Positive traits of everyone: ADHD
Why would a few known entrepreneurs, actors and inventors with ADHD be a good reason to believe that ADHD itself is a good thing? Few people will seriously state that being deaf, blind or paralized is a positive trait, although I’m sure there were successful people with all of these difficulties, like Steven Hawking, Beethoven, Ray Charles and many other people I’m ashamed I don’t list because I don’t know them. I see ADHD as having eyes of certain color. Nobody will say that because you have blue eyes you are great musician. And because you have brown eyes you are a great doctor. These things are not related to each other.
If a person has certain talents and certain difficulties, it makes him want to develop his talents more to make his difficulties less important. Surely, if you are blind and love music, becoming great at playng piano or a guitar will be much more natural than becoming a manager. It’s not because you are blind and it’s so great, but because these talents and difficulties work better with each other. Great difficulties could also amplify the use of the talents or developing abilities. If you can’t do much more than writing, then obviously that’s what you will be focused on. Even if you don’t have a great ability for that, you can still surpass other people with better abilities who are less focused on writing.
If you have ADHD, you might be more inclined to become an artist, musician, actor, entrepreneur or a freelancer. Not because you have ADHD but because it’s natural to choose a path that correlates with your talents more and doesn’t make your weaknesses get in your way too much.
But for some people ADHD is even more impairing. What if Steven Hawking would have a musical talent but was bad at everything that is required to be a good scientist? Could he be as successful with the same difficulties that he has? I realy doubt it, because he would need much more complex technology to be able to use his musical talents than he is using now to be able to speak and write books. With a good technology he probably would be able to compose music using computer software (although it would be really slow as using a mouse is much faster than the controller he uses now), but it’s absolutely 100% clear that he wouldn’t be able to play a real musical instrument. It’s also 100% clear that if he didn’t have his computer now, he wouldn’t be able to write a single sentence. His work depends on his technology a lot. Few people in their right minds would suggest that Steven’s condition itself is a gift in a sense that it brings advantages other than no ability to play poker.
I have the same problems with the idea that ADHD itself is a gift. It’s bullshit, plain and simple. Something that stinks. I have read quite a lot of ADHD related articles but I’ve never read or saw anything that would explain how ADHD made particular successful person’s life easier. As far as I’m concerned, nobody ever came out and said “I’m glad I have ADHD and here’s why”. One time I’ve read someone commenting like that on the internet. Later he wrote another comment saying that since university started, he change his mind. I am not saying that because I deny successes of people who have ADHD. I have some of my own. I am saying that because I think there are much more people for whom ADHD is a much bigger curse than a gift.
Now I will quote sources of interest: one and two. I am finishing writing this post a lot later and I already forgot which exact pages I’ve got these quotes from, but they are there, or in the archive here or here.
If ADD is a genetically inherited, neurological difference that brings both good and bad, then the doctors have immediately excluded all the functioning ADDers by their definition. This is deliberate selection of “disordered ADD” only. The well ADDers are excluded, they may have challenges but their strengths help them overcome them and survive in society. The doctors, including Barkley, have really not done any research on this, maybe one day they will but it seems likely that neuro-typical people would be reluctant to define experiments to prove that they do not measure up to people they classify as disordered? Some of Barkley’s statements have the feel of prejudice, it appears it would take an overwhelming amount of evidence to change his opinions.
Barkley is not interested in searching for functioning ADDers because functioning ADDers do not need help and it’s as irrelevant as searching for functioning people with the difficulties I mentioned above. What difference does it make for the treatment research if you find more successful people with hearing problems?
ADD/ADHD is a disorder. Anyone who tells otherwise is deluded or tries to delude others.
ADD has caused me problems with work and relationships, brought me addictions and depression and prevented me from achieving goals - not that I have many goals as I find it hard to even contemplate the future. But if I had a button to press to remove my ADD, I would not press it.
The doctors, including Barkley, have really not done any research on this, maybe one day they will but it seems likely that neuro-typical people would be reluctant to define experiments to prove that they do not measure up to people they classify as disordered?
