ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) can be regarded as a problem to overcome or an opportunity to use. It all depends on your approach. This blog focuses on the positive – what can be viewed as the upside of ADHD. We aim to highlight many upsides that people with ADHD can leverage to make their lives more rewarding.
Too often, ADHD is described in terms of the internal challenges people with it face in focusing or concentrating and in outward behavior traits like hyperactivity and impulsivity. These can be genuine obstacles to achieving what is considered “normal” or socially acceptable behavior. But there are also a lot of potential strengths and positive traits coming from the upside of ADHD that can be associated with this condition.
A few words about ADHD
ADHD presents two quite different behavior patterns, namely attention deficit and hyperactivity. In reality, the joining of these two behaviors under the single title of ADHD was mainly because most people who displayed one of the symptoms also had the other. But each has different and sometimes contradictory effects, so we are careful not to paint the picture with too broad a brush.
We are aware that ADHD is a unique condition that differs widely from person to person, both in terms of the cause and in the way it manifests. It’s impossible to draw conclusions that will apply to everyone, so what we are talking about in this article isn’t a blanket representation of the best approach for all individuals with ADHD. However, we firmly believe there are some potential upsides of ADHD and even straight-up benefits of ADHD, and we would like to share some of these.
#1. High Energy
Hyperactivity is a symptom that can occur in various conditions, not only as one of the symptoms of ADHD. It’s characterized by excess energy, which can lead to impulsivity, fidgeting, talkativeness, and a constant state of movement or activity. A person who displays hyperactivity will typically be highly energetic and active. When channeled productively, this energy can lead to high levels of achievement in all areas, namely sports, public speaking, performance arts, or any field that rewards enthusiasm and vitality.
It’s essential, though, to manage the high energy and to structure physical activity. This includes timing regular exercise as an outlet for excess energy. This can include engaging in a sport or a physical activity that the person enjoys. This can also improve mood and cognitive function. People living with ADHD should aim to incorporate short breaks in longer tasks, like a quick walk or a competitive game, which can help improve focus during the task. It’s helpful to allow task rotation to prevent boredom and keep motivation levels high. Switching between tasks at regular intervals can help channel high energy positively.
Many people with ADHD can be highly creative and innovative, which is another benefit of ADHD. They often think associatively rather than linearly. Associative thinking involves making connections and associations between seemingly unrelated concepts. It’s a form of thinking where the brain jumps from one idea to another, often in rapid succession.
As well, some people with ADHD are capable of non-linear thinking, where a thought process doesn’t follow a straight and sequential path. Rather than one thought logically leading to the next, thoughts can jump around, backtrack, or move in many different directions at once. When solving a problem, rather than approaching the problem from start to finish systematically, step-by-step, a person with ADHD might start in the middle, then jump to the end, and then return to the beginning, but still achieve a unique and worthwhile result.
The advantage of non-linear and associative thinking is that they can result in unique solutions and perspectives. ADHD thinkers can consider multiple aspects of a problem at the same time, leading to comprehensive and holistic solutions. It also allows for the simultaneous processing of information, which can be extremely beneficial in certain scenarios.
Associative and non-linear thinking can be challenging for others to follow or understand, which can be a potential disadvantage in environments where group consensus and endorsement requires a systematic, step-by-step approach. This is one of the reasons why children have difficulties at school, where there is limited opportunity for such non-standard thought processes. But in smaller entrepreneurial settings, this type of thinking can lead to creative insights when approaching new problems because it allows for connections to be made that other people might not see. It’s often linked to ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and innovation.
Resilience doesn’t come as a “built-in” feature of ADHD, but dealing with ADHD’s challenges can help individuals develop resilience over time. Living with ADHD may require individuals to learn coping strategies and adaptability skills that help them navigate other areas of life. Creating coping mechanisms and strategies reinforcing coping skills can increase resilience when things get tough. One way is to praise effort and recognize hard work, not just to reward success. This can build a growth mindset and promote resilience.
Many people suffering from attention deficit also experience periods of intense focus, known as hyperfocus. During such phases, they can become deeply engrossed in tasks that they find enjoyable or rewarding. This can be channeled by letting the person work on exciting tasks, which will utilize their hyperfocus for tasks that interest them or that they find rewarding. This will help them be productive and enjoy the task. Remember, though, that hyperfocus can be a double-edged sword. It can lead to a person losing track of time and external circumstances. Ways should be found to help manage time effectively during periods of hyperfocus. This can be as simple as an alarm bell on the mobile phone or structured access to rooms or facilities.
