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Are You a High Performing Professional Struggling With ADHD?

How you can thrive in a high-profile career, even with ADHD.

Key points

  • What is adult ADHD and how does it manifest in your life?
  • Even very highly intelligent people experience ADHD.
  • How ADHD is treated is determined by an individual's needs and circumstances.

Particularly grueling fields such as law or medicine challenge even the most dedicated of students, but if you struggle with ADD or ADHD, your ADHD can work against you and drastically hamper your potential for success. Some high-performing professionals struggle with ADD-ADHD even as they notch up impressive professional and academic accomplishments. If this describes you, you are probably more worn out than you should be and are likely to experience problems maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Having an attention deficit disorder does not preclude you from entering any particular field of expertise or having a fulfilling career. But ADHD invariably makes it that much more challenging to achieve significant professional goals, maintain the level of focus to succeed, and avoid burnout in the process.

Alexey Malashkevich on Bigstock
With the right support, you can thrive in a high-profile career even with ADHD.
Source: Alexey Malashkevich on Bigstock

You can succeed with ADHD. Getting the support and skills to recognize, understand, and manage your ADHD are key to your success.

ADHD is not linked to intelligence

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have no direct correlation with levels of intelligence. Very highly intelligent people can struggle with ADHD just like anyone else. In fact, having a high IQ may even mask ADHD, as a person with increased intelligence may develop ways to compensate that can delay the diagnosis of ADHD.

A person with increased intelligence can struggle with ADHD, without realizing it for years or even decades. The result can include impairment of your day-to-day functioning, damage to professional success, and a negative impact on your relationship. A psychiatrist who works with adult ADHD can help you get the right diagnosis. Treatment can help you achieve greater success, improved emotional health, and even improved physical health.

What is adult ADHD and how does it manifest in your life?

ADHD is a condition characterized by an inability to concentrate and remain focused for the time required to function effectively in everyday life. Adult ADHD makes planning and time management more difficult. You may find it more difficult to develop routines, stay organized, and control your impulses. You also may find yourself beginning a task, being interrupted by a second task, or even a third task, and completely losing track or forgetting about the first task. So-called “multitasking” can be extremely difficult and tiring. Taken together, these difficulties in executive function can damage your academic performance and your career.

ADHD and academic success

While you might be able to navigate a somewhat chaotic home life, ADHD makes academic success really difficult. If the reality of starting your assignments on time and maintaining the requisite focus enough to stay on track for on-time delivery is challenging, you might well be struggling with ADD or ADHD.

For a certain period of time, you might have been able to persevere with sheer grit and determination through a demanding educational curriculum to earn a degree and even academic recognition. However, even if you’ve always been a high achiever, you might have noticed that as the demands on your time increased, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the academic standards that you aspire to.

ADHD hampers professional success

You might have achieved high academic standards of excellence in school through a combination of intelligence and a reasonable amount of effort. You might have invested more time than your peers in doing school assignments. But as your professional workload increases and you’re required to meet multiple deadlines, you may feel that you just can’t keep up.

If you often feel that tasks take you longer than is necessary, that you’re easily distracted while trying to get your work done, or that you often switch between tasks, your effectiveness will drop and your productivity will lag. The result is a bit of a domino effect: a regular backlog of work piling up that you’re struggling to keep on top of, and that requires you to juggle ever more tasks.

When you struggle to complete tasks in the time available, subconsciously you will be deterred from initiating new tasks. Your peers and managers will notice that you don’t complete tasks on time or refrain from taking on new responsibilities.

How ADHD is treated

ADHD affects how you behave and how you interact with the outside world. Your brain releases impulses that travel via neurotransmitters and then via nerves to different parts of your body to govern your behavior. Organizing, planning, paying attention, and impulse control are examples of executive functions that are all controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain.

The way that ADHD is treated is determined by the individual needs and circumstances of the person seeking treatment. Treatment for high-performing professionals and students with ADHD often draws from a set of tools that includes psychoeducation, skills development, psychological counseling, and medication.

If you have ADHD, you might have developed certain adaptive behaviors to compensate for difficulties caused by the ADHD. Creativity and resourcefulness can be very helpful, to a point. If you are buckling under the strain of your workload, treading water to maintain the status quo, or feel that the same repeated challenges are inhibiting your professional progress, it might be the time to address the bigger picture of what’s really going on.

© 2022 Dr. Jim Dhrymes. All rights reserved.


Baggio, S., Hasler, R., Deiber, M. P., Heller, P., Buadze, A., Giacomini, V., & Perroud, N. (2020). Associations of executive and functional outcomes with full-score intellectual quotient among ADHD adults. Psychiatry research, 294, 113521.

Milioni, A. L. V., Chaim, T. M., Cavallet, M., de Oliveira, N. M., Annes, M., Dos Santos, B., ... & Cunha, P. J. (2017). High IQ may “mask” the diagnosis of ADHD by compensating for deficits in executive functions in treatment-naïve adults with ADHD. Journal of attention disorders, 21(6), 455-464.

Taylor, C. L., & Zaghi, A. E. (2022). The interplay of ADHD characteristics and executive functioning with the GPA and divergent thinking of engineering students: A conceptual replication and extension. Frontiers in psychology, 13, 937153.

With the right support, you can thrive in a high-profile career even with ADHD. Source: Source: Bigstock With the right support, you can thrive in a high-profile career even with ADHD. Source: Source: Bigstock