Einstein
- Channing Tatum
- Glenn Beck
- James Carville
- Justin Timberlake
- Karina Smirnoff
- Richard Branson
- Salvador Dali
- Solange Knowles
- Ty Pennington
- Whoopi Goldberg
Athletes with ADHD also use the extra energy toward their respective fields. Examples of athletes with ADHD include:
- swimmer Michael Phelps
- soccer goalie Tim Howard
- baseball player Shane Victorino
- NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw
Personality Strengths and ADHD
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:
- energetic: Some with ADHD often have seemingly endless amounts of energy, which they are able to channel toward success on the playing field, school, or work.
- 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.
- 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. Others words to describe them may be original, artistic, and creative.
- hyperfocused: According to Pepperdine University, some people with ADHD may become hyperfocused. This makes them so intently focused on a task that they may not even notice the world around them. The benefit to this is 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. Teacher, counselors, therapists, and parents can all play a role. These experts can help a person with ADHD explore a creative side or devote energy to finishing a task.
Research About ADHD Benefits
Research about ADHD benefits 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 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 plant that was different from Earth and create an idea for a new toy. These findings support the idea that those with ADHD are often creative and innovative.
A diagnosis of ADHD does not have to put a person at a disadvantage in life. Instead, ADHD can and has contributed to the success of many movie stars, athletes, and businesspeople. From Albert Einstein to Michael Jordan to President George W. Bush, there are many people who have reached the pinnacles of their fields with ADHD.
WATCH: Is ADHD an Evolutionary Advantage?
ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder among children and teenagers today, and while the name suggests it’s not really something you want to be living with, research has shown that ADHD could bring some benefits to young people. So could ADHD be an evolutionary advantage? The latest episode of AsapSCIENCE above investigates.
While studies have linked drinking and smoking during pregnancy to instances of ADHD in children, the biggest factor by far that determines if you’re going to be born with ADHD is your genes.
And not just any genes – most of the genes associated with ADHD are connected to the brain’s reward pathways, so people with ADHD end up having lower levels of dopamine receptors (aka the ‘feel-good’ hormone). This means that they find it more difficult to feel satisfied or happy with what they’re doing, so while everyone else is content to sit quietly and read a book, a kid with ADHD might get very easily bored.
We see further evidence of how ADHD affects a person’s brain when you observe its activity via an fMRI machine. Usually, when the human brain is at rest, you will see activity in the default mode network, and when it’s time to switch on again and get stuff done, the activity quickly transfers over to the task-focussed network to achieve better focus.
Oddly enough, in the brains of people with ADHD, this very neat switching process doesn’t actually work. When a person with ADHD is trying to switch from rest to focus, their brain won’t know which network to switch on, so when they’re trying to focus and get work done, fMRI scans show activity in both the default mode network AND task-focussed network. Not great.
Scientists have also found that because of the structural changes in the brains of people with ADHD, they also struggle with things like attention control, emotional regulation, and response inhibition, the boys from AsapSCIENCE explain.
So that’s the bad news… how could ADHD be an advantage to someone? Studies have suggested that when it comes to our ancient ancestors, having a short attention span and the tendency to never stop moving would have translated to higher levels of resources collected, which means greater success in the ‘reproducing and passing on your genes’ game.
But what about now? When looking at settled and nomadic members of the Ariaal tribe of Kenya, researchers have found that the nomads who had a greater number of genes linked to ADHD were better at hunting food.
And when it comes to creative pursuits, studies have also shown that people with ADHD tend to be more creative in both controlled experiments and real-life scenarios, because their brains are more susceptible to random, ‘out of the box’ thoughts.
On top of that, while ADHD might cause kids to struggle when trying to fit into very structured school and university routines, studies have shown that in adulthood, certain careers are better suited to people with high-energy.
Watch the video above by AsapSCIENCE to find out which careers give people with ADHD an advantage, and if you’re struggling through school because of your ADHD right now, just remember – it’s all uphill from here.
Fidgeting, hyperactivity, lack of focus – we all know these symptoms of ADHD. One symptom that a lot of people may not know about though, is hyperfocus. It might sound a bit out of place in a list of ADHD symptoms, but that’s probably because ADHD is commonly misunderstood.
Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., a psychologist and author in Silver Spring, Maryland, says the root of ADHD isn’t a short attention span, it’s a disregulated attention system. When we look at ADHD this way, hyperfocus makes perfect sense.
While hyperfocus might sound more like a blessing than a curse to some of us, the issue is a lack of balance. It’d be great if hyperfocus meant being able to block out distractions when at work, but this isn’t the case. Usually, hyperfocus looks more like a child watching TV for hours and not hearing you when you call for them. For adults, it could be online shopping while pushing off mundane paperwork, not realizing hours have passed.
The difference between someone simply getting really distracted for a few hours and someone with ADHD hyperfocus, is their dopamine levels. Scientists believe that hyperfocus boils down to a deficiency in dopamine, which is common among people with ADHD.
But the real question is, not how can someone break their hyperfocus – but rather how can they redirect it.
The simple answer is to make boring tasks more interesting. Easy, right? We know, if it were that simple, people would be doing it already. This methodology requires some effort.
If you’re a parent of a child with ADHD, you might struggle to get your child to focus on their homework. The key here is to harness the essence of something that they enjoy and try to apply that to homework. If your child can play video games for hours on end, maybe they thrive on competition. There might be a way to turn some homework assignments into a competitive game. If sitting still is the problem, maybe an educational game of charades would work.
