It's time to dispel the misconception that ADHD is an affliction in need of a fix. Even its name, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, includes a double whammy of negative connotations — deficit and disorder — implying that someone who has its typical characteristics is both broken and lacking.
But this loaded term is a complete misnomer. To me, ADHD is not strictly a negative.
As a psychiatrist, I've seen hundreds of high-functioning and successful patients with the diagnosis. In fact, I'm an ADHDer myself, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Leveraged and understood, it can be a huge plus, which is why I wrote my new book, The ADHD Advantage.
We need to recognize that those with the ADHD trait play a tremendously important role in our society as innovators, explorers, leaders and risk-takers. Of course, not everyone with the ADHD diagnosis possesses the same list of traits in equal abundance. But we need them now more than ever to shake things up and challenge the status quo.
Here are my favorite reasons to celebrate your ADHD:
1. You're a multitasker.
In my clinical observations over the last 27 years, I’ve witnessed firsthand that those with ADHD enjoy multitasking much more than the average person who tends to get overwhelmed and stressed from juggling tasks. This can be a huge advantage in today's workplace.
2. You're a creative thinker.
Better known as non-linear thinking, the ADHDer’s brain is on warp speed, zig-zagging from one thought bubble to the next, coming up with incredibly original and creative ideas in the process.
It’s hard to follow for most people, but makes perfect sense to those with ADHD. Although this mental agility can also translate into distraction, when managed appropriately it produces exceptional ideas that can change the shape of an industry.
3. You act quickly.
This tendency to act on intuition, sometimes with little thought, often gets a bad rap. Most people fear this unpredictable quality and anticipate disastrous consequences. But it can reap huge rewards when used appropriately and functionally.
The ability to act quickly, without overthinking, enables entrepreneurs and business leaders to make swift decisions and seize opportunities they might otherwise have missed.
4. You have high energy.
No surprise here: We ADHDers tend to always be amped up. While this trait, often identified as hyperactivity, can cause disruption in the classroom setting, it doesn’t have to be a problem. The restlessness and inattention is often simply a result of being bored with routine. This isn't a bad thing unless we insist on making a structured life for everyone mandatory.
5. You're calm under pressure.
ADHDers are remarkably calm in the middle of a maelstrom. That’s when they are in their element. High-stress situations get the dopamine pumping in the brain, which is why ADHDers tend to make great firefighters and ER doctors, as well as brilliant stock-traders and entrepreneurs. The world seems to slow down, as they get into laser-sharp focus, remaining cool, clear-headed and effective. It’s why I often advise patients with ADHD to set a false deadline for themselves to ratchet up the pressure and get into the zone.
6. You’re a natural athlete.
With so many medal-winning, record-breaking pro athletes and Olympians diagnosed with the condition, there ought to be an ADHD Sports Hall of Fame. For example, Michael Phelps had severe ADHD and struggled in the classroom. Swimming became his salvation.
One fascinating study shows that major league baseball players have twice the ADHD incidence of the general population. Athleticism helps to ameliorate the restlessness commonly associated with ADHD, allowing those who indulge their physical nature with sports to focus and perform better in many other areas of life.
7. You’re the life of the party.
ADHDers tend to be curious and excited to meet other people. Their yearning for adventure and fun tends to draw others into their orbit. They love being out in the world, bouncing from one conversation to the next.
8. You have an adventurous spirit.
Risk-taking is another common trait of those with ADHD. Another way to put it is that they are life’s explorers, eager to see new places and try new things.
9. You bounce back quickly.
Of course, impulsivity and risk-taking can often lead to failure. But ADHDers typically have an uncanny ability to bounce back. This was confirmed by a small but highly significant study of resilience in college students, which showed that those with the ADHD diagnosis were overwhelmingly more adaptive and resilient.
No matter how many obstacles, disappointments and catastrophes we face, we possess an enduring optimism and ability to bounce back, time and again.