Is Being Normal a Disadvantage in Life?
There is evidence that conditions like ADHD are an advantage in many fields.
Posted Sep 08, 2015
A while ago one of my most successful design students was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I teach art and design at a number of universities and ADHD is not uncommon. The student was put on a course of medication. It calmed them. They were more organized and at last they finished projects on time.
There was a downside. The quality of their work plummeted. It became bland, predictable and lacked the quirkiness and unusual ideas it had shown before. Their personality was subdued but gone were the qualities that made their work unique.
The bad aspects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder get a lot of attention. People with ADHD are described as "sufferers" and it is usually controlled or managed with medication. For what purpose? To make them fit in and conform to the conventional standards that society approves of?
As a lecturer at art colleges, I meet many students with ADHD. In the field of creativity, ADHD can be an attribute, not a disadvantage. In my new book "The Art of Creative Thinking," I go into greater detail about the many ways that creative people have transformed traits like ADHD into an attribute. Society views ADHD as a disadvantage, but it can be a beneficial trait.
"Adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking … and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD." This was the finding of psychologists Holly A. White from the University of Memphis and Priti Shah of the University of Michigan. Their study focused on the links between ADHD and creativity.
As a university tutor I try to get students to use and exploit whatever is different about them and makes them unique. That makes their work unique. Can't focus on one subject for long periods? That's good because a constantly distracted mind that jumps from one subject to the next is also a mind that’s mixing different ideas together. In fields like architecture, engineering, writing, marketing or the visual or performing arts, that way of thinking can be a huge asset. Someone with ADHD may appear confused and forgetful in ordinary life, but in the creative arena their ideas are often unique and original.
People rarely consider the benefits of ADHD. The ADHD mind is wired for creativity. If you are interested in thinking more creatively, it’s worthwhile trying to copy the way the ADHD mind works. My task at colleges is to teach students to think divergently and those with ADHD are naturals. Creativity is having the ability to see disparate pieces of information and bring them together in a new way. For a glimpse into the mind of someone with ADHD look at the sketchbooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. His mind darts across several subjects on one page. That enables an idea from one field to feed into another.
My student decided to take themselves off their medication. Their creativity, energy level and their sense of self rocketed. Perhaps people without ADHD should be given a drug to make them behave like people with ADHD?