You Have A.D.D./A.D.H.D. and You Will NOT Be Rich and Famous

T his is very bad news for those who want to believe that having A.D.D./A.D.H.D. is like having fairy dust with magical powers. Even worse, this is bad news for those who promote this snake-oil nonsense. So what’s the news? Simply stated, there are NO positive aspects of A.D.D./A.D.H.D. That’s right! If you have A.D.D./A.D.H.D. you are screwed. Get used to it. Learn to live it. Learn how to create a decent life for yourself despite having “the scourge.”  

The authors of ADHD in Adults: What The Science Says note that there are those who “claim that adults with ADHD are more intelligent, more creative, more ‘lateral’ in their thinking, more optimistic, more entrepreneurial, and better able to handle crises than those without the disorder. Similar advocates of adult ADHD have gone so far as to assert that the disorder conveys some positive benefit. [...] none of these claims have any scientific support at this time.” They go on to note that research looking at adults with ADHD and at longitudinal studies that follow children into adulthood “provid[e] no support for the view that ADHD produces positive benefits in adults with the disorder.” (pg. 2)

Let’s make sure we understand their point – there are NO positive benefits to having A.D.H.D. Anyone who says otherwise is full of beans and is simply trying to sell books/CDs/seminar tickets/subscriptions and other products. The carnival barkers who shout “A.D.H.D. Is A Gift From God” may have good intentions. However, by dispensing this poppycock as “science,” they are deceiving the public and their intended audience – adult A.D.H.D.ers and parents of A.D.H.D.ers. (One might also say they are deceiving themselves!) Further, they are doing their audience a great disservice and, in fact, are setting them up for failure and heartbreaking disappointment.

{ ===== //\ ===== }

Imagine that you have a child born with a severe leg muscle atrophy. Your child may learn to crawl but never walk. What would you say to a doctor that tells you, “That leg muscle atrophy is the greatest thing. It’s like a gift waiting to be unwrapped!” Would you rap the doctor across the face? Would you ask if he received his medical diploma in a Cracker Jacks box? Would you get angry because the doctor is minimizing the severity of the problem? So, what would you say to a doctor who lists all of the “problems” associated with Adult A.D.H.D. while, at another time, tells you it is a gift waiting to be unwrapped?

{ ===== //\ ===== }

Dr. Hallowell lists the following “magical” properties of Adult A.D.H.D. I wonder how any of these things confer special benefits:

  • A sense of underachievement, of not meeting one’s goals (regardless of how much one has actually accomplished).
  • Difficulty getting organized.
  • Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started.
  • Many projects going simultaneously; trouble with follow through.
  • A tendency to say what comes to mind without necessarily considering the timing or appropriateness of the remark.
  • A frequent search for high stimulation.
  • An intolerance of boredom.
  • Easy distractibility;
  • Often creative, intuitive, highly intelligent [See note below] [note 1]
  • Trouble in going through established channels and following “proper” procedure.
  • Impatient; low tolerance of frustration.
  • Impulsive, either verbally or in action, as an impulsive spending of money.
  • Changing plans, enacting new schemes or career plans and the like; hot-tempered.
  • A tendency to worry needlessly, endlessly; a tendency to scan the horizon looking for something to worry about, alternating with attention to or disregard for actual dangers.
  • A sense of insecurity.
  • Mood swings, mood lability, especially when disengaged from a person or a project.
  • Physical or cognitive restlessness.
  • A tendency toward addictive behavior.
  • Chronic problems with self-esteem.
  • Inaccurate self-observation.
  • Family history of AD/HD or manic depressive illness or depression or substance abuse or other disorders of impulse control or mood.

  1. Interesting how this one slipped in here…as if one was the “cause” of the other. Let’s start singing: “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things, doesn’t belong.”
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  • Justice

    I have this
    disorder. Take 40mg of amphetamines salts per day.

    It’s not just the symptoms that are mentioned that give people with adhd all
    the difficulty. A new ADHD college graduate attempting to get his first job
    runs into problems. The drug test for a job passes with a conditional pass in
    some states. This can give an employer the right to ask why in some instances.
    Unless you work for a Union you are working as an employee at will. The
    employer can refuse to hire you and does not need a reason to give you and he
    could lie and say I found someone better. Now being your first job the employer
    know you don’t have the money or resources to hire you an attorney.

