W hat if ADHD really was a gift but the government insisted that there be a warning label attached to “the gift” much like the warning label on a pack of cigarettes? What would the label say? “Warning: Contents May Cause Explosive Anger” or “Warning: Contents May Cause Sexual Promiscuity” or “Warning: Contents May Cause Self-Destructive Addictive Behaviors.” The problem is that there are so many things that the label could say that, well, you’d have to receive a lot of these gifts in order to go through the whole list. Maybe it makes more sense that the label not be a “label,” that is, not be composed of words but, instead, it should be a universal, easily recognizable symbol.

(Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_hazard)

Everyone recognizes the biohazard symbol and as soon as you see it you know that there’s something dangerous lurking inside. So I began to wonder, what would be the appropriate symbol to place on the Gift of ADHD?

(Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hazard_T.svg)

The Skull and Cross-Bones came to mind since it’s known as a symbol for poison. Children learn at an early age that when you see this symbol it means that there is something very bad inside or that there be pirates a-comin’ their way. In either case, danger lurks ahead. But this didn’t seem quite right to me. Sure, there’s nothing good to be said about ADHD but labeling it a pure poison wasn’t quite right. This symbol did not take into account the fluidity of ADHD, the way the ADHDer can go from angel to demon and back again.

(Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/77/Waveforms.svg/500px-Waveforms.svg.png)

A sine wave, or perhaps some form of wave, might be a better symbol for ADHD. It takes into account the passage of time while changing its shape over time. Its polarity changes from negative to positive and back again. But which waveform should be used? The sine wave is too smooth and could not account for split-second changes from happy (or indifferent) to angry. Maybe the sawtooth is the right one but then it assumes a smooth ascent and rapid drop. Maybe the square? Maybe all of the waves at the same time? That could be confusing.

(Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7c/Yin_and_Yang.svg/200px-Yin_and_Yang.svg.png)

The yin yang seemed like the most obvious candidate. According to Wikipedia, “Yin yang are not opposing forces (dualities), but complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects as light cannot exist without darkness and vice-versa, but either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in particular objects, and may ebb or flow over time.” This makes sense. As any ADHDer can attest, ADHD feels like different forces inside vying for control and dominance and, as noted by the dots, when one force is dominant the other is still present. Still I felt that something was missing. Where was the poisonous aspect of ADHD? After following this line of thought I hit on my “Aha!” moment.

My proposed warning label for the Gift of ADHD

(Yin Yang Skull image source: http://www.clker.com/clipart-141165.html)


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  • Katy R.

    Ha…if it really was a gift then I guess I wouldn’t be very gifted…there really is a spectrum and I have the feeling I’m a little less “gifted” than some others. Years ago I worked at a tutoring center where one of our students was a sweet little boy who was very seriously ADHD-gifted. He was so hyperactive that it was nearly impossible for him to sit still long enough, or hold his thoughts still long enough to learn to read…he was supposed to be going into the 3rd grade and could not read. He was more than the reading specialists at school could deal with so…here he was at a for-profit tutoring center that his mother struggled to pay for, but she refused to give up on him. His tutors at last did begin to make progress with him, probably because we were only working with 2-3 students at a time, instead of a whole classroom. He needed patient and repetitive practice…the day it paid off we all nearly burst with excitement, hearing those first words come out of his mouth was amazing…and when his mother arrived she was told to wait and watch from the hallway…I could see her around the corner as he read the words and she began to cry. When she came in the room he thought he was in trouble because she was crying, and he was probably used to being in trouble at school all the time. She told him how happy she was, of course, and it was like his soul lit from the inside and radiated out as he smiled. In a universe where ADHD was a gift, this child truly would have been “gifted”. In the world we truly live in, he will struggle, but I hope he had more people in his life, like his mom, and his tutor who could take the time to help him unwrap more real gifts ;)

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      That’s truly an inspiring story. And my ADHD “giftedness” also waxes and wanes. (And here I am replying to your comment instead of making money!)

