ADHD and Creativity

What’s going on with these similarities?

As I work on this project, I am, as an ADHD student, faced with the glaring examples of everything I read:

Noises and movements going on around me constantly distract me.

I procrastinated much of this project. In fact, I went to Walmart and bought a desk (on impulse) and put it together before sitting down to type part of it (I had decided while at Walmart that it was necessary of course…)

I frequently have been taking breaks to paint my piggy bank obscure colors.

I played with little dinosaur toys.

I noticed just how much I doodle on all my notes, sometimes drawing pictures instead of writing words.

Could not seem to finish aspects of this despite the great ideas I may have had.

As well as many other things. Now some are clearly just things that are due to my diagnosis, however other things are just creative outlets, like painting. I am not claiming to be an overly creative person, however its always intriguing to me to realize that the things I read are in fact quite true, causing me to always want to delve into learning more about the topic.

As discussed in class and on my previous project, there are many similarities between people diagnosed with ADHD and people who are creative. Examples of which are:

Creatively Gifted



-Inability to complete projects

-Difficult temperament

-Deficient social skills

-Academic underachievement

-Different learning styles

-Sensation seeking

-Frequent job/task switching



-Inability to complete projects


-Mood swings

-Hypersensitivity to stimulation

-Difficult temperament

-Sensation seeking

-Enthusiasm and playfulness

-Deficient social skills

Also people in both of these categories often report “feeling out of place, like a square peg in a round hole” (Carson) and display “lack of constraint, intellectually as well as behaviorally” (Schwartz). Dr. Edward Hallowell, who specializes in ADHD, has written several books about it (including a children’s book), and is ADHD himself, states (in the Johnson&Johnson youtube series) that “people with ADD tend to be intelligent, creative, original, they think outside the box and often have a zainy sense of humor.” Also that they have “trouble sustaining focus…staying on task…its not that your mind goes empty…it goes elsewhere, not on purpose”. As he describes these characteristics of both, he frequently gets distracted and says a new idea or goes back to an old one. For example when he talks about his own ideas and philosophies on it, “I enjoy my ADD and I think that oughta be the goal…I don’t think of it as a disease or disorder or disability at all I think of it as a … its like being left handed ya know…its my...which I also am many ADD people are…its my way of being in the world…” Not only does he demonstrate the qualities of both of these kinds of people he also brings up very intelligent (though possibly simple) philosophies. Being “odd” is not to be viewed as a bad thing, a disorder, it is how people are and many of these people are bright and have talents. Also in this youtube series from Johnson&Johