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ADHD and Creativity: A Double-Edged Study

22 December 2014

From the Attention Deficit Disorder Association:

Another ADHD myth exposed to the glare of scientific study! Only this time, research confirms what many have long maintained. People with ADHD are more creative.

Holly A. White from the University of Memphis and Priti Shah of the University of Michigan published an ADHD and creativity study this month showing, “adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking … and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD.” They also found that faced with a problem, most people prefer to study the problem or refine ideas, whereas we ADHDers prefer to generate new ideas … brainstorming (what most people call daydreaming!)

I had always suspected some of us were more creative! An informal survey of friends in the entertainment industry reveals at least a third and maybe half qualify as ADHD.

. . . .

But this new study is a double-edged sword. For ADHDers struggling with finances, relationships and work, it’s a relief to hear about the positive side to a mind that flutters out of control. For ADHDers with some mastery over their symptoms, it confirms that a mind that doesn’t filter incoming signals as well as most people’s can be an asset in certain situations. However, for ADHDers who are not creative, this could be taken as yet another failure, as in, “Wow, I can’t even do ADHD right!”

Link to the rest at ADDA


9 Comments to “ADHD and Creativity: A Double-Edged Study”

  1. Validation, even with gray hair on my head, is a sweet elixir.
    I remember folks repeatedly telling me I wasn’t doing things like I was supposed to, that I didn’t understand what was really important.

  2. Anyone with severe ADD or ADHD needs to find the aids that will allow creativity to thrive rather than be lost in a constant rush of ideas and distractions. For me, it’s Scrivener. The only thing it can’t do is remind me that I have to open it and actually put it to work every day.

  3. One of my favorite, and world-renowned, singer/songwriters has said he has ADHD, or did as a child. But absent this, would he be as brilliant? I don’t know enough about the condition to guess. But why do people seem to want everybody to be the same? Is normalcy so much preferable to the extraordinary?

  4. What I find is that highly creative people notice much more than the average person. This gives them a richness of input that is conducive to creativity: they have more colours in their palette, so to speak. But when you have extra colours, mixing them and working with them will seem like a complete waste of time to a colour-blind person; and educational theorists, particularly when required to assess the value of their theories by looking at the results of standardized tests, are operating in monochrome.

    I mention educational theorists in particular because, in my experience, most creative people who are labelled as ADHD are labelled at school. The educational system does not want creativity; it wants kids to be widgets that can be worked on in standardized ways so as to get better results on those standardized tests. The so-called attention deficit is not a deficit, but an awareness of too many things worth paying attention to, and the power to choose more interesting ones than the dull grey pabulum of the standard curriculum. The so-called disorder arises because the people who have this capacity don’t meet the narrowly limited expectations of their superiors. They are good at things that their masters pride themselves on not valuing or even being able to imagine.

    (When the masters themselves imagine that they are creative people, based largely on Dunning-Kruger effect, things can get really ugly. Then their egos become invested in maintaining the fiction that ‘ADHD’ is a disorder pure and simple; it cannot be a by-product of creativity, because, of course, nobody can be more creative than the masters themselves. Teachers and other persons in authority who genuinely are creative, I find, are at least able to recognize creativity in other people and acknowledge that others can surpass them in it. Utterly uncreative people lack the imagination to perceive that there is anything for other people to be superior at.)

    For the avoidance of doubt (if PG will excuse my borrowing a legal term), let me say that none of this applies to the genuine malady of ADHD. I mean only that many, and perhaps most, creative people manifest their creativity in ways that are easily misdiagnosed as ADHD by the hopelessly uncreative. Too often they end up being treated for a disorder that they do not have, to the detriment not only of themselves, but of all those who might otherwise benefit from their creative faculties.

    • PTSD can get misdiagnosed as ADHD, too.

      I don’t have ADHD, but due to my mother and brother, I grew up with ADD-style communication being normal (and that was most of what I was exposed to). I can notice AD(H)D and even mimic it when I want to. Even now, my best friend has ADD.

  5. I suppose all this depends on what is considered creative. Stop where you are and look around. Right now. Everything you see is the product of someones creativity. Computer, keyboard, mouse, paint on the walls, central heat, anything plastic, zippers, glass, folding chairs, #2 pencils, bumbershoot, sneakers, contact lenses, novels…

  6. Did this study disaggregate for sex and IQ? I suspect not.

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