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Navigating ADHD
with Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC

ADHD Superpowers: It’s All About Context

Though it’s not often regarded in this way, ADHD is, in fact, situational. Many of my clients are quite shocked to hear this but it’s true. That’s not to say that your ADHD comes and goes, but rather the traits associated with ADHD are only problematic when the environment or context is less than ideal.

Scientist and author, John Lubbock, once wrote, “What we do see depends mainly on what we look for”. Given the fact that we tend to think about conditions like ADHD only in terms of dysfunction, it’s not surprising that all we see are challenges, shortcomings, and obstacles.

When you begin to understand the way the ADHD brain is wired and how to identify (and maximize) your unique strengths and abilities, you’ll also discover your ADHD superpowers.

The following is a list of common ADHD-related traits and their associated superpowers…

ADHD Trait: Impulsivity

People with ADHD may be incredibly impulsive, especially when they feel bored or impatient.

They may repeat the same behavior over and over again in hopes of feeling the level of satisfaction they expected but never reach.

This can result in addictive, repetitive actions such as overspending or devoting a great deal of time to watching TV or playing video games.

Superpower: When channeled in a positive way, impulsivity allows for tremendous creativity, spontaneity, and a willingness to try new things.

ADHD Trait: Difficulty processing information and poor judgment

People with ADHD may have a hard time making decisions because they simply cannot remember or think to draw from past experiences when they made similar choices. Instead, they rely on their emotions to help them decide.

As a result, they may agonize over or put off making decisions till the last minute.

Superpower: These individuals tend to be keenly instinctual and are not constrained by the past. They are often able to make gut-level decisions in areas of ability where they feel the strongest.

ADHD Trait: Time insensitivity

Many people with ADHD struggle with time and are unable to accurately determine how long it will take to complete a task. As a result, they are often perpetually early or late.

Superpower: People who experience time insensitivity may also display a great deal of perseverance and will stick to something until they see it through.

They are also often creative daydreamers capable of discovering unique solutions and ideas.

ADHD Trait: Emotional reactivity

People with ADHD may feel emotions so strongly and intensely that they become overwhelming and intimidating.

This can result in angry or emotional outbursts and may get in the way of making decisions or completing tasks.

Superpower: Those who experience intense emotions are also often highly empathic, expressive, playful, and loving.

They may be able to exert great willpower and are often highly motivated when they find the task-at-hand particularly interesting.

ADHD Trait: Environmental hypersensitivity

Some individuals with ADHD are highly sensitive to the world around them.

Temperature, textures, sounds, colors, lights, smells, tags in clothing, the emotions of others, and the energy in a room can complete derail their ability to focus, pay attention, and make decisions.

They may also have difficulty following directions, judging physical distances, and may be clumsy.

Superpower: These highly sensitive individuals may also be incredibly personable, empathic, and charismatic with strong interpersonal boundaries and are committed to self-care.

ADHD Trait: Lack of self-awareness

Many individuals with ADHD have a great deal of difficulty identifying their own behavior patterns and may also be completely unaware of their strengths, talents, passions, and desires.

While they may have a strong desire to succeed, they dread starting new tasks and may experience feelings of shame and confusion due to perceived inadequacies and daily struggles.

Superpower: Though these individuals have a difficult time acknowledging their own strengths, they are often easy-going while also highly driven to succeed, learn, and contribute.

Want to discover your own ADHD superpowers? Start to focus on what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t.

What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What are your talents? When is it easier for you to focus, follow-through, or start tasks? What do your friends, family, and co-workers appreciate about you?

Due to memory-related challenges, it’s often difficult for ADHDers to recall past successes.

A great way to keep track of your wins is to create a success journal that you can refer to. Keeping a written record can not only help you identify your strengths but also which strategies, systems, tools, etc. have worked well for you in the past.

Image: Pixabay/Aitoff

ADHD Superpowers: It’s All About Context

Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC

Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, ACC is a social worker, ADHD consultant, and certified life coach. Her practice, Lotus Life Coaching Services, provides coaching services for adults, youth, and families impacted by ADD/ADHD and executive function challenges.

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APA Reference
van Rikxoort, N. (2019). ADHD Superpowers: It’s All About Context. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Jul 2019
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