If we agree that people with ADD develop addictions and don’t achieve their own goals more often than other people, isn’t that enough proof that they do not measure up at least in achieving their goals? (Unless they don’t believe achieving goals is important, so that it’s not a big problem if they don’t). What if someone with ADD wants to be able to contemplate the future and achieve his goals?
It was hard for me to contemplate the future too, because when I wanted to achieve a goal that I set to myself, I just couldn’t do it. I knew what I needed to do, I knew how to do it, but I couldn’t do it. Then I found out about ADHD and that for ADDers achieving what they want often doesn’t happen, at least on time, which is the problem some ADDers want to fix, even though they are often happy with their other talents. If they keep having their ADHD symptoms, it’s frustrating to keep having goals because they don’t get achieved regardless of intentions.
There is no scope (nor ever has been) for medicine to define strengths, abilities or attributes. If you review the DSM IV diagnostic criteria for ADHD, they mandate significant problems or disorders before you can even get a diagnosis. If ADD is a genetically inherited, neurological difference that brings both good and bad, then the doctors have immediately excluded all the functioning ADDers by their definition. This is deliberate selection of “disordered ADD” only.
Not everyone considers their inability to plan and achieve goals a disorder. If someone thinks that it’s not a disorder, then I think it’s safe to say that it isn’t. If you have ADHD, the treatment obviously is not mandatory at all. But I’m sure most people’s ADHD symptoms are too hard to deal with.
I *personally* knew about 15 people for whom ADHD is not gift for sure, not including people I’ve met on ADHD meetings. Should I be thinking about 15 people I knew personally, including myself, or a few known names considered to be ADHD, some of which are probably dead long time ago?
I like my constant craving for new interesting things, my perfectionism, humour, out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and rule breaking. If my neuro-chemistry were returned to “normal” then I would lose these attributes too. Some might argue that these positive attributes are not part of ADD but they certainly are part of the “differences” package that has set me apart for nearly fifty years.
I like my creativity too, but because my mind always seeks for something new and interesting, I find it hard to finish creative projects that I want to finish. Or I just can’t stop improving them sometimes even when I know that I have to start doing another project soon. Or I fiddle with unimportant details for far too long and the more important parts of the work don’t get done. Sometimes I don’t mean to cross the road on a red light but I get distracted by something or will be daydreaming and it happens. Although nothing serious ever happened but I know that often people get into trouble because of their distractability or harm others, on the road for example. I know that people with ADHD are much less focused on the road. One ADDer at the meeting told me that he was excited about riding a bike and then he found that he wants to go faster and faster and realized that he was addicted to that feeling.
Even though there are no double-blind studies proving the benefits of ADD, lack of proof does not equate to non-existence. Dr. Barkley has not been looking for positives, nor have any other scientists - positives are pretty hard to test for.
Yes, it’s hard to test positive aspects of ADHD like craving for stimulation, perfectionism and rule-breaking. But it’s easy to test negative aspects that are usually listed as ADHD symptoms which are used to diagnose someone with ADHD. Important thing is that ADHD is hard to diagnose because it’s not very clear what exactly is a positive thing and what is a negative thing. Something might sound like a positive thing if you look at it from one point, but from another point it’s not positive at all. I think to understand how positive something is, we have to look how perfectionism, for example, is affecting a person in real life situations. This will help to determine if perfectionism is just the will to do better or it’s a craving for stimulation that the task produces. Usually tasks ADDers have trouble with and want to do are not stimulating enough.
I do however find that the usual lists of benefits for ADD seem to fit with the ADD people I know, much more so than for people without ADD.
Things listed above fit the most people with ADHD that I know, me included. But in my case I’m not very good at humor, because one of the ADHD problems makes it hard fo me to remember funny stories or retrieve them from my memory.
Maybe its a little like horoscopes - if you list flattering attributes then everyone will agree they have them? I also find it easy to “diagnose” people around me with “undiagnosed” ADD, as well as people in the media, authors, TV presenters, comics and actors in movies?
ADDers definitely like to agree that they have the positive attributes if they sound positive. For example, if someone says to me that I am a perfectionist and always try to do things good, it makes me feel good. Successful people definitely look like they have positive attributes and that’s why it’s nice to hear similar things about yourself too.