  • Mrgrtmc

    Thanks, Jeff. I laughed out loud. I really needed that today.

  • Jumpeight

    Wow-takes a lot of energy to be that negative …hope you didn’t write that on a good day!

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      I think you are conflating “being negative” with “being pessimistic” because being negative, to me, means being realistic, it means being faithful to the lived experience, it means acknowledging what should be obvious to all. If “being negative” becomes the sole purpose of one’s life, now you are moving into the realm of pessimism. But to acknowledge that the ADHD life is a set of struggles and triumphs is to acknowledge the reality of life. Almost all of my output on my blog is meant to be an acknowledgement and externalization of the struggles of the ADHD life so that it does *not* turn into pessimism. Interestingly, I find that “being negative” does not take a lot of energy. It is liberating. It acknowledges the struggles and allows for a creative outlet for those struggles so that they don’t eat me up inside. It allows me and others to laugh at those struggles so that we can then go on and do those other things in life that we enjoy.

      So..uh…you didn’t find the post funny, eh? ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Hutson/100000576144521 Scott Hutson

    Hmmmm, a warning label attached to “the gift” much like the warning label on a pack of cigarettes? Maybe >Quitting Believing that ADHD is a Gift Now will Greatly Reduce  Delusional Thinking*<

    *(will not stop it! will only reduce delusional thinking if you have ADHD)


  • Momsolo99

    Do you yourself actually have ADD/ ADHD?
    If so, how can you say there’s nothing good about it?
    I’m NEVER bored, even when (especially when!) I’m alone. I’m really smart and get to help people with that smartness. I also make them laugh with my quick wit.
    I have lots of hobbies, some of which save me money, and even make money for me. I’m creative, optimistic, and resourceful. I’m also easily frustrated (to tears, not anger,) I forget to pay bills, and I’m late to work and to church quite frequently. ADD/ADHD IS A JOY AND A BURDEN. No poison inside ME!

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      I like to use the “gravity” analogy concerning the gift of ADHD. Gravity works whether we believe in it or not. If ADHD was a gift, was a source of creativity, then it would perform its magic whether we believe in it or not. Unfortunately, what we see is that some people, who are already creative, happen to have ADHD. I’m one of them and so are you. But those sitting in prison who have ADHD…how come the gift doesn’t work for them? Gravity does so why not the creative powers of ADHD?

      You might want to take a look at this post: http://jeffsaddmind.com/time-to-grow-up-9376.htm

      • Momsolo99

        I think you focus on the very real disadvantages, while I focus on the neuropsychologically documented advantages. The ADD brain enjoys superior processing speeds, Which facilitates creativity. There is no guarantee that it will be used for good; I have had lots of ideas and curiosities that would have landed me in jail, had I pursued them – had the terrible Impulsivity won out…
        My brain is definitely flawed, mis-wired; but I would not trade it for dullness.

        • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

          “neuropsychologically documented advantages” – There’s anecdotal data but no scientific data. However, please do share any links you might have to such data. I’d be very interested in reading it. It would put this issue to rest once and for all.

          “The ADD brain enjoys superior processing speeds, Which facilitates creativity.” – If you are already creative, then, maybe the ADD brain provides something of a smidgeon of an advantage. The major problem is that you cannot separate these two things and, therefore, you can’t really draw any conclusions as to what is causing what. There is something going on between the two but I haven’t quite put my finger on it. And as you pointed out, you can have lots of ideas and, well, ignoring the illegal ideas for the moment, if you have a lot of ideas but you can’t pay attention long enough to do develop them…what good are they? It’s like having a hundred plant seeds but you can’t pay attention long enough to plant any of them (or maybe only a bare handful at best) so…of what good is it to have an abundance?

