Is ADHD really a gift?

Dr. Russell Barkley had a point in saying that “ADHD is not a gift.” It is true that having AD(H)D or SCT in and of itself puts one at a disadvantage in many respects. This is not to say that people with ADHD or related conditions cannot succeed, but that success takes much more effort compared to someone who does not have ADD or ADHD.

  • Having poor attention and concentration on its own never puts one at an advantage.
  • Having a lack of control over one’s actions on its own never puts one at an advantage
  • Having poor or even severe working memory problems on its own never puts one at an advantage.
  • Having learning disabilities that often occur with AD(H)D never puts one at an advantage on its own.


If ADHD were a gift…

If ADHD were a gift, in the age of “designer babies”, prospective parents would actively seek offspring with ADD genes (see “Shopping at the Genetic Supermarket”). ADHD may even make it on a “Top 10 Most Desirable Traits to Choose From” list if that were the case. ADHD, however, is not a trait that is often glorified in this sense, and would any parent dare say that they would deliberately put their child at a disadvantage?

Some commentators who have ADHD have said that they disagree with the condition being known as an attention deficit (and hence do not consider themselves “disordered”), but instead say that they have “too much” attention (implying a benefit of some sort). Well, such commentary could be seen as a joke to make light of the condition, but my opinion is that those people should think about the issue in a different view because I have a different joke for those people think about.

Consider this: one common trait that people with ADD often talk about is starting multiple tasks, sometimes dozens of tasks at once. AD(H)D would be considered an absolutely brilliant condition if people with AD(H)D actually completed all those tasks they started! After all, being able to start – and complete – five tasks at once sure as hell beats finishing only one task. It would be like the average person’s biological CPU has a mere single core that completes one execution at a time while the ADHD CPU is a speedy quad-core (or even higher core++) processor capable of executing multiple tasks at once. Talk about advanced turbo boost technology. Everybody would want to have such a “gift” and would want to know where to sign up to get such a gift. I don’t know about what other people hear, but rarely do I hear people with ADHD bragging about all the tasks they actually completed at once. In fact, I often hear complaints about RAM (i.e. working memory) problems.

When people say that ADHD is a gift, I think what those people are boasting about are the various compensatory methods that individuals with ADHD use in order to make the best out of their disability. For example, because of my inability to hold multiple items in my mind in real time, I find doing math calculations very cumbersome. But this random, non-linear thinking sometimes results in some “out of the box” thinking that people value. But is this even a good trade-off for difficulties – sometimes very troubling difficulties – in other life issues?