ADHD. Child writing Abbreviation ADHD on a blackboard. ADHD is Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has existed for decades as a concrete diagnosis with recognized treatment avenues and interventions, but with numbers inching ever-higher and plenty of social media personalities and celebrities acknowledging their own diagnoses, ADHD diagnosis and self diagnosis are becoming increasingly common and people are becoming far more aware of the standard signs and symptoms of the disorder. Most of the attention is placed on the “disorder” aspect of the equation, but little to no attention is paid to the different ways that this particular form of neurodivergence actually proves helpful and useful in different areas of life. 

What Is ADHD? 

ADHD is considered a cognitive or neurodevelopmental disorder. It is usually diagnosed in childhood, but more and more people are being given diagnoses as teenagers or in adulthood, and are scrambling to find the best possible treatment avenue. As the name of the disorder suggests, there are a few specific areas that are impacted by the neurological differences unique to ADHD. Attention/focus, activity level, and impulsive behavior are the three core areas of focus for ADHD symptoms. Within these symptoms, there may be some variation in severity, but as a whole, people with ADHD exhibit behaviors such as impulsivity, difficulty listening or paying attention, difficulty staying still, and difficulty “sticking with” non-preferred activities or environments. 

Most articles about ADHD suggest that in childhood, ADHD is often diagnosed after a child struggles to sit still or pay attention in school, regularly speaks out of turn, has difficulty associating with peers, and begins to fall behind to experience a drop in letter grades. In adulthood, ADHD may show itself in frequent job changes, difficulty in friendships or romantic relationships, difficulty carrying on consistent conversation, and even more potentially harmful behaviors, such as engaging in risky behaviors regarding sexual activity, and personal safety. 

The Potentially Positive Traits of ADHD

Much has been said about the downsides of having ADHD, but as is the case with virtually all different types of neurodivergence, there are traits, behaviors, and habits that can actually be considered a benefit of having ADHD. The precise traits will likely vary according to the specific subtype of ADHD that an individual has, but there are generally a few traits or behaviors that can actually prove helpful to people with ADHD and effectively make ADHD work for them. These include: 

  • Hyper focus. People with ADHD experience something called hyper focus, or an intense focus on a single subject or activity for an extended period of time. Hyper focus is characterized by “zeroing in” on a subject for large periods of time, without getting up, looking up, or deviating from the task or activity. 
  • Boundless energy. Often identified as the kids who were “bouncing off walls,” people with ADHD very often have a seemingly limitless amount of energy from which to draw. Energy can be used to engage in certain tasks, exercise regularly, or work in fields that require a great deal of physical activity or exertion. 
  • Impulsivity. Impulsive behavior often gets a bad rap, but impulsive behavior can lead to innovation, excitement, and plenty of joy. This trait in friendships and relationships can lead to going on new adventures, learning new skills, and taking up new hobbies. At work, an impulse can lead to the discovery of a new approach to an old task, or a new way of looking at an existing problem. 

ADHD is often treated as a hindrance to healthy or “normal” living, but the minds and processes of people with ADHD can actually provide tremendous insight and innovation in relationships, at work, and at school, and there are those who argue that ADHD is a disorder requiring more accommodations and nurturing, rather than the focus being entirely on treatment and mitigating symptoms.