5 Superpowers of ADHD

First things first: A Caveat.  A Clarification.  A Disclaimer. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is not a gift.   It is not a blessing.   And I’m not suggesting it is wonderful.

Nor am I suggesting you should be envious if you don’t happen to have profound problems with focus, attention, restlessness, follow through, distractions, memory, procrastination, and regulating emotions, etc.

ADHD is considered a Disorder because it can sabotage every area of life, including your career, your marriage, your parenting skills, and your dreams.  It’s that bad.  And every person with ADHD has a unique combination of symptoms and challenges.  Procrastinating, over-committing, impatience, noisy rooms?  Those are challenges for me.

Yes, I know, these are challenges EVERYONE faces in our modern, distraction-filled world.  But for some 4 to 5% of adults, it reaches the point where it causes severe problems.   Bad enough to have us seeking help from a doctor, confused, and asking, “What’s wrong with me?”

OK, ENOUGH DISCLAIMER!

Right.  You’ve been to the doctor and, thankfully, were not misdiagnosed.  That’s good, because once you know what’s going on, it is possible to dramatically reduce the downside of ADHD and learn to handle the challenges.  And then, somewhere along the road, something amazing might happen—you may discover there are things about this “mindset” that you can use to your advantage. At least in certain situations.  (Damn! Another disclaimer!)

WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY!

In no particular order, here are five potential ADHD super-powers.  Use them wisely!

1.  Super In A Crisis

A recent study found that the ADHD brain tends to produce more Theta waves than the brains of average folks.  Theta waves are the ones you produce as you’re nodding off to sleep.  Or listening to your father-in-law share stories about bass fishing.  They indicate a state of deep relaxation.

So when something goes boom!—a disaster, a crisis, or even something thrilling—and most people’s brains overload, ours can jump up to… “normal”.   As one of the Doctors in ADD & Loving It?! says, in a 911 situation, we would turn to “The ADDer”.

Several doctors have told us that they see a lot of ADHD among E.R. doctors and nurses, police officers, fire and rescue personnel, journalists, stock traders, professional athletes, and entertainers.  When others are in crisis, we can be cool, calm and under control.

The downside?  When life is calm and cool and under control, we’re in crisis.  The staff meeting drones on into its second hour and we’re ready to explode with the fidgets.  This is likely why adults with ADD often end up involved in dangerous, high-risk activities—it wakes up their brains.

ADHD coach Alan Brown talks about making sure you make smart choices about how you get your thrills.  He used to feed his need for speed with drugs, now he races.  As for me, I’m calmer onstage in front of 1,000 people than I was before I sat down to write this blog.

2.  Super Creative

A study done at the University of Memphis confirmed what many experts have told us, and many ADHD books claim…  People with ADHD tend to be more creative than their Non-ADHD peers.  On average.  Not everyone with ADHD is Da Vinci.  Though there is some strong evidence that Da Vinci was ADHD.

In the study, 30 ADHD students scored higher than their peers on 11 different tests for creativity.  (Who knew doctors could test creativity?!)

It could be those Theta waves again: In such a deeply relaxed state, it turns out that the sub-conscious mind is more accessible, along with high creativity and insight.

So any company that wants to be on the cutting edge of innovation would be wise to hire some ADHD folks to generate breakthrough ideas.  And then hire a bunch of people who are great at follow through and details to actually make it happen.

The downside?

Wait, I have another idea about how you could do it…  And another.  And three more…

Creativity needs limits and structure.  As Dr. Ned Hallowell explains, “Make friends with structure, make friends with organization.  We tend to see them as the enemy because, because we think that is going to inhibit our creativity.  And so we resist structure.  Oh no, that’s for boring people that have attention surplus disorder.  I’m free; I have ADD.  Big mistake.  Structure, in fact, potentiates creativity.  Structure sets you free.  My favourite examples are Shakespeare and Mozart — two of the most creative geniuses who ever lived.  Shakespeare wrote within incredibly tight forms, blank verse, iambic pentameter, de da, de da, de da, de da.  Within that structure he created infinite variety; he created extraordinary variety but, but he needed that structure.”

3. Super Intuitive

Some ADHD adults claim they have ‘Spidey Senses’.  Some swear they have ESP.

There may be a simpler explanation.

And it has to do with filtering.

The average brain manages to sort and filter down all the incoming sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch sensations to a manageable 40 bits of information a second.   The ADHD brain has an overload of sensory input plus issues with what are known as Executive Functions.  That is, sorting, filtering, deciding, discarding, prioritizing, following through, checking details, tracking progress, following procedures.

