Do People With ADHD Have a Creative Advantage?
A mind that is always racing can be a blessing and a curse. Here’s what we know.
Posted January 18, 2023 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
- People with ADHD often have trouble with focus, impulse control, and hyperactivity.
- These issues can negatively affect their relationships as well as their school and work performance.
- However, ADHD is also associated with flexible and creative thinking, which can be an advantage.
Many people come to therapy because they have difficulty focusing, prioritizing tasks, and getting things done. They ask questions like:
- “Why does my mind feel like a browser with several tabs open at once? I can never pick a lane.”
- “I know I’m not incompetent, but I rarely finish what I start because I get distracted, bored, or forgetful. How can I force myself to see things through?”
- “I feel like I’m wasting my potential. How do I address this?”
- “I sometimes blurt things out mid-conversation that take others by surprise. How do I stop myself from doing this?”
If you relate to these questions, you could be struggling with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is a psychological disorder that’s characterized by problems with focus, impulse control, and hyperactivity. Although it is a neurodevelopmental disorder usually diagnosed in childhood, it can persist well into adulthood and make everyday life challenging.
Because it is a neurodevelopmental condition, adults who have ADHD often don’t understand they have a diagnosable and treatable condition. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve just always been scatterbrained with a mind that refuses to turn off.
Aside from making day-to-day activities challenging, ADHD can also hold a person back from realizing their true potential. This may not always be obvious to them, but people around them may notice. For example, their propensity for making careless mistakes and their lack of tact and self-awareness could limit their career growth. Or their short fuse could push potential romantic partners away.
Whether a person’s ADHD is of the inattentive type, the hyperactive type, or a combination of the two, it’s important to understand that proper treatment could lead to noticeable improvement in the quality of their relationships, professional life, and life in general.
That being said, it is interesting to note that while ADHD can make day-to-day functioning difficult, it may also offer some distinct advantages when it comes to creative pursuits. Let’s take a look at two.
1. Locking in on important goals
Individuals with ADHD may demonstrate increased creativity and innovation through their high levels of goal-directed motivation.
A study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that adults with ADHD generated more original ideas when competing for a bonus, suggesting that their strong motivation towards achieving their goals may drive their enhanced creative performance.
Additionally, the study found that adults with ADHD rated themselves as more creative in specific creative domains, suggesting that they may excel in creative tasks that align with their preferences and abilities.
Overall, the data suggest that while individuals with ADHD face challenges in certain areas, they also possess unique strengths that can lead to success in creative and innovative endeavors.
With proper care and encouragement, individuals with ADHD can leverage strengths such as their high levels of goal-directed motivation to excel in fields that require determination, perseverance, and expertise.
2. Generating novel ideas
A study published in the Creativity Research Journal explored advantages that are associated with the disorder, such as enhanced innovative thinking. To understand this, this study utilized a cell phone feature invention task and a word association task and recruited 30 college students with ADHD and 30 without ADHD.
It was found that students with ADHD outperformed those without ADHD in terms of originality, novelty, and flexibility on the cell phone feature task. Additionally, students with ADHD tended to produce word associations that were less related to the original word given to them on the word association task. This demonstrates an increased ability to think creatively and originally.
There are some strengths and benefits associated with having ADHD that can be beneficial to those who experience it. With further research, we can begin to uncover how these areas of strength can help offset the challenges of ADHD.
To understand how to manage ADHD better, reach out to a qualified mental health professional. Visit Psychology Today's Therapist Directory to find a therapist near you.