    If you do get a job, Human Resources has to make accommodations because you
    need to take hours off from work to get a prescription script by a doctor
    because it’s a level 2 narcotic. This requires a Doctor’s visit, which is
    usually a 2 hour wait every month. Did I mention most doctors aren’t open after
    common work hours and that some don’t work on Fridays?

    This means there’s not choice but to take hours off from work!

    Did I mention if you worked enough years you’ve lost more pay over hours than a
    woman who’s taken maternity leave twice for two children?

    John Doe don’t have to. He’s normal and if he does get meds he can get them
    filled on Saturday by his family doctor and not miss work hours and pay.

    What happens if you get laid off from work having adhd? Your medication is
    $350+ a month. If your out of medication by the time it takes get interviewed
    for a new job, you’re probably not going to pass because of lack of focus from
    an inability to afford your medications being a new college graduate.

    For people laid off they’re offered insurance like Cobra, but wait a minute
    it’s insurance you have to pay for and it probably costs more than your
    medications do. So buying that would be pretty stupid wouldn’t it?

    Draw unemployment? Wait a minute still not enough to afford my medication, doctors’
    visits, apartment, car insurance, utilities so I have to find work an might not
    in the time my supply of medication runs out!

    While John Doe that was laid off doesn’t have to afford medications so he can
    afford to pay for his assets…nice 52 weeks for him isn’t it?

    Someone with ADHD cannot work at McDonalds and be capable of paying for an
    apartment and affording medication too, let alone the cost of doctors’ visits
    to pick up prescriptions being $150+ without insurance.

    Now you can take all your idiotic biased remarks about ADHD not being a gift.
    It’s a gift of patience we’ve learned that we even have the time to put up with
    malevolent people in this world like whoever posted this!

    Everybody in this world deserves an equal opportunity if they’re willing to do
    it their selves. I would hire someone who is schizophrenic knowing they adhered
    to their treatments for it.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you’ve written. My disagreement is in your use of the word “gift” when you wrote “people with adhd have the gift of establishing coping mechanisms to different environments and situations better than normal people because they practice it more often than not.” I would say that it’s more of a survival skill that we’ve had to use again and again, but I wouldn’t call it a gift. We should also keep in mind that not all ADHDers have this ability. That’s why they tend to have higher drug and alcohol use, depression, suicide, etc.

  • ADHD

    Thanks a lot. Your article made me feel…negative, pessimistic, and just in general, awful about myself. Most people who have ADHD find ways to use it to their advantage. People who have ADHD are often hyper, charismatic, and kind. Those are great traits to have in theatre and it helped me in drama club in high school. Theatre is one of my passions. Many people with ADHD go unnoticed because all the self doubt, insecurity, anger, and sense of underachievement are turned inwards and create depression. They often feel self hate so to make up for it they put on a smile to make others happy so that they feel some sort of confidence and achievement in life. You try living with it for a day and you’ll realize how difficult it is. You would be grateful if someone told you that you can somehow use this disability for the better. To someone with ADHD, any kind of encouragement and hope is extremely beneficial. All your article does is makes someone with this disibility feel even worse about themselves. This disibility drains your selfconfidence down to nothing. You don’t understand…

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Actually, I *do* understand how this disability makes you feel, how it saps your self-confidence, how it kicks you when you are down and kicks you some more. In fact, much of what I have written on this blog affirms this truth about ADHD.

      In response to your comment, I created this podcast. – http://jeffsaddmind.com/what-is-the-plural-of-anecdote-15550.htm – It is not negative or pessimistic. Listen to it. I think you’ll like it.

    • Robin

      Actually, he understands very well.
      And “most” people do not use ADHD to their “advantage”. Consider the much higher rates of: incarceration, drug sbuse, alcoholism, divorce, high school incompletion, antsocial behaviors, DUI offenses…would you like me to continue?

      • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

        Thank you, Robin.

        And you’re correct, re: higher rates of incarceration, etc. There’s a ton of data to support this.

    • Michele N

      He was stating it as it is – just like you did in the second part of your post.

      People succeed in what they do – not because of ADHD but in spite of it.

      • Devon Davis

        actually, I found a scientific study that discovered that the last part of your sentence is not necessarily true; it explains very thoroughly how ADHD has benefits. here’s the link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/02/08/adhds-upside-is-creativity-says-new-study.html

        • Michele N

          The study group was not exactly a diverse example! As stated in the article “However big an upside to ADHD White’s new study reveals, there’s an important caveat to keep in mind. Her subjects—students who have managed to graduate high school, matriculate to a university, and are motivated and organized enough to sign up for a psychology study—are not representative of the typical ADHD trajectory.