I know you’ve experienced the downside of this…  But, just for a moment, consider the upside.  When your brain lets in a lot of what some folks might consider irrelevant noise, it can show up in odd ways: Sometimes, we are able to notice things that others naturally filter out.  Which is why many ADD adults  will swear they are intuitive, almost psychic, at picking up certain things.

4.   Super Starter

Okay, sure… sometimes a little forethought goes a long way.  And saves a lot of time.  Sometimes it’s better to take 73 seconds and actually read through instructions that came with that kit for the garden chair.  But we… :

  • Are quick starters
  • Jump right in
  • Don’t worry, stew, waste time doing endless research

When folks are resistant to risk, resistant to change, hung up on process and procedure?  It can take forever to get anything done.  People will stick with systems that don’t work.  Get stuck in analysis paralysis.

5.  Laser Vision

It took me a while to start this blog.  Stall.  Delay.  Check e-mail.  Create a funny meme.  View a video we’re editing.  Coffee.  Cookie.

Then it was either start writing, or re-sharpen the pencils.  So I thought, “I’ll write for 3 minutes.  Just 3 minutes.  So at least I have started.”  And then?  It was way more than 3 minutes, though I couldn’t tell you how much more.

Welcome to hyper-focus!

In the zone.  Experiencing flow.  The super-powered opposite of drifting, lost in thought, day-dreaming, butterfly fluttering.

The vague restlessness and agitation that had me doing everything but what I should be doing, namely writing, was suddenly—poof!—gone.  In ADD & Loving It?!Dr. Laura Muggli told us that her own ADHD allowed her to write her final 6-hour exam with one break.  Her non-ADHD colleagues needed numerous breaks.

The downside?  Instead of hyper-focused on an exam, writing a blog, or finishing a project we can be hyper-focused on the wrong thing, spending four hours creating a personalized Birthday Card… and then arriving late for the party.

THE INJUSTICE LEAGUE

By this point, you may be wondering… If we have these amazing powers, these powerful potentials, why don’t ADHD folks rule the world?

Well, in some ways we do.   Talk to ADHD experts and they will tell you they have clients who are among the most successful people in the world.   Award-winning athletes.  Brilliant entrepreneurs.  Famous entertainers.  Dot.com millionaires.  Top salespeople.

But most ADHD adults are struggling.  Yes, even the successful ones.

Because, while we may have these potential abilities, they are usually not under our control.  If they were, I would have started this blog three months ago, when I had the initial idea.  And I would be able to sit and carefully proofread it.

But even now I can feel my burst of hyper-focus starting to slip.

I’m in my own ‘Fortress of Solitude’.   And it’s only now, as I come out of the magical spell, that I notice the sound of our editor leaving for the day, the furnace coming on, the smell of coffee.  They are penetrating the hyper-focus, disrupting the invisible energy field that envelopes me when I’m in the zone.

Luckily, like many superheroes, I’m part of a team.  If it were left to me?  This blog would make it to the website three months from now.  Or maybe never.

Best,

Rick

TotallyADD.com is an independent website created & owned by Big Brain Productions Inc. (Rick Green).  We tell you this because so many people ask if pharmaceutical companies paid for any of this and the answer is absolutely not.  Purchases in our shop, and our Patreon community pays for content creation.

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26 Replies to “5 Superpowers of ADHD”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Super Rick Green Lantern. “Superpower” has been a catchy theme of recent with some ADHD social media folks, and obviously used for the effect of up-playing certain characteristics of the condition that are deemed desirable.

    Without going into supernatural abilities, let’s say “super power” can be reserved for us mortals as the ability to do something in an excellent way, consistently. But that to me is where ADhD alone doesn’t meet the criteria for most, simply because it’s more than just ability we’re talking about here, it’s execution; and that execution usually requires overcoming the negative characteristics and behaviors of our ADhD condition. For example, if I’m given an assignment to draw a creative cartoon and I have 30 minutes, and I do an awesome cartoon in 2 hours, I’ve still failed the assignment. I’m not going to convince anyone of my super power then!

    I personally know of a few highly successful, creative folks with ADHD. They’re fortunate enough to have assistants. Sometimes that’s very needed, other times it’s like if Superman had to have an assistant hold up his cape whenever he was fighting crime.

    The key word here is “context.” What is an ability that is deemed a “super power” must be executed with an understanding of one’s personal condition, the expectation on them, and an understanding of the environment they have to execute it in. Otherwise, what they’re more likely to have is a “stupid” power.

