The Link Between Creativity and ADHD
ADHD can come with many "superpowers," including creativity.
Posted May 9, 2022 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
- Creativity is often a positive characteristic of ADHD.
- Diffuse thinking can be an asset.
- Receiving an ADHD diagnosis can help someone use their creativity to their advantage.
My recently published book Andrews Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain (MSI Press, LLC, 2022) shares my son’s experiences having inattentive-type ADHD, and my insights on parenting an ADHD child. In doing research for the book, I came to discover the hidden benefits associated with my son’s ADHD and how reinforcing those strengths could help him to be successful in all areas of his life. Noted Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Edward (Ned) Hallowell believes ADHD can be a gift, and those with ADHD can be intelligent, creative, imaginative, and thrive when faced with a challenge.
Diffuse Attention is a Good Thing
Ironically, children with ADHD do not have an attention deficit; they pay attention to everything all the time. My son has described his ADHD brain as an overstuffed garbage can—the lid does not stay on, and things are falling out all over the floor.
However, his diffuse attention leads to original and imaginative problem-solving abilities. When my son was in middle school, he was a national finalist in a NASA-sponsored contest about going to Mars. He was able to combine two of his seemingly unrelated interests, origami (the Japanese art of paper folding) and space technologies to design a vehicle to land on the Martian surface.
Children with ADHD may be better at music, art, and computers. Additionally, they may be more inquisitive about how things work and have imaginative ideas about how to solve a problem. For example, when asked to create a new unique toy, children with ADHD were better at generating ideas compared to their non-ADHD peers who were better at developing the idea further. So, the attention-getter for children with ADHD may be the challenge of finding a solution, rather than following through to completion.
My son takes pottery lessons and would much rather put his attention into thinking of and creating a piece on the pottery wheel than glazing, or painting, it. I often get “Mom, you can finish glazing that” because he doesn’t find that part of making a completed pottery piece as challenging, and therefore it does not hold his attention for very long.
Use Your Creativity to Your Advantage
Creativity is often defined as original, divergent thinking, and the ability to combine unrelated ideas for a unique solution to a problem. Creativity has been found to be important in successful job performance, healthy relationships, and careers involving science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and art.
David Neeleman, who started the airline company JetBlue, among others, attributes his success to his ADHD which enables him to be creative and think outside the box. Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin group of companies, views his dyslexia and ADHD as strengths, not weaknesses. Branson’s companies are in more than 30 countries and are worth over five billion dollars. Even my son has been a successful entrepreneur of sorts, starting a jewelry business using his talent at origami and selling his jewelry at a local store in our hometown.
Creativity is one of the superpowers of ADHD, and a lot of human progress has been thanks to “outside-the-box” thinkers.
Abraham, A., Windmann, S., Siefen, R., Daum, I., Güntürkün, O. (2006). Creative thinking in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Child Neuropsychololgy 12(2):111-123.
Fugate, CM., Zentall, SS., Gentry, M. (2013). Creativity and working memory in gifted students with and without characteristics of attention deficit hyperactive disorder: Lifting the mask. Gifted Child Quarterly 57: 234-246.