While the disorder has made many aspects of my life more difficult, there is definitely a positive side to ADHD. Here are the top seven ways ADHD has enriched my life.
1.) ADHD helps me to embrace change.
People with ADHD embrace change and as such, live varied and colorful lives. According to John Bierderman, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, adults with ADHD tend to change jobs more frequently than the general population. This is certainly true for me. At 32-years-old I’ve already worked in a variety of different fields, from union organizing, to media outreach/PR, to legal services, to teaching at both the middle and elementary school levels. These days I’m training as a master SCUBA diver and helping to run a dive shop while learning about blogging and online marketing. I imagine that ADHDers also move with more frequency that the neurobiologically typical. I’ve lived in ten different towns/cities in four different states across both coasts of the United States, and recently made the move to a Caribbean island in Mexico. Thanks to all of these changes, and the relationships I’ve built with people in all the different jobs I’ve held and cities I’ve lived in, I have insight into a broad swath of socio-political issues as well as different cultures and ways of life. I am a wiser, more interesting person as a result.
2.) ADHD makes me daring and courageous.
Research has shown that people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine in their brains than those who are neurobiologically typical. Engaging in risky behaviors increases the brain’s dopamine levels, and as as such, ADHDers tend to take more risks to give them the rush of the dopamine they lack. Furthermore, researchers have actually been able to link ADHD with a particular variant of a dopamine receptor gene (DRD4-7R) that has been found to correlate with sensation and novelty seeking behaviors.
While some of the risky behaviors I’ve engaged in as a result of my ADHD were straight up stupid and even self-destructive at times, the other side of that coin is that I am courageous. Many of my favorite pastimes, from SCUBA to traveling in developing parts of the world, scare the less daring. My bravery has also helped me to take bold stands for causes I believe in. I have twice chosen to risk arrest to bring attention to causes that were important to me, and I am very proud I was courageous enough to do so.
3.) ADHD allows me to be be super productive when hyperfocusing.
A common symptom of ADHD is called “hyperfocus,” and it is the ability of an ADHDer to focus intensely and for extended periods of time on that which we are most passionate. While people with ADHD struggle mightily to focus on that which does not interest us, hyperfocus on our passions is an ADHD superpower. In college I benefited tremendously from hyperfocus, especially when I was writing my senior thesis. I was in love with my topic and enthralled by the research I was doing, so much so that I often arrived at the library right as it was opening at 8 am to reserve myself my favorite sunny seat, and would work straight through the day until closing time at 1 am, taking breaks only to eat. My resulting project was very well received, which made me feel proud and successful. This blog is perhaps another result of hyperfocus, as for now I feel very passionate about breaking the stigma of adult ADHD and sharing my experiences with ADHD with other women whom it might benefit.
4.) ADHD makes me charismatic, high energy and likable.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m a pretty darn charismatic and likable person. Despite my ADHD related shortcomings at work and in relationship, I have been told by a great many people that my star burns bright. When I made the decision to quit my secure, union job as a public school teacher, a colleague and dear friend told me she doesn’t worry about me, because despite all the risks I take she believes the world has my back because I am so darn lovable. I guess only time will tell if she is right there, but the link between ADHD, charisma, and high energy is cited in a lot of the literature on adult ADHD.
5.) ADHD makes me more creative and helps me to generate lots of entrepreneurially ideas.
Another common characteristic of adults with ADHD is that they are full of creative ideas and constantly working on a variety of different projects. According to a 2011 study by White and Shah, people with ADHD score higher on measures of original creativity and creative achievement than those without ADHD. The same study found that people with ADHD prefer generating ideas to developing them or clarifying problems.
Those who know me well know I am constantly coming up with new ideas for online apps I want to develop, books I want to write, or products I want to create. In fact, I have a google doc spreadsheet of over two dozen such ideas. Each of these projects is in various stages of development, with the vast majority being no more than a few lines in that spreadsheet. Execution is one of my ADHD related weaknesses, but I am a veritable fountain of entrepreneurial ideas.
6.) ADHD keeps me humble and makes me funny as hell.
Adults with ADHD are no stranger to struggle and disappointment, and as such we tend to be relatively humble people. We know we have significant weaknesses that make us difficult to work with or be in relationship with, and this knowledge keeps us humble. Further, many of us develop a keen, wry sense of humor as a coping mechanism. While I haven’t been able to confirm this, I suspect that a lot of stand up comics are fellow ADHDers. And while I’m struggling to come up with a witty line to prove it so, I am darn funny if I do say so myself. (There’s that humility at work).
7.) ADHD makes me more empathetic and has helped me develop a keen sense of justice.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have rooted for the underdog, stood up to bullies, and raised my voice when I viewed something as unjust. While I suspect this is a trait that is innate within me, some of it may be attributable to my experiences living with ADHD. I understand what it’s like to be “different” than the neurobiologically typical, and I know the pain of not quite fitting in. Thus, I may have an easier time relating to others who are struggling against the grain of society.
There you have it, the positive side to ADHD and the top 7 ways ADHD has enriched my life. Do you have any ways to add to the list? How has your ADHD benefited you? Please leave your experiences with the positive side to ADHD in the comments below.