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ADHD a Gift

Is ADHD a gift?

The more ADHD is becoming to be seen as a real issue, the more proponents are trying to convince the general public that it is not a disorder or a deficit of something, but actually a wonderful gift! One can understand the need for acceptance and "not being labelled with a disorder" (everyone wants to be "normal" - whatever normal is). But to advocate for it as being a gift, is in my opinion, not realistic and takes away an opportunity to be recognised as a condition (with medical benefits, work related benefits etc.).

A gift? What gift? adhd funny

I've been struggling with ADHD and the "life skills deficit" (executive functions deficit) for too many years to see that as a real gift. Yes, ADHDers can be very talented people and can achieve greatness, but those achievements are not BECAUSE of ADHD; maybe its more closer to the truth to say, DESPITE ADHD. Look, I know that my impulsiveness and/or hyperactivity, my quick reactions etc. can be beneficial in certain scenarios, like for example an emergency. But that doesn't qualify to label it as a wonderful gift because too many mistakes, broken relationships, bad consequences absolutely contradict that "giftedness".

The gifts commonly attributed to ADD/ADHD are

  • to be able to see the big picture: ADD/ADHD people misses the details but are able to see the bigger picture. This then, is supposed to give us the ability to solve problems.
    It is true that we are able to see the bigger picture, but so can many other non ADD/ADHD people. And that few situations where we see the big picture before everybody else comes so far and in between that the benefits are minor. Actually, couple this with the tendency to blurt out the solution before everybody else had a proper opportunity to look at the problem and consider possible solutions, doesn't make you suddenly the hero. And coupled to the fact that we misses the details, often neutralise this said "gift".
  • Impulsivity: oh, so many wish to have this "gift" react in a split second. The ability to be wild, daring, "out of the box", non-boring. The ability to do ground breaking innovation (
    Again, the amount of time and/or opportunities to be of any help to yourself or others are far less than the amount of time where your impulsivity has cost you more than you wanted! A further problem is that the ADD/ADHDer will "forge ahead" without proper planning and time management, that the disadvantages outweighs the advantages. And ground breaking innovation? By missing the details, not planning and other deficits misses the point completely.
  • And then there are many examples of proof that are given to show how many successful businessmen are ADHD; and inventors, and scientists, and many other know successful people. What about the many successful businessmen that are highly successful not because of ADHD? Did they work harder at it? What about the many ADHDers that are NOT successful?
    I'm not denying the traits, I'm just saying its not BECAUSE of ADHD, its because you were given those qualities and you have been guided and nurtured to use your abilities, whether you are ADD/ADHD or not.

There is NO scientific proof or research that suggests in any way that ADD/ADHD has some special "gift" which makes it a sought after condition (Barkley, 2007). To the contrary! There is real evidence, real scientific research (and real life stories) that shows that adults with ADD/ADHD has difficulty in coping in all of the major life activities, e.g. relationships, marriage, work, daily family life, education etc. (Barkley, R.A. 2007). Barkley (2007) also makes a very valid point by saying: if we try to gain support for ADHD, support in the work place, in relationships counseling, medication etc., we will not convince decision-makers of the need for support, if it is being percieved as " a wonderfull gift".

Carole Jacobs and Isadore Wendel writes: "If you have adult ADHD, you may already have the raw material it takes to gain great fame and wealth." ... And so does many non-ADD/ADHDers also have the quality to greatness. The so called greatness, is not because of ADHD, its a fabric of who you were "made off" and became. It might be qualities inside of you, it might be because of your upbringing, but surely not because of ADD/ADHD. Too many ADD/ADHDers are in jail or failed miserably in life because of ADHD to make it a gift.

Its not as if we're just seeking for the difficulties and the pathological state of being ADHD; it just takes over our life. Its like a form of madness! Jeff writes:

"More and more I’m beginning to see A.D.D. as a mild form of madness: a sort of insanity that never lets up; an internal force that takes over its “victim” and continually haunts. Manifesting itself as a never-ending urge (and yes, sometimes a voice), ... A.D.D. is a form of madness because it is unrelenting, because it does not let go of its victim. However it periodically hides somewhere in the mental cobwebs, fooling us into believing that we have finally gotten it under control. In reality, it lies in wait, watching for the right time to jump out and create havoc. A.D.D. assures that it’s victim’s life will ALWAYS be a series of do-overs, a series of attempts to “get it right,” to try to “do the right thing.” Yes, there are some successes but each success requires a fight, a struggle and, if one keeps a tally, the number of failures probably outweighs the number of successes by 10 to 1."

Don't get me wrong! I'm not pathological negative or depressed. I've enjoyed Tom Hartman's hunter/farmer approach and do, to a certain degree, follow that approach in life. But I'm also very realistic on exactly what we have and how we are coping as adult ADHD's. I'm very realistic of the daily tools I have to employ to make a difference and to rise to the occasion. And I have real evidence proving this. It is true that some of the tools to be successful is to use your ADHD symptoms to your advantage. But it must be coupled with other controlling tools to be beneficial. For example, the so called gift of impulsivity, invention, creativity can be used to your benefit, only if it is controlled by the other tools and skills you've learned to control that creativity in the right direction. Use your impulsivity to avoid boringness, but add proper planning and "thinking" ahead to avoid being in a situation where you stop and ask yourself "how did I get into this - and even worse, how do I get out of this"?

Of course we are destined to greatness....BUT, not because of ADHD, but because we have learned to master the tools and "control" our condition; and mostly, because of the grace of God! Its like living and coping with cancer - its not a gift, its a struggle coping to live with it.


  1. Barkley, R.A., (2007). ADHD: What the science says.
  2. Hartman, T. (1997). Hunter and Farmer
  4. Jacobs, C. & Wendel, I. Tapping into Special ADHD Gifts
  5. Jeffs ADDMind
  6. Serfontein, G (1984). ADD in adults.
  7. Graphic 1 credit
  8. Graphic 2 credit

Thabo Pienaar

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