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ADD/ADHD and Creativity

In the documentary “ADD & Loving it?!”, host and actor Patrick McKenna notes that Hollywood (and by extension, the arts in general) is one place that unusual, even eccentric, people – many with ADHD, like himself – can be accepted and creative.

Lists of prominent creative people who show trademark signs of ADHD include Ansel Adams, Anne Bancroft, Beethoven, Hans Christian Anderson, Lewis Carroll, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, Cher, Thomas Edison, Robin Williams, Henry Winkler, Stevie Wonder, and many others. [From the LifeTips site.]

“In the midst of all the chaos in your mind, and all of the disorganization, and all the trouble getting started, and procrastination, your brain just thinks a little bit differently. And you can come up with things.”

That quote is by David Neeleman, former CEO of Jet Blue Airways. In 2000, he disclosed to CNN that he has ADD / Adult attention-deficit disorder.

[Wikipedia page.]

But that page also quotes Edward M. Hallowell [author of the book Driven To Distraction] on the downside of the “hyperactive” aspect:

“It’s like being super-charged all the time. You get one idea and you have to act on it, and then, what do you know, but you’ve got another idea before you’ve finished up with the first one, and so you go for that one, but of course a third idea intercepts the second, and you just have to follow that one, and pretty soon people are calling you disorganized and impulsive and all sorts of impolite words that miss the point completely.

“Because you’re trying really hard. It’s just that you have all these invisible vectors pulling you this way and that, which makes it really hard to stay on task.”

Stephanie S. Tolan, co-author of the book “Guiding the Gifted Child,” comments in the article Are you ADD — or just gifted? that “ADD is now the current ‘in’ thing to be as an adult…Very many creative people go around now announcing they are ADD. I could announce that I am, too. But I happen to know that I’m not; I’m just highly creative.”

For those who really do have a learning disorder such as ADD, there may be an increased risk for drug abuse, along with other – often very severe – challenges.

In addition to strong medications to treat ADD/ADHD, there are alternatives such as herbal supplements that can help manage the disruptive aspects – see the articles ADHD Natural Remedies, and Diagnosing ADHD in Adults, for example.

As I noted in an earlier post, there is also the issue of wrong evaluation.

In his article Mis-Diagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children, James T. Webb, Ph.D. notes, “Many gifted and talented children (and adults) are being mis-diagnosed by psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, and other health care professionals” as having ADHD, OCD, Mood Disorders and other conditions.

Canadian physician and author of Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It, Gabor Maté thinks ADD treatment with medication alone is a serious issue.

“What we’re doing is we’re correcting a massive social problem that has to do with disconnection in a society and the loss of nurturing, non-stressed parenting, and we’re replacing that chemically. Now, the drugs—the stimulant drugs do seem to work, and a lot of kids are helped by it. The problem is not so much whether they should be used or not; the problem is that 80 percent of the time a kid is prescribed a medication, that’s all that happens. Nobody talks to the family about the family environment.”

[From transcript for Democracy Now radio program (audio & video): Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood.]
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The image is from the book Adult AD/HD.

ADD & Loving it?! documentary trailer and more info on ADD – see the site

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) Test (on Psych Central)

ADD/ADHD and Creativity

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2010). ADD/ADHD and Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Dec 2010
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