It seems that their ADD got them those jobs in the first place, the ADD that makes them funny, engaging and interesting. I have found that I have unconsciously sought people with ADD as friends, colleagues and partners over the years. It seems it is common for ADDers to connect with other people with ADD, people who maybe talk quickly, humorously, alight on different topics and keep their boredom away?
I connected to ADDers very often in my life and I have them in my family. Often they were struggling with relationships, achieving goals, making money and addictions. They were generally unhappy. Also, because ADDers crave for stimulation often, they get stimulated by a out-of-the-box behaviour of other ADDers who are craving for something new all the time too.
Just because the ADD brain is different, it is not necessarily inferior. ADD brains are not broken, some parts are a little smaller, some parts a little bigger, some parts operate more quickly, some more slowly. Would it not be logical to conclude that this means people with ADD can do some things better and some things worse?
My brain is quite good at logic, I think, and also at thinking visually. And at music, whatever part of the brain is used for that. But my working memory doesn’t work so good, I get distracted because my brain seeks for stimulation and follows it. So many things that my brain is good at are worsened by ADHD symptoms. That’s why ADHD bothers me.
The major difference in ADD is with our “weaker” frontal lobes, these lobes came late in evolution to help people operate in a tribe - to obey the rules, to be patient, to keep our emotions in check, to plan for the future. If our frontal lobes are less in charge it is inevitable that we will break rules, get bored and be more emotional. But then with weaker control it also seems inevitable that more people with ADD rule-breaking-boredom would become explorers, inventors, artists and comics? For mankind as a whole it is probably beneficial that 95% follow convention and the rules but that 5% break rules, connect new ideas, create and don’t conform. These people bring change.
Rule-breaking-boredom is probably what attributed to… Ah, yes. “ADD has caused me problems with work and relationships, brought me addictions and depression and prevented me from achieving goals”.
The source is saying that 1) ADD caused him all those problems and then 2) it seemed inevitable that he also (like those successful people in the media) would become an explorer or inventor or an artist or a comic? Quite a stretch connecting those dots together. Is it being emotional, bored, or breaking the rules of logic?
Let’s go further. How the ADD coaching works then and what exactly it teaches to do? If it’s inevitable that ADDers will break rules, get bored and be more emotional. If weaker control is inevitable positive thing, then how the ADD coaching will help people to get the control that they need? To become an explorer you have to concentrate, unless, really, you want to explore a desert. Some ADDers live in London all their life and find it pretty hard to explore. For inventing, I am not good at sciences and that’s OK, but if a wheel and a lightbulb were already invented before (someone got by with less) then for inventing them now (sarcasm) I will need a lot more knowledge in sciences. Many ADDers have problems with reading efficiently. I wanted to be an artist once but it requires concentration and ability to not seek for new and interesting things but learn human anatomy, all the muscles, bones, and practice constantly, which is not easy with ADHD symptoms that I will list below.
- Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period (such as schoolwork or homework).
- Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
I did a design work, I guess I can call myself a designer. Without an education. Because following conventions are not in my nature for sure. (Not that I could do it if I wanted. And I did.) Hard to be a comic when you can’t remember an anecdote, but ADD person I know admits he can’t remember an anecdote still tries. And yes, he’s better than me at that so ADD brains are different for sure, at least in one trait that is not related to ADHD in any way. His humor however is quite simple in structure. To bad he’s often depressed or chasing stimulation on the internet and doesn’t leave home often.
Not every inventor or entrepreneur has ADD, nor is everyone with ADD an entrepreneur.
Let’s try to use our perfectionism and interest and simplify this sentence by removing the word “inventor” first.
“Not every entrepreneur has ADD, nor is everyone with ADD an entrepreneur.”
That’s clearer. Let’s leave only the meaning now. (Update: Because I have ADHD, I’m too distracted to learn English grammar, but from what I think is true, “nor” in this sentence doesn’t make any sense at all logically, it doesn’t add anything to the sentence the way it is used. That’s why, to get to the essence of this, I remove it. Now it’s a good time to doubt myself, because I can’t really explain why it is so at this moment of time, but I decided that long time ago and thought about it, so here’s my conclusion. I had better reasoning of this simplification process written down, but I’ve lost it, unfortunately).