    Besides, “super” is something best reserved for others to call you. 🙂

    Grantastic Grantasmo

    1. In regards to your “Stupid Power”… if you look at the positive sides to a situation…. like a cube.. ok. you would turn it around and around until you found a solution to any problem you may endevour.. So look a yourself gaining a diagnosis of ADHD.. at first you go through the common motions of thinking OMG there is something wrong with me…. then its OMG now i know why i do the things i do in a way i do them and what things i have issues with and the checklist of attributes comes out… so now you have a list of BAD verses Good things that are associated with this ADD or ADHD.

      It is a known fact that people diagnosed with ADD or ADHD have a natural ability, wether if be mechanical or musical, numbers, spelling “obviously not me” but the ability in which i am speaking about is one that is without the needing to try and do…. it just happens and we are fantastic at it.. but being realistic.

      Im great with numbers and if i was set to a task that required me to be on a timer in regards to doing some individuals Tax Return lets say.. I would straight away explain that I need an allowance on the time variation to complete it at my highest ability. To my level of perfection and if able to have that time variation it would also help me feel as though i have succeeded to my fullest.

      I could also speed through and maybe make a mistake or two that i need to recheck but if you measure that with the time i had to do it selfpaced i would not need that time to recheck.. so Yes I still have my so called Super Power or my Ability I would never say it to be a stupid power, In life in general, one will learn for every negative word that you hear expecially as a child , it will take up to ten positives to counteract that one negative.. so why not start with a positive and leave out the negatives that weigh us down in life… I have ADD and ADHD… i know what it is, I live with it.. its not a negative, nor a super power, i just have different skills that I have that non ADHD or ADD people don’t have and I excel in them.

  2. Holy Cow [or Bear, Dog, Goat should you prefer]! I managed to remain focussed long enough to read and, I think, take in the message. Now if only I could; (a) remember what it said; and (b) figure out how best to apply its profundity.

    1. Same here, how to apply it in real life…

      I’m a 43 years old female, diagnosed ADD 8 months ago, feeling validated finally, but unsure how to tackle this without resorting to stimulants…

      1. There are lots of things you can do beyond medication.
        In our full-length video, “The Holistic Solution,” which is well over an hour long, we lay out a number of strategies, from coaching to mindfulness and lifestyle changes.
        And when I say “We lay out…” I mean a slew of doctors, therapists, coaches, and experts explain strategies that have been helpful and show why other strategies may not make a difference for those of us with this mindset.

  3. Hmmmm . . . maybe my boyfriend doesn’t have ADD after all.

    In a crisis, he’s the guy standing there slack-jawed while everyone else is jumping up to attend to the emergency, because his brain hasn’t caught up to what’s going on yet.

    When presented with a problem that isn’t solved by a straight-forward approach, he becomes frustrated and stymied, and can’t “think outside the box” to come up with a creative solution. To him, there are a handful of set, proscribed ways of doing things (repairing stuff around the house, having difficult conversations with people, managing money) and that’s it. Anything else — or, rather, anything new — throws him into a tizzy.

    He is very much NOT intuitive!! He can’t read a person or a situation to save his life. I’ve suspected for a long time that he is on the autism spectrum because he is so bad at this.

    I’ll give you “Liftoff” and “Laser Vision”, though. Yes, he will absolutely dive right into something without thinking it through (or reading instructions).. . which is how we have a disposer that is crooked, a black bookshelf with the topmost shelf NOT being the one that is coated black on both sides, a $380 bill from the plumber to fix the crimped copper pipe he thought he could manhandle into place while replacing a faucet, and off-center curtain rods hung so low that the curtains create blankets on the floor for the cats. He is also able to watch crime shows on TV with laser focus, ditto video games. And he can hone in on all of my defaults with such an unerring, precise, unyielding focus while ignoring his own that it must truly be some sort of super power. (Dishes left in the sink by him for over a week? Doesn’t exist. I leave an empty water bottle on my desk for one day? BAM! He’s all over it like a chicken on a June bug).

  4. I enjoyed the super hero story, I was diagnosed 20 years ago thanks to my wife who has stuck by me for years, my super power is I go from job to job with alot of guilt over losing jobs. Although I’m in my early 50’s I finally found a good Dr to help me with medication and my difficulties, I’ve caught your show on PBS and am the owner of ADD & Mastering it,The Comprehensive guild to ADHD and have read ADD lost my keys I’m realizing that I need a support group pluse can benefit from this web site. I’m very thankful to you guys for the humor and help that you provide.

