Content warning: Our intention is never to minimise the very real hardships experienced by those with ADHD (believe me, we have lived-experience ourselves, so we get it). But it helps sometimes to hear other perspectives, and find some much needed nuance. We’re all about a dialectical approach - and/both, not either/or.
So, what are the positives of ADHD?
It’s a great question that doesn’t get asked often enough! Honestly, the main thing is just how cute we are. It’s crazy how adorable and magnetic it is to be really into something in particular, and it’s funny that we can’t even tolerate a moment of bullshit that isn’t interesting to us.
As an ADHD person ages, particularly if they have the right support and self awareness, we can often hit a point where the negatives barely take anything away from us, and the positives are all ours to keep. Our prefrontal lobes are fully developed and maxed out by around 35 years old at the latest, and that confers a lot more control over the typical ADHD symptoms. The disorder is still there, and the brain is still very much an ADHD brain, but it becomes easier than ever before.
It feels *really* good to chase full speed down rabbit holes of hyperfixation. Neurotypical people need to work hard to get to the same level of knowledge and competency that we get to just by virtue of being lost in a thing we love.
ADHD researcher Dr. William Dodson calls this trait "omnipotential": a limitless potential to do anything you desire, and work tireless until it's achieved... as long as you're interested in it.
In a lifetime of being ADHD, you will take a spectrum of deep dives into things. “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one,” was how Shakespeare put it, and while we’re probably never going to be on top of ‘all trades’, it will blow neurotypical people away how much we can know about diverse topics.
Suppression of Emotional Behaviour
Neurotypical people are lying to one another constantly. How do you have productive business meetings with people you despise? Could we please sort out our interpersonal issues before we continue this project?
Suppressing emotional outbursts is necessary in any society, and doubly so in a high-density complex society, but there are negatives to the way we’re ‘supposed’ to do things. ADHD people tend to have less patience for bullshit. We are more likely to wear our hearts on our sleeves and our feelings on our faces. If I would rather truly know how you feel about me, why wouldn’t I give you the respect of showing you how I feel about you?
The more neuroscience studies emotion, the more clear it is that all decision-making is emotional. Suppressed or performed, emotion is at the heart of how humans make choices. ADHD people have the advantage of being able to see themselves a bit clearer, and of allowing others to see them more truthfully.
If complex tasks are borderline unachievable, why do them? If things can be done more easily, why wouldn’t we do them more easily? ADHD people throughout history have demonstrated a huge capacity for innovation and efficiency - we literally need to just to get by.
The art world and the engineering world both know that limitations and constraints can force a person to create incredible things. Some creators deliberately add false constraints into their process in order to drive originality.
For the ADHD crowd, constraints are our normal. We naturally tilt towards improvisation, hyper-lean systems and streamlined decision making.
An ADHD person can create around themself a system of supports and shortcuts that can enable them to outperform almost any other archetype of person, and at our best, we regularly achieve this.
Finally, we often get on really well with one-another. It’s not just a case of having overlapping hyperfixations - often you can just feel a conversation as it speeds up and know that the branching and racing and free-associations are only possible because both participants are ADHD.
ADHD is one of the most treatable of the mental conditions. See our article on Living our best ADHD Life for more on that.