The idea that ADHD is actually a superpower in disguise is a common trope. Google “ADHD superpower” and you’ll find literally hundreds of articles and blog posts online about how ADHD might actually be a hidden superpower.
There’s a reason this narrative is popular. First, if you’re like me, you naturally find the idea that you might have a superpower appealing. Who wouldn’t want a superpower?
Second, if you’re trying to make a name for yourself as an ADHD “expert” – for example, someone who writes about ADHD or coaches people with ADHD – the superpower angle is a good pitch. “You might think you have a psychiatric disorder, but buy my book and you’ll discover that you actually have a superpower.“
But if ADHD is a superpower, it’s really not the coolest superpower there is. When you ask people what superpower they’d like to have, no one ever says “ADHD.”
And as much as I love my fellow ADHDers, I’ll admit it: if I had to choose a superhero to protect me, I’d probably choose the guy with x-ray vision over the guy who can’t remember whether he took his meds already today.
Now, I do understand where the “ADHD as a superpower” idea is coming from.
It’s true that people with ADHD can thrive in the right environment. It’s true that when people with ADHD find things they’re passionate about, they can approach these things with an exceptional amount of energy and focus. It’s even true that ADHD in conjunction with other personal characteristics can give people a unique perspective and certain positive traits that might be different if they didn’t have ADHD.
But superpowers? Don’t you think that’s overstating the case a little?
I get that some people find the ADHD as a superpower narrative helpful. If you’re one of those people, more power to you. But personally, I find the idea hard to relate to.
The reality I see is that people with ADHD struggle, and we also have the potential to thrive given the right circumstances, opportunities and coping strategies. We have a lot of factors working against is, but we also have positive traits that can help us make something good out of all this. That doesn’t make us superhuman though – it makes us interestingly human.
Image: Flickr/Thomas Brueckner