  5. In re super concentration: even that has its downside. On those occasions where I am super-focused, even the least distraction (a phone call, my wife or boss wanting to talk, I have to pee, whatever) makes me angry, because I know I’ve lost something I don’t get that often. I’m “Aaaahh, not now!”

    In fact, that just happened: the phone rang, the wrong number, I’m in the middle of this and printing a document for my mother… aargh!

    It sounds funnier than it is. I’ve broken things and started fights (verbal, not physical) on these occasions.

    1. Yes, I get impatient and irritated so easily…I made a chart in my kitchen to track when I’m irritated impatient with my worker. He knows all about it and understands it and sometimes even marks it on the chart himself..lol.

  6. I have always known that my brain works differently than normal people. I have learned to work with my ADHD, and take advantage when I am focused to get things done. When I am focused I can complete any task very quickly. Unfortunately I had to learn this with trial and error, but fortunately what others think as disability has been my greatest advantage.

  7. I actually just started writing my own little story yesterday about my ADHD being my super power. I titled it ADHD is my Superpower: Daily Struggle of Good vs Evil. This article definitely made me smile and nod my head. It’s nice to see things that relate to some of the monologues and thought montages that constantly play through my head. While living with ADHD and working on self awareness enough to understand that each person identifies things in their own individual fashion, for me I find it comforting to acknowledge that I live with an alter ego. While I strive to focus my powers for good the conflict between good and perceived evil is always there. Some days it’s Wonder Woman and/or Princess Diana of the Amazons other days it’s Dr. Jekyll and/or Mr. Hyde, ADHD is an adventure of epic proportions. Thank you again for writing this. I look forward to reading more like this.

  8. Hello, guys! I’m a 44 years old Brazilian journalist who has found this blog when a I was looking for information about the condition I was diagnosed just one month ago. So, I have read this article (actually my first one here) and I’ve totally found myself in this. Thank you very much for this incredible work. I’ll here more times to read all the articles (if I remember to do it). Yes, I’m kidding. I’m really glad I found it. 🙂

  9. Yes, i two highly intelligent children who Ii made sure Never knew of this label, til a bad pediatrician. I didnt want them to Box themselves in.
    My eldest gets bored having to show methods in maths when he can work it out his way & conclude the same answer. Mstr 7 is following his way. both artistic naturally in different aspects. However both are true empaths and read ppl situations 200% which makes them struggle with a negative room… Both Love animals as they are true. We also have a managere of wild animals who have claimed Us!
    I find an adhd s biggest problem, is realizing the negativity isnt based towards them & taught skills to filter that.
    All teachers love adore and proud of my boys. Their both top of the class in all areas and smash the testing.
    Even being told a bout their dianosis, they dont label themselves or use it as any excuse. They just accept and problem solve. Cool huh for 2 below 10
    Did I tangin… lol probs as def adhd myself undiagnosed buit still pretty incredible & won many law suits etc
    More often, my blessing, but mess is overwhelming

  10. Thank you for this article. I was diagnosed just over a year ago and it has been a challenging year. Sometimes I feel so alone, none of my friends or family have ADHD, and reading this has made me feel apart of a special community. Yes it comes with its struggles but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have given me the confidence to be myself and ignore those who do not understand, or do not want to spend the time to learn.

  11. The ESP comment was pretty funny. My friends all think I can see the future because I react to situations as they’re about to occur, like grabbing a friend a second before she slips on ice and her feet come out from under her.

    I also related too hard to your comment near the end “But even now I can feel my burst of hyper-focus starting to slip.” I hate that feeling. I can feel a sudden and rapid loss of interest and there is no way to revive it regardless of how important the task I was preforming is.

  12. Thanks for the article. I was looking if I may have ADHD and all these points struck home. There are a few others like finishing people’s sentences and giving away the plot of a movie straight away among other things. I suspect depression is also related when there isn’t high or even “normal” stimulation.

  13. You know what the best thing was about reading this was? Not that I it is thought of that people with ADHD have 5 Superpowers, nope. It was the fact that I could read all the comments and completely understand the way each person felt and exactly what they meant. It’s like if at the end of Star Trek Spock learns that he’s not the only one of his kind left. We should come together and do these things together. We could be so much more and could help more than normal people. Think about it. 1 ADHD person gets distracted and it tee ake him all day to finish what he started ,but 100 ADHD people together would finish each other’s projects and complete thing twice as fast as 100 non-ADHDers. I bet my house on that.

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