Some individuals with ADHD may be particularly in tune with others’ emotions. This could make them more empathetic and intuitive, as they often pick up on signs that others may miss.
The sense of empathy can be enhanced by managed social interactions, during which the person with ADHD can use and develop their empathetic and intuitive skills. Role-playing games or other group activities can be particularly beneficial. In a more formal context, mindfulness and emotional intelligence training can help the person become more aware of their emotions and those of others.
Intuition could manifest as an innate ability in people with ADHD to pick up on changes in their environment or subtle shifts in people’s moods and behaviors that others may miss. Heightened intuition can make someone with ADHD into a sensitive and understanding partner, friend, or colleague, with an innate ability to sense subtle shifts or changes in the moods of others.
Impulsivity often accompanying ADHD can also lead to a refreshing sense of unpredictability and creativity. This quality can make individuals with ADHD fun to be around and can spark innovation in professional or academic environments.
The unrestrained behavior that often characterizes individuals with ADHD can bring a refreshing and dynamic energy to their surroundings. In a professional setting, their tendency to think outside the box can spark innovation, fuel brainstorming sessions, and lead to creative problem-solving strategies. Their spontaneity can make everyday experiences exciting and unpredictable in their personal lives, bringing joy and novelty to their relationships.
Enhanced degrees of compassion and empathy can be manifested in individuals with ADHD. They can be particularly aware of the emotions and needs of those around them, leading to a capacity for understanding and sympathizing with other people’s experiences.
Many people with ADHD can understand and relate to a wide range of emotions, making them excellent listeners and allies. This depth of compassion can make them very supportive friends, family members, or partners. This can be especially useful in roles that require interpersonal interaction or service to others, such as healthcare, counseling, customer service, or team management.
One upside of ADHD is that it can yield a significant capacity for persistence in the face of adversity. AD produces a tendency to concentrate with the ability to shut out external distractions. This is particularly true when a person is engaged in tasks or topics that they find genuinely interesting. This tenacity can drive them to dig deeply into their passions and persevere.
A subject that truly captivates a person with ADHD’s attention will generate unwavering persistence in following through with dedication and resilience. This can lead to the development of expertise in their chosen field.
#10. Entrepreneurial skill
Combining some of the individual features of ADHD we outlined above, like high energy, creativity, resilience, persistence, and hyperfocus, can make many individuals with ADHD well-suited for entrepreneurial roles. They can be more spontaneous, energetic, intuitive, imaginative, and inventive. Forbes Business magazine highlights many of the common features of ADHD that are shared by some of the world’s “superhero” entrepreneurs, such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman.
In short, it’s essential that techniques for channeling and building on the positive features of ADHD must be individualized and that what works well for one person might not work well for another.
Remember, consistency is critical when it comes to implementing these techniques. It may take time and patience, but these strategies can go a long way in channeling the positive features of ADHD into productive avenues.
Questions we are asked
What are people with ADHD best at?
People with ADHD can have a unique ability to solve problems and create systems. Considering what keeps them interested in their work, many people with ADHD progress as entrepreneurs, computer programmers, and in creative environments.
How can ADHD be a strength at work?
Employees with ADHD can be more imaginative, innovative, creative, and inventive. They can be “out-of-the-box” thinkers with an approach that can yield extraordinary results in the workplace as long as there is recognition that their approach may differ from what applies to other employees.
What are the positive qualities of children with ADHD?
Many positive qualities in adults with ADHD can also be seen in children. These qualities often manifest in different ways according to age and developmental differences. Kids with ADHD can be highly creative and imaginative, with vivid imaginations that bring them to find innovative solutions to problems. Some have high energy levels that can manifest as high enthusiasm for activities they love. When harnessed correctly, this can lead to impressive accomplishments in their areas of interest.
Children with ADHD who are encouraged to cope with its challenges develop high levels of resilience over time as they learn to recognise what is the upside of ADHD and use this knowledge to adapt and overcome challenges. The impulsivity often seen in ADHD can also lead to a sense of spontaneity which can make children with ADHD fun to be around and bring joy and spontaneity to their families. They can also hyperfocus on tasks they are passionate about or find engaging.
Are people with ADHD more successful?
Many people with ADHD, often without it even being detected, have been high achievers. They built thriving careers and launch successful businesses once they have learned from the upside of ADHD. There’s a good chance that they had to work harder than their peers to achieve their success.