          • Devon

            not a diverse example you say? that be true enough, but the point of the link was to prove that ADHD does indeed enhance creativity. it is not a lot, but that is why I think it should be explored a bit more. in a different archive of the study it did say that not being completely focused on something allows for an openness to new ideas that would not have happened otherwise, proving there is a link between ADHD can creativity. that being said, this creativity and out-of-the-box thinking (also found by the study to be true) is nessissery if you were to pursue a path or career in a particular creativity-based field such as acting, film directing, and perhaps being an inventor. one can learn to use the upside of ADHD, it’s possible; and No it won’t work if you just say “oh okay then, I’m gonna be lazy and not work or do anything, then I will do great things” that’s just being ignorant and a smart-ass! it is as simple as ‘what was I thinking about when I was spaced out?’ nobody else thought of whatever it is that was inside your head for that period of time when you where distracted because they were all focused. it’s not nothing, it had to have bin something that you were thinking about. so yes, it Can be used as a tool for an advantage. – so to say that ADHD doesn’t have anything to do with creativity or that people were successful despite of it and not because of it is, excuse my language, Bullshit!

            and by the way: tell Jeff to read that study I gave you a link to.

            • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

              What good is creativity, no matter what its source, if the ADHD prevents you from using it to the fullest extent possible?

              • Devon

                it’s not useless, it’s possible to work with your ADHD and harness it’s creativity. of course, you do have a point in some ways; and it’s all about balance. If you have ADHD really severely and you just let it run free without a care, then sure you’ve got all this creativity etc, but it’s all stuffed inside and not being channeled in any way because you’re not doing anything with it, your just letting take control; that’s like sitting inside a car and just expecting it to start for you. but if you take care of stuff and get done what needs to be done, and still be slightly distractible but not to the point where it hurts you or gets in the way of things, you can find solace and grab that creativity from your ADD/ADHD, and it’s always good if you can put it to good use. I have seen people use their ADHD to be good at things like that before, but for some others it just doesn’t work out In that way, and that’s okay, which proves the next thing that I was about to say: ADHD is different for everyone.
                as far as the “gift” fray goes, much of it is an exaggerated implication that ADHD has upsides being creativity among a couple of other things, it’s like how car commercials exaggerate how cool their supposedly awesome new sports car is; or like how a paintball team projects this image that they are a larger force than they really are. that sports car might not be the fastest, but it’s still a sports car; that paintball team is still a paintball team, just not an army. and ADHD might not be a gift, but the study I provided does show that it can enhance creativity. it’s just the exaggeration is going about it all wrong. they don’t explain the science behind it like this study did.
                if you ever feel like trying the upside because you are curious, you can. you might discover something new, you never know..

    • be nice

      Please see my above response. This guy is full of crap. I am an research psychologist myself, with ADHD, and I will tell you what you already know. Small people are not worth your time, my friend. I’m sorry they ganged up on you.

      • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

        “this guy” – me?

        • ADD Ian

          I haven’t got a clue who “be nice” is referring to either. And who are the “small people”? I’d like to read some of their “psychology research” material as I’m now a tad intrigued!

    • Devon Davis

      next time you come across someone who doesn’t think ADHD has a positive side, just show them this: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/02/08/adhds-upside-is-creativity-says-new-study.html

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  • The Butcher

    Quite frankly you seem to be nothing more than an attention seeker. Your post represents nothing more than opinion which ironically is exactly what you seem to be criticising. As with many other people below I find your comments pointless and thoughtless. If indeed you do suffer from adhd you should know better.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Thank you for weighing in on this discussion. I now know that my comments are, as you put it, “pointless and thoughtless.” In that spirit, consider this to be yet another pointless and thoughtless comment.

      “Quite frankly you seem to be nothing more than an attention seeker.” – I do wonder how you have arrived at this conclusion. If I was truly an attention seeker, I would use the tried-and-true technique known as “blow smoke up your bum.” This entails extolling the joys of ADHD, how it’s magical powers make everyone much better, etc., etc. When that bullsh*t appears on this blog, then you’ll know that I’ve become a true attention seeker.

    • Robin

      I find your comnent thoughtless and pointless.
      And criticizing someone for seeking attention is only giving them more attention.

