Statement 1: If 27% of Americans are Republicans, then all Americans are Republican. [note 1]

Statement 2: If 73% of ADHDers get high scores on tests of creativity, then all ADHDers are creative people.

I’m sure that many of you can see the logical flaw in Statement 1. You cannot make a generalization about an entire group based on the characteristics of a subgroup. And I am sure that some of you agree with Statement 2. That second statement is based on a study highlighted in a recent newsletter from Dr. David Rabiner. In that study, 60 college students, 30 of whom were ADHD, were given tests of creativity, such as the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults and the FourSight Thinking Profile. It was found that “ADHD is associated with enhanced creativity in young adults.” In fact, Dr. Rabiner notes, this study suggests that “people with ADHD may actually produce more creative work.” Some within the ADHD universe were not surprised by this finding. “Creativity is never a problem to us,” said one ADHDer. Another pointed out that “[V]irtually every fiction writer (and musician, photographer, and artist) is obviously ADD, at least to some extent.” [note 2] There is, of course, a glaring problem with any generalizations based on this study. It used college students for its sample of ADHDers. College students with ADHD do not represent 73% of the ADHD population (I made up that number), but only 21% and, of those, only 9.1% are likely to graduate. [note 3] To generalize about most (or all) ADHDers based on the abilities of 21% of the ADHD population is as foolhardy as generalizing about all Americans based on the party affiliation of 27% of Americans.

The Crux of the Problem

ADHDers know deep down that what they have is no gift or magical power but is, in actuality, a curse. ADHD is a mental funhouse mirror that distorts the socially constructed reality and tears apart the fabric of selfhood and sense of being. ADHDers know this — explicitly or implicitly — and, quite understandably, cannot live with the pain of this knowledge. Instead of confronting the reality, some create an alternate reality where ADHD is a blessing. They seek out like-minded ADHDers to reinforce this reality even though they know it is a lie. But they so want it to be true. They want confirmation that ADHD confers magical powers and makes the ADHDer, not just different from others but, in some measurable way, better than others. So it is not surprising that those who live the lie would become excited by a study that supposedly “proves” that it is not a lie.

Imagine a different scenario. Imagine a group of short people telling themselves, and others, that they are tall. Of course, it is obvious to everyone that they are short — even to themselves. But that does not matter. They believe they are tall and they will only speak to other short people who also believe they are tall. Some are not satisfied with this alternate reality and invent a new race of people, a hitherto unknown race where everyone who is short is “in actuality” a tall person. This, of course, is ridiculous. If you are short you are short. You cannot pretend otherwise and convincing the world you are tall does not alter the reality. Instead, you learn to accept your stature and learn how to survive and even thrive despite your height challenges. You focus on your strengths, your talents, and learn how to develop them and, if your height issues interfere with your talents, you learn how to compensate for that, how to work around them. [note 4] The very same idea applies to ADHD. You accept the reality of what you are. You make peace with it. You don’t redefine it or redefine reality. You say, “Yes, I am ADHD” and then you move on. You figure out how to survive, and even thrive, despite your challenges. You seek out ways to compensate for the problems caused by ADHD. You remain rooted, as best as you can, within the reality-based world. Of course you are still free to engage in fantasy but save that for your bed-time reading or Xbox. ADHD is serious business. Take it seriously.

| ********** //\\ ********** |

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” – Jack London


  1. Source: Record-High 40% of Americans Identify as Independents in ’11
  2. Additional unbiased comments can be found here
  3. Source: University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
  4. Isn’t the common kitchen stepladder an accepted way for short people to reach the top shelf in their kitchen cabinets? Even if they convinced themselves that they are tall, they still cannot reach the top shelf without that ladder.
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  • Anonymous

    Good post Jeff.

    Even if “adders” do have more ideas, let’s face it, we suck at execution. We can’t plan a project. If we do plan it, we lose the plans, and, as all our coworkers, friends, and family know, we can’t meet deadlines–don’t even asked how many times the electric company cut my power before I moved in with my wife because I didn’t pay the bills on time.

    So even if these college students did score higher, let’s compare their idea implementation to some hyper-organized, anal-retentive type A “normal” brained person. There’s a reason why only two ADHD afflicted individuals were the head of major companies–you know, the Jet Blue and Kinkos dudes that are touted out as proof of ADHD’s special properties.

    I agree with you that ADHD is an affliction rather than the gift. What I find disturbing is the number of people with ADHD that say, “Wow, I got a gift!” and then, buying into that paradigm, still find their lives suck and find one more reason to think they can’t measure up because their gift isn’t manifesting the life they want. I really believe that the gift myth is inflicting mental anguish.


    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      If the majority of creative people really did have ADHD, there would be no paintings, no novels, no movies, nothing. They’d never finish it.
      “we suck at execution” – This reminds me of my favorite joke (warning! dark humor!) about committing suicide. I put it down in my calendar but I forget to look at my calendar. I finally remember the day for my suicide but then realize, “This gun is dirty. I should take it apart and clean it.” By the time I get the gun all clean and back together, it’s dinner time and, well, I don’t want to kill myself in front of the kids so I just schedule it for another day…but I forget to put it in my calendar. I think you see the pattern.

      I wrote a post about the dangers of buying into the mythology. See:

      “how many times the electric company cut my power” – One day I’ll tally up all my telephone “reconnect” charges.  

  • Anonymous

    Just another example of what I have learned…. ”They seek out like-minded ADHDers to reinforce this reality even though they know it is a lie. But they so want it to be true.”

     Been there, done that myself. It did feel great to think I was blessed with a special ability to be more creative than the average person. But I found out it feels even better to realize that I am not blessed with any special ability caused by a mental disorder. I know that sounds kinda strange that I feel that way. But the way I look at it is, now that I know the hard facts that ADHD is not something I can use to be better at doing things. I can find more pleasure in achieving realistic small goals, despite the mental disorder that I have.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, If Dr. Rabiner had used you,me and everyone that comes here to Jeff’s ADD Mind in a study. The world would have proof that all ADHDers are extremely more attractive,much more intelligent,quick witted,modest,humble and smell better than normal people. ;)

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      “smell better than normal people.” – Oh yeah…I’m sure we’ll pass the “smell” test. Hahahaha!

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