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Famous ADHD ers – or Not

Jesus had ADHD
Photo © Zoë Kessler 2005

When I first started searching for information about ADHD, I came across a curious website that claimed all kinds of celebrities as having ADD / ADHD.  Perhaps you’ve seen it:

There’s another one that is just as ludicrous here: I’ve tried to contact “Dr. Jerry,” the host of the latter site, to ask how many of the famous people listed have actually received a formal diagnosis, but so far, I’ve received no answer. Quelle surprise.

ADHD diagnosis?

The catch is, how can we know any of these people actually have ADD or not? I mean, do we really have access to the private health records of Abraham Lincoln? Did they even diagnose for ADHD back then?

As someone taking a serious interest in understanding ADHD, I take issue with an apparently random list of individuals who share seemingly positive qualities and achievements being thrown together and blanketed with the term ADHD, with no actual evidence in sight to prove that any of them have in fact received a bona fide diagnosis.

Famous ADHD ers wanted: dead or alive!

I would suggest that, in lieu of an actual public admission of having been diagnosed with ADHD (tough for a lot of these characters, unless we hold a séance to speak with them from beyond the grave…) we’re on shaky ground representing them as having ADHD.

Even if we can’t get ‘em to ‘fess up to having it, we could access their health records, except of course these are protected by privacy laws, and even if they weren’t, as I said, it’s highly unlikely that ADHD would be diagnosed in Beethoven’s, Bell’s, or Byrd’s day. Therefore it’s near impossible to determine who has, and who has not, received, or been eligible to receive, diagnosis. It goes without saying that all our convenient handy-dandy online questionnaires were unavailable back then, when goose feather pens, not Google search engines, were de rigueur.

Does fame substitute for facts?

While tons of creative, successful people may share many ADHD traits, please, let’s make the distinction between those who have been diagnosed, and those who have not.

It’s important for many reasons.

First, out of respect for the individuals themselves. Many cited in the Famous ADHDers page are public figures who suffer much speculation, gossip and misinformation already. How fair is it to lump them in with a group that they may or may not want to be associated with, and, most importantly, to whom they may or may not even legitimately claim membership?

Second, as a writer specializing in ADHD (and an ADHD er myself), one of my most important goals is to delineate what it is and isn’t. As such, I’m wary that by painting any creative, successful individual with the brush of ADHD we blur the lines, confuse the public, and detract from, rather than add to, knowledge and understanding of this specific neurobiological condition.

What is ADHD?

While we may not have a definitive answer to the question, What the !#@(!?  Is ADHD?, we at least know that it is a specific collection of traits and behaviors (sometimes referred to as a “syndrome”) which together are diagnosable by experts. We also know that many individuals take medication, receive counseling, coaching, etc., to treat this condition. Lumping your favorite actor-crush in with a group of fictitious ADHDers, while it might make you feel closer to your crush and also make you think you’re more dateable for them, is nothing short of fantasy and certainly does nothing to clear up the multitudinous misinformation regarding ADHD.

Truth or fiction?

Finally, as a professional journalist since 1985, I hold fact-checking and accuracy as sacred. People who honor me with their stories entrust me to quote and portray them accurately, and I have never betrayed that trust. On this count alone, I find the “Famous ADHDers” site offensive in its lackadaisical approach to a little thing I like to call, “facts.”

As a journalist, I’m aware that it’s not only unethical, it may actually be litigious if I inaccurately portray someone as an alcoholic, criminal, as having a mental health issue, etc. – when they don’t. If the “Famous People with ADHD” site had done its fact-checking, and stated that on the site, that would be one thing; to refer to these people as bona fide examples of ADHD ers, rather than clearly stating that they merely display typical ADHD traits is misleading at best, unethical and possibly slanderous at worst.

This just in: God has ADHD! (and so does his kid…)

On the other hand – and let’s be balanced here – I can understand why throwing in your favorite rock star /politician / blonde bombshell as an ADHD compatriot might be tempting.

Ah, what the hell, while we’re at it –

I have it on good authority that God has ADHD. (And so, for that matter, did his kid).

Let’s examine the evidence:

God hyperfocused and created the entire friggin’ universe in like, what, a few days?!

His mood swings were so bad he got angry and created a flash flood!

His kid (who obviously inherited the ADHD from Dad’s side), got in trouble with the law following life as a rebel, running amok with a gang of radical antidisestablishmentarians, loose women and ruffians who impulsively destroyed property and self-medicated with vats of wine which they created out of water when the grape ran out.

Jesus was a classic outside-the-box thinker with a high IQ (philosopher), a flair for drama (public orator who roused the masses), and probably an HSP to boot (I mean, why else would he go around being nice to all the losers and lepers that no one else would give the time of day to?)

Then again, if God really were ADD, and we were all created in his image, why would ADHD only be in 4.7% of the adult population? Oh ya, I forgot, we all have it…right…

For excellent counter-points to the “anyone who has ever achieved wild success in any field whatsoever must have had ADHD” argument, I encourage you to visit these posts from a blog called, Jeff’s ADD Mind – If A.D.D. Is A Gift…Can I Return It For Something Else?

Famous ADHD ers – or Not

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2010). Famous ADHD ers – or Not. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 15 Jun 2010
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