    • Michele N

      Well…Jeff certainly described it to a T for me!!! It never ceases to amaze me reading ADHD described as a gift. I thought it must’ve been some sort of joke the first time I read about it. Obviously these people can function quite well and have NO idea of what it is like to not function well at all :-( .

      • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

        A bit of critical self-reflection makes it quite obvious that ADHD is no gift.

  • Yukon Cornelius

    Jeff, I just found your website, and what a REFRESHING perspective to
    read that because I’m intelligent, bright, passionate, quick-thinking,
    etc that I shouldn’t expect the world to come to my feet. Yes, I’ve often wondered why can’t I be as successful as Dr. Ned suggests I could be … but rather I
    think it’s far worse because I see ALL the permutations of how to do
    things right & wrong. And when it’s nearly impossible to decide which path is better, maybe I should just give into biological & situational depression, and either hide or find something to give me a temporary dopamine boost, regardless of the consequences?

    I saw you won’t be posting nearly as often, but I’ll definitely be checking back throughout the weeks. Thanks again for being such an eloquent & essential part of our treatment & recovery from this “white elephant gift”. :-)

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      Welcome to my blog!! Of course, it’s great to hear someone refer to it as a “REFRESHING perspective.” My personal mantra, if you could call it that, is that life is too short to have smoke blown up my bum…so give it to me straight. That sums up the guiding principle of this blog…I try to give the unvarnished truth of ADHD.

      “I see ALL the permutations” – Isn’t that the curse of the intelligent ADHDer? (To clarify…the ADHDer who happens to be intelligent…the formal is not causally related to the latter.) To see all possibilities at the same time? (You may want to check out these two posts: http://jeffsaddmind.com/its-all-about-choices-340.htm and this one: http://jeffsaddmind.com/adult-adhd-the-metamorphosis-3446.htm )

      “I saw you won’t be posting nearly as often” – After five or so years and a bit over 500 blog posts, well, one gets a wee bit tired of revisiting the various struggles. I’ll still be looking at various ADHD issues but there’s so much more to life that we can’t spend all of our time engaged in ADHD navel-gazing (“Hey…look at the cool lint I found!! [hehehe]). Of course, for those who are newly-diagnosed, this does not apply. One most know thine enemy. But there does come a point when you want to find out what else there is in life besides stimulants and Omega-3s. ;)

  • Tom

    It’s hard to take this article seriously after reading the title. Yes, ADHD is a hindrance, and while there is no scientific evidence supporting ADHD is a gift, there is no evidence supporting the fact that not one quality of it isn’t. On top of this all, Intelligence and ADHD have absolutely no correlation. A person can have ADHD, if they’re gifted with all intelligence fathomable and they direct this intelligence towards something in life not greatly affected by ADHD, I assure you they could very well end up quite successful in life. Some of your articles are close to hitting the point, but this one isn’t even in the right direction.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      ” there is no scientific evidence supporting ADHD is a gift, there is no
      evidence supporting the fact that not one quality of it isn’t.” – Perhaps I haven’t had enough coffee yet and my brain cells aren’t fully in gear, but it seems there’s something very wrong with this logic. If there is no evidence supporting the ADHD-is-a-gift theory, then there is no evidence supporting it. If you still want to believe that some aspect of ADHD is a gift, then no amount of evidence to the contrary will ever convince you.

      “Some of your articles are close to hitting the point, but this one isn’t even in the right direction.” – Oh well. Maybe ADHD isn’t a gift after all. ;)

  • Steven Osborn

    Publicly Bashing on people with learning disorders. Really??? How socialy smart is that in comparison to someone with ADHD?