Basically, what I came up with after simplifying this is:
“Not every entrepreneur has ADD, every entrepreneur has ADD”.
Makes sense? This sentence doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a contradiction.
ADDers, in their usual state, like making connections! Especially lightning-fast connections. And sometimes connections that aren’t logical at all.
If our frontal lobes are less in charge it is inevitable that we will break rules, get bored and be more emotional. But then with weaker control it also seems inevitable that more people with ADD rule-breaking-boredom would become explorers, inventors, artists and comics?
If not every entrepreneur has ADD, it means that if successful entrepreneur has ADD, then it’s logical to conclude that ADD doesn’t necessarily contribute to his success. How do we know if it does? Why many ADDers are unsuccessful? We will get to that soon.
I also find it easy to “diagnose” people around me with “undiagnosed” ADD, as well as people in the media, authors, TV presenters, comics and actors in movies?
If it’s easy to “diagnose” people with “undiagnosed” ADD then it’s logical that it’s easy to see if someone doesn’t have ADD.
I do however find that the usual lists of benefits for ADD seem to fit with the ADD people I know, much more so than for people without ADD. Maybe its a little like horoscopes - if you list flattering attributes then everyone will agree they have them?
Yes. Benefits like perfectionism, creativity, exploring for new possibilities are often attributes that everyone will agree they have, they are generally good attributes for everyone. Even the most successful people in the world likely look like they have them.
It is fair to say that ADD people have different traits from normal (neuro-typical) people.
Sure, these traits are part of the diagnostic criteria for ADD.
Many of these traits cause problems but some can bring unique strengths especially if recognised and embraced.
Which of these “traits” do you think can bring unique strenghts?
- Often making careless mistakes when having to work on uninteresting or difficult projects
- Often having difficulty keeping attention during work, or holding down a job for a significant amount of time
- Often having difficulty concentrating on conversations
- Having trouble finishing projects that have already been started
- Often having difficulty organizing for the completion of tasks
- Avoiding or delaying in starting projects that require a lot of thought
- Often misplacing or having difficulty finding things at home or at work
- Disorganized personal items (sometimes old and useless to the individual) causing excessive “clutter” (in the home, car, etc.)
- Often distracted by activity or noise
- Often having problems remembering appointments or obligations, or inconveniently changing plans on a regular basis
Even though there are no double-blind studies proving the benefits of ADD, lack of proof does not equate to non-existence.
The author is saying that even though there are no double-blind studies that prove that the symptoms used to diagnose ADDers listed above are the benefits, the lack of proof doesn’t mean that they are not.
Dr. Barkley has not been looking for positives, nor have any other scientists - positives are pretty hard to test for.
Yes. It’s better to use these negative “traits” to diagnose people with ADHD because positives are hard to test for, and, like the author is saying, “if you just list flattering attributes then everyone will agree they have them”.
I like my conistant craving for new interesting things, my perfectionism, humour, out-of-the-box thinking, creativity and rule breaking.
Yes. I like to agree that I have those too (but not humor, unfortunately). Barkley is doing exactly that, rather than trying to diagnose ADHD by finding the positive traits that everyone will likely agree they have he looks at people who have symptoms of ADHD and is aiming to treat exactly those symptoms. Medicine is the science and art of healing. Healthy people do not need healing. I don’t even think that someone who’s happy with his ADHD should call it ADHD.
People with ADHD often do not get help because everyone sees more positive side of their traits but a negative side is not so easy to see for others and even for themselves. Many ADDers struggle to explain why they feel bad when they come to a doctor and why their traits like perfectionism and craving for new things, that seem to be positive, are making them unhappy.
(This post was 90% written in medicated state, several months ago, and updated a little bit at the day of the posting. I really doubt that this could be written in unmedicated state. Why? Because processing information, analyzing it efficiently and coming up with good reasoning (that isn’t just f* words) requires a good enough working memory.
Of course, there are no positive traits in ADHD. See my earlier post Imbalance, not a difference.)