Similarly, as an adult, pin point something you enjoy and see if you can turn it into a reward system. Finishing filling out expense reports, for example, could win you 10 minutes to scroll Facebook. But don’t let yourself fall into a black hole; try setting a timer on your phone as an external cue that it’s time to switch to the next task.
The good news is, once you figure out what it is that drives (or distracts) you, you can use that to your advantage. Many college students with ADHD are thankful for their hyperfocusing abilities when it comes to studying. The same goes for higher ups at companies who say their hyperfocus drives their productivity.
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Flippin, Royce. What is ADHD Hyperfocus. Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/understanding-adhd hyperfocus/
How I Take Advantage of My ADHD With Hyperfocus
November 10, 2017 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Adapted from Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain by Peter Shankman, published by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Peter Shankman.
Our modern concept of ADHD as defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s bible, the DSM-IV-TR, is relatively new compared with other defined neurological issues. However, excessively hyperactive, inattentive and impulsive children and adults have been both observed and described since at least the 19th century — and likely earlier.
Related: How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work
Today we can look back in history and see that some of our most respected and important scientists and inventors likely had ADHD. Many of them have certain traits in common: a pattern of rebellious youth; below average or average performance in educational settings; a tendency to switch between seemingly unrelated pursuits; a tendency to struggle with everyday tasks; and a seemingly superhuman ability to hyperfocus for long periods at a time, usually followed by a long period of either lull or engagement in something completely unrelated. Here’s a partial list of these people, in no particular order:
- Albert Einstein
- Thomas Edison
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway, which of course I bought the second it hit the market)
- Walt Disney
- The Wright brothers
- Stephen Hawking
- Steve Jobs
- Richard Branson
What do all these greats have in common? They were thought of as different, but adapted accordingly and helped change the world. In other words, they did what worked for them, in a way that allowed them to achieve vast success.
Hyperfocus is a common but little-known asset of ADHD. As the name implies, it is the ability to focus intensely on something for hours or days at a time. Others might describe this feeling as being in work mode or a state of flow.
Related: Get it Done: 35 Habits of the Most Productive People (Infographic)
It occurred to me that if I could figure out what makes me successful, what makes me different, what makes me “faster than normal,” I could not only figure out ways to help myself, but possibly, ways to help the rest of the world as well, both those with ADHD and those involved in the life of someone with it. I could possibly even help those who have no connection to ADHD at all — because, let’s face it, one of the keys to using ADHD as your superpower is understanding how to channel your hyperfocus. And who wouldn’t benefit from learning that?
A little-known secret is that anyone can get into hyperfocus mode with some simple changes to their workspace and some specific, yet easy-to-follow rules:
In order to achieve hyperfocus, several things need to happen at the same time. You need to be in an environment conducive to hyperfocus, you need to eliminate distractions, and set up a system that allows you to still be accessible to clients or staff, but without taking you out of your zone of focus.
They key is to compartmentalize your workweek, your workspace and your thoughts.
For example, I allow two days a week for meetings. These could be mandatory staff meetings, new business pitches, sales calls, anything that requires me to be in a room or conversation with someone, whether physically or virtually. Mondays and Fridays are my meeting days, and I’ve accepted that I won’t get much productive work accomplished on either of those days.
Related: How Embracing My ADHD Makes Me a Better Entrepreneur
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays, however, are as interruption-free as possible. My assistant knows to play gatekeeper for me, and she doesn’t schedule anything on my calendar if at all possible.
Before I leave my office Monday evening, I clean my desk, throw out anything I can and file the rest. When I get into the office early Tuesday morning, I have a blank canvas, and a to-do list that I can start immediately, without any fear of interruption.
My productivity soars midweek, because I’ve planned for it, and trained my brain to do what’s needed to make sure that happens. It didn’t come overnight, but once I got it, it’s only gotten stronger.
It’s not easy though, and constantly requires maintenance. I’m up before dawn every day, so I can exercise for at least an hour each morning before I hit the office. The endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that I generate during those workouts carry me through the entire day better than any ADHD medication or drug ever could. I avoid processed food as much as possible, drink more water each day than most people do in a week and am obsessive about getting enough sleep. I also quit drinking a few years ago, because that was the biggest impediment to me being able to live and work the way I know is most productive and efficient for me.
Studies have shown that each interruption that kicks us out of a “deep work” zone, (think an email alert, a Slack beep or a Facebook notification) can actually cost us 30 to 45 minutes of productivity, as we struggle to get back into the work flow we lost when we were interrupted. Over the course of a year, that adds up to hundreds, if not thousands of hours of lost productivity.
Training my brain to get into hyperfocus and stay there is directly responsible for a good portion of my professional success.
Related: 3 Major Distractions in Your Workplace (and How to Beat Them)
The fact is, the true ADHD brain, when given that boost of chemicals it so greatly desires, can become the most focused being on the planet. I’m not joking when I say that if I set myself up right, I can sit down and hyperfocus on the same task for six hours. Heck, how do you think I’m currently writing this?
The great part of all of this is that during the time your brain is “supercharged,” you can accomplish things better, faster and more creatively than “regular” people. It’s the equivalent of running a race with a human being when you’re Superman.
Having ADHD allows you to supercharge your brain when you need it, letting you hyperfocus on tasks, solve problems in untraditional ways and come up with ideas that haven’t been thought of before.
I suppose it’s possible that we come up with these ideas because our brains are moving too fast to stop and say, “Hey, why hasn’t anyone done this already?” But, I don’t think it really matters. What matters is being able to call on your brain’s “boost” feature when you need it, and use it to your advantage.
Related Video: 11 Ways to Avoid Distractions and Stay Focused