        • Scott Hutson

          I’m also quite interested in your ” neuropsychologically documented advantages” claims. Mainly because my ADHD diagnoses came via a Neuropsychological Evaluation done by a real Neuropsychologist.

           Here’s some of the “gifts” that the real evidence(I’m holding this in my hand right now..btw) that a Documented Neuropsychological Evaluation finds> “Evidence of impulsivity and vigilance limitations,resulting in a response profile that corresponded most closely to patients with ADHD, suggesting a clinically significant attentional problem.”

          I haven’t had this varnished yet because I’m waiting for advantages to kick in that will cure my vigilance limitations. ;)

  • Momsolo99

    Ahhh… okay, I get it now. I was thrown to this entry from another website and had never read anything else you’ve written. I also easily pit on the defensive! :-) Sorry!

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      No problem. Believe me…I can be like a pit bull…at times. One question: what website is linking to this post? Just wondering.

  • supermedic

    this sign makes perfect freaking sense. perfect. 

  • Jimmyflatbush

    What will DSM-V conjure up as a disorder…lol

    More profits for the drug companies. I hope you understand that you are accomplices to the murder of children who die taking ADHD (what a joke) medications. Your ilk will be dealt with during the upcoming turmoil.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      “More profits for the drug companies. I hope you understand that you are accomplices to the murder of children” – And I hope you know that you aren’t winning any converts to your point of view. Again, if you have a constructive argument to make, then go for it.

      “Your ilk will be dealt with during the upcoming turmoil.” – What “ilk” is that? Male? Brooklyn-born? Bald-headed? 

  • LaurenAshley

    Haha thanks for the perfect symbol- and the refreshing realism.
    I was extremely put off by all the people who commented saying you were to negative or pessimistic. Because although I don’t know the statistics of how ADHD effects each person, I know that I personally haven’t ever stopped struggling long enough to have a “Wow, I’m so glad I have ADHD!” moment.
    So I find it much more encouraging to hear such a realistic viewpoint and be able to remind myself that none of this is my fault, or specific to me. A lot of people go through the same stuff I do, and overcome it.

    (on a odd and somewhat un-related note, I couldn’t figure out how to work the button in the upper right hand corner of area where you type a comment with a star on it, so if the “-2″ shows up as me giving the article “-2″ stars, than just ignore it because I would totally give you 5 if I knew how)

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Lauren, as you’ve probably discovered, there are other websites where you can “learn” that ADHD is a gift from heaven but this isn’t one of those sites. I’ve always taken pride in telling it like it is, providing the unvarnished truth. I struggle with my ADHD every single day. Some days are better than others. If have an internal battle with yourself is some sort of gift, well, my dictionary seems to say otherwise. I try to reduce my ADHD to the level of an annoying mosquito (See: http://jeffsaddmind.com/eff-the-gift-putting-the-gift-of-adult-adhd-in-its-place-8901.htm ) but, I must admit, some days the mosquito is winning.

      And welcome to the blog. There’s tons of stuff here and you’ll find
      that my views have evolved over the years. (I’ve entered “year six” of

  • V

    Personally, i came to this idea without ever hearing of any book that says so. I have struggled all my life with ADHD and only recently realised I have it(I was diagnosed once as a child and not told about it). There are days when I fidget and blurt out things impulsively and even zone out in the middle of class without meaning to. Lot of people consider me strange. But the one icing on the cake is despite the fact that I have to teach myself the simplest things from scratch, I can at least say I’m better than most at understanding and retaining what I do learn. I’ve just realised that, gift or curse, it’s a part of you that makes you different and you just gotta accept it and do what’s necessary.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      “I’ve just realised that, gift or curse, it’s a part of you that makes
      you different and you just gotta accept it and do what’s necessary.” – Bingo!! And you didn’t have to write over 380 posts just to come to this conclusion! (See: http://jeffsaddmind.com/how-to-cure-adhd-in-just-380-easy-blog-posts-9498.htm )

      And welcome to the blog!

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