ADHD & Creativity

I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2007. At the time I was shocked, angry, relieved and, strangely, comforted, all at once. The older I became, the more miserable the manifestations of ADHD had made my life.

The diagnosis made me angry because I immediately went into victim mode, “Why me?” Why did God curse me with this neurological disorder? Looking back I could see how it had affected my life – and I wasn’t happy. I also wasn’t happy that I wasn’t diagnosed earlier. Wouldn’t the track of my life have gone better if I had been diagnosed and treated?

But, the ADHD diagnosis is fairly new as disorders go. And, within a short time I accepted my condition and actually experienced relief. I wasn’t crazy. There was an explanation for why I did the things I did. I devoured information about the disorder quickly and came to an understanding of why I did the things I did, and how this behavior could be managed. While I still must battle through many aspects of the disorder on a daily basis, it no longer limits me. Don’t let it limit you.

Finally, I embraced the disorder. My psychiatrist told me that the variety of ADHD I possessed was shared by many creative people he treated: artists, poets, writers. This comforted me.

Having always been a creative type, I took great interest in learning how the creative process worked. I read everything I could get my hands on about the psychology of creativity. I talked to fellow artists, writers, entrepreneurs and others whom I considered to be creative.

And so, when I was diagnosed with ADHD, and hearing what my psychiatrist said, I began doing the work to make the connections as to not only “why”, but “how”.

First, the study of creativity is relatively new. There have been a few researchers who have devoted their lives to the subject – and I’ve studied their work. Second, many creative types have written about creativity from a more poetic and less research-oriented perspective. All of this has been useful. But, there has been little or no useful information about the connection between creativity and ADHD – until now.

Professors Holly White and Priti Shah studied 60 Memphis University undergrads, half of whom had ADHD. They discovered that, yes, those with ADHD scored much higher in the areas of “divergent” thinking than those who did not have ADHD. Divergent thinking is the ability to generate spontaneous ideas and/or solutions, many of which seem to come from left field. Divergent thinkers tend to take more risks, seek originality and are more comfortable with ambiguity. Convergent thinkers (opposite of divergent) are often more linear, organized and focused.

While I do not want to get into all of the particulars of the study (after all, it was only 60 college kids), one of the trends the researchers found was that those with ADHD scored much higher in those areas of creativity in which inhibitions are shed. For example, the students with ADHD did better in creative areas like drama and performance than those without ADHD.

Given the “hyperactivity” part of ADHD, this makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? But, it also underscores one of the basic problems in diagnosing ADHD in children.

Boys are three-times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as children than are girls. Why? Because boys tend to exhibit the lack of inhibition in a more in-your-face manner. Girls, on the other hand, tend to exhibit more of the passive traits. While things are beginning to change as we understand more about this disorder, this gives us a clue as to why more and more adult women are being diagnosed with ADHD.

Coming full circle, I want to encourage people with ADHD – whether diagnosed as a child or as an adult – that this “disorder”, if handled the right way, is a blessing and not a curse. That, in fact, you were made perfectly by a perfect Creator.

While I contend that all human beings are Creative Types – those of us with ADHD were specially wired to be creative. There’s a reason that we excel at divergent thinking, and that we do better with shedding inhibitions – we must!

One of the things I really enjoy is public speaking. Several years ago an Ivy League school did a survey on what people were most afraid of – and public speaking trumped dying as a source of fear! With that evidence in hand, why are there crazy people like me who actually enjoy getting in front of people and talking?

Simple. It’s the dopamine hit.

I get just as nervous before giving a talk as anyone else. While I think I do a pretty good job at speaking, there are many many many more who are better at it than me. But, once I get off the stage, I’m buzzing, excited, ready for more. Others might be just glad their time at the podium is over and done, but not me…I want more. I like the neurochemical hit that comes with speaking in front of strangers.

The creative process is a journey into the unknown. That’s exciting. ADHD brains thrive on excitement. Our brains are wired to produce excitement – because our neurology needs the chemical infusion to feel “normal”. That’s why drugs like Ritalin and Aderrall are prescribed – they are amphetamines. They simulate and stimulate.

But, nothing can take the place of the real thing. The problem is, we can’t get enough of the real thing. That’s why so many children are hyperactive, and so many adult ADHDers are depressed. Kids can go and go and go. As adults, we have our place in life and deviation from that place isn’t accepted. Uninhibited behavior is expected of us as children, frowned upon as adults.

That’s why for adults with ADHD, creativity is the best drug. Ordering your life in such a way that you can participate in creative activity daily is important. In fact, I think for ADHDers, being creative is the essence of being alive. God gave us the hardware to create, innovate and produce in ways that “normal” people do not have. The “normies” out there must work much harder at creative pursuits – whereas it comes more naturally for those with ADHD.

That being said, creativity does have a process – and people with ADHD are not as well suited for linear procedures that require high levels of organization and redundant activity. While studies have shown that there is little difference between those with and without ADHD with regards to implementing skills, I can tell you that people with ADHD do have challenges with follow-through, finishing and remaining focused on singular tasks.

For this reason Creative Types must learn, understand and master the actual creative process. Blazing Into the Creative Wilderness provides this guide with practical tips and an honest assessment of what we’re up against.

Research is terrific. It validates much of what we’ve lived through. But, there is no greater teacher than life experience. Unlike our “normal” brothers and sisters, we must master another layer of skills if we are to truly be successful. Mastering the creative process is what we must do.

When we do this, we begin to truly fulfill our true nature.

2 thoughts on “ADHD & Creativity”

  1. Thank you for this amazing website and the intriguing topics! And this ADHD and the Creative types is especially of interest to me. I look forward to more posts on this topic as I believe it is helping me understand me! A little late in life perhaps, but helpful, none the less! 😉

    Eileen

    1. Hi Eileen. Thank you for discovering Blazing Mind! It’s never, ever too late!! My belief is that we are wired the way we are for a reason. And because of that we are blessed. Granted, we may have to approach certain activities differently than “normies”…but, I think being abnormal means that we are capable of great things! After all, it is we Creative Types who move the culture forward! Please keep coming back and encourage other Creative Types to take a look, as well. My goal is to create a community that will lead lives that we love!

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