  • Roland Denis

    What a load of bunk youre spewing. Stop acting like a victim because your’e setting yourself and others up for failure before you even start. I take 20mg of dexadrine spansules everyday for adult ADHD and I totally disagree with your assertions that it’s a “scourge”. I hold a management position with a major automotive company and the job I have requires outside the box thinking and being able to juggle several projects at the same time and having ADHD has helped me become successful in many area of my job. When I hit roadblocks and the frustration kicks in, I switch gears and work on one of the other projects. Sure, I suffer many of the negative symptoms listed above, but when they show up, I use discipline and deal with them by recognizing it’s my ADHD and I tell myself to refocus and do what i know i should do. I try to let my life control my ADHD instead of the other way around. I used to have financial problems due to spending habits that satisfied the irrational “instant gratification”, but it got me into debt, so i created a budget using excel, and the process of going on my laptop every pay day and punching in the numbers and seeing what money I have left is satisfying in itself and helps me focus my energy and attention better so i spend and save wisely instead. As I said, sure, I could let my ADHD control my life but I always focus on my life controlling the ADHD instead. No, I’m not rich or famous but the positive traits that ADHD is known for have put me in the job I currently do and have made me successful. You can bemoan ADHD, feel sorry for yourself and say that nothing good can come from it, but have you ever tried to control and guide it to positive ends?
    If you think it’s bad and are convinced nothing good comes from it, then that’s the result you will get. If you think you can use your abilities to make a positive difference, than guess what the results will be. Positive.

    Your post sounds like the negative complaining and blaming you hear on Fox News, it may sound like news story with a call to arms, but since it’s Fox, It’s always missing most of the relevant facts.

    As for not becoming rich and famous, I guess it’s a good thing some rich and famous people who admit they have ADHD never read your column because if they did, they’d be nobodies sitting in a corner feeling sorry for themselves.. People like Howie Mandel, Ty Pennington, Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, Kinko’s CEO Paul Orfalea, Jet Blue Airways founder David Neeleman, billionaire Richard Branson, Terry Bradshaw and a host of other rich and famous people.

    ADHD is a gift, but only if you treat it like one. If you treat is like a scourge, well, you reap what you sew.

    • http://jeffsaddmind.com Jeffs ADD Mind

      “When I hit roadblocks and the frustration kicks in, I switch gears and
      work on one of the other projects. Sure, I suffer many of the negative
      symptoms listed above, but when they show up, I use discipline and deal
      with them by recognizing it’s my ADHD and I tell myself to refocus and
      do what i know i should do. I try to let my life control my ADHD instead
      of the other way around.” – That’s great and that’s what you are supposed to do.

      “ADHD is a gift, but only if you treat it like one.” – But that’s not what you said earlier in your comment. You said it’s an impediment and, so, you work around it.

      You are correct to say that focusing on the negative essentially brings out the negative. But that’s not really the point of this post. The point is that your success is not *because of* your ADHD. You are successful *despite* your ADHD. ADHD is not a magic potion. It is not fairy dust. If it had any such ‘magical’ powers, then this would have become evident in longitudinal studies.

      I recommend that you view the second video (from Russell Barkley) who explains, quite nicely, why ADHD is not a gift. See: http://jeffsaddmind.com/positively-honest-view-of-adhd-it-is-not-a-gift-8098.htm

  • Devon
  • Devon

    “no evidence”. oh really, then what’s this?: http://egpnews.com/2011/03/are-adults-with-adhd-more-creative-study-says-yes/

  • Devon Davis
  • Guest

    I want to tell you a few things. To anyone who reads this and says well I guess it’s not a gift. LIES, ADHD has helped me so much more, the sense of underachievement made me extremely persistent. One of the biggest keys to success, secondly all my life I have been more creative then my periors. I also have been told how intell I am and uh if you can’t be successful explain all the CEO’s and billionaires that are ADHD? The matter of the fact is evolution is creating a new gene of people that are more intellectual and are also more creative. Even some of the presidents have had ADHD. Being ADHD is in no doubt a gift. Whoever wrote this obviously doesn’t experience this gift and doesn’t know how amazing it is to be able to manage crunch multiple levels of math in your head.

  • Zachery Fahrny

    I want to tell you a few things. To anyone who reads this and says well I guess it’s not a gift. LIES, ADHD has helped me so much more, the sense of underachievement made me extremely persistent. One of the biggest keys to success, secondly all my life I have been more creative then my periors. I also have been told how much intellect I am and uh if you can’t be successful explain all the CEO’s and billionaires that are ADHD? The matter of the fact is evolution is creating a new gene of people that are more intellectual and are also more creative. Even some of the presidents have had ADHD. Being ADHD is in no doubt a gift. Whoever wrote this obviously doesn’t experience this gift and doesn’t know how amazing it is to be able to manage crunch multiple levels of math in your head. Hyper focus? Not even gonna mention that? You know why your not going to. I have an ability you don’t. I am a writer and when I write I every now and then get so focused I write for hours and hours forget any needs… I don’t feel hunger or tiredness. When I am in my perfect state of mind I can produce so much more.

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