Advantage to the ADHD Brain
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
I was raised in a home where I was taught to not use the word, hate. I’m not certain in my youth I understood why it was so important to my parents, but as I have matured I find myself giving the same counsel to my own family. The word brings way to much negative energy and emotion to any situation, so I choose to avoid it.
With that introduction in mind can I say how much I passionately dislike Daylight Savings Time?! Getting a full night’s sleep is hard enough for someone with ADHD, but then some bright-minded know-it-all decides to take another hour away from me—how crazy. I’d rather the brainiacs just pick a time and stick with it.
But rather than ruminate on my negative thought and give it power, I choose instead to take my own advice from last month’s Journal entry, Minds Stuck on Repeat, and divert my attention to things I love instead.
More than Daylight Savings, March brings the promise of sunnier days as earth turns from being frostbitten to a thawing-out period of warmer days. Growth, signs of life, color—all suggest a period of new beginnings. A favorite author, Charlotte Bronte, described the season perfectly,
“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”
Could there be a more hopeful time than spring?
Positive Characteristics of an ADHD Brain
Just as I chose to change my thinking from disliking Daylight Savings to something more pleasant, take a similar journey with me—this time relating to ADHD. Rather than viewing the obstacles and frustrations caused by the fact our brains function differently, consider the tremendous benefits we can enjoy because of it. I would never have thought this when first diagnosed, but after reflection upon my own life and observation of my clients, I believe those suffering from ADHD to be particularly resilient. Working with minds that think and do things differently is reason for regular conflict or being at odds with the norm.
My thoughts were reaffirmed recently while reading an article in the New York Times by Richard A. Friedman, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. He observed,
“In short, people with A.D.H.D, may not have a disease, so much as a set of behavioral traits that don’t match the expectations of our contemporary culture.”
My clients are a constant reminder of that reality. Accustomed to receiving negative feedback whether at home, in school or in their professional lives, they rebound from one supposed non-conforming crisis to the next. To my mind, those suffering from ADHD have learned resilience and endurance like no others–both pretty amazing characteristics.
Many professionals feel the acronym ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, is inaccurate. Rather than suffering from attention deficit, it is suggested the reality is quite the opposite—there’s an abundance of attention, perhaps too much. The difficulty is controlling it. When my husband asks, “A penny for your thoughts.” I’ve learned to respond with, “Which one do you want?” His mere question often puts my mind in overload.
All the attention (no pun intended) to attention deficit takes the focus away from the real benefits of an ADHD brain. My ADHD son was recently hired to a position for which upper management did not think him qualified. Fortunately, the hiring manager saw something in him and insisted on taking a chance anyway. My son’s laser-like focus on analytical details enabled him to see what neurotypical brains had filtered out. Procedural changes intuitive to him were implemented and the result earned millions for his new company. The company has since initiated personality testing in an effort to find others just like him.
Many use the word hyperfocus to describe an ADHD brain, and if I’m not mistaken have created a new word for our dictionary in the process. Granted, the focus needs to be directed correctly, but when done it yields another tremendous characteristic.
An ADHD brain is also curious. As any of my clients would testify, conforming to regular group-think can make life difficult. Thinking outside the box, however, is a pattern and a regular way of life for most of them. A 2018 study done by the University of Michigan concluded “that adults with ADHD may be less constrained by knowledge during creative generation.”
Perhaps that is why I see things in pictures like I described when I wrote Today You Are You. Does that suggest why so many artists and entrepreneurs are ADHD? I had to smile recently when David Neeleman announced the creation of his 5th airline, Breeze. He’s made his living seeing the airline industry differently from others. I have every reason to believe this new venture will be successful as well. How could having a creative brain be described as anything but positive?
An ADHD brain also functions well in high-intensity type environments. It is suggested there are a large number of individuals diagnosed as ADHD who thrive as trauma doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen and first responders. While everyday life may feel routine and under-stimulating, they are hard-wired for these situations. When fight-or-flight-produced adrenaline surges, they jump into action and focus intently on the job at hand. They flourish in situations where others might have a tendency to panic.
Other positive traits generally attributed to an ADHD brain are spontaneity or excitement in taking risks. This characteristic is not particularly strong in me although I’ve done better since becoming more aware of who I am and why I behave the way I do. It is my feeling many who deal with ADHD have a good sense of humor, are good listeners and compassionate. These traits are obviously not exclusive to them, but life being the teacher that it is has given them reason to be so.
I’ve loved the learning process that began with my ADHD schooling and has continued since. I truly believe the benefits of an ADHD brain far out-weigh any negative impacts. That’s why I’m passionate about being an ADHD Coach and helping other adults learn about their own unique characteristics. Just as spring brings newness of color and life, such self-awareness creates new opportunities, new hopes and dreams. And like I’ve said before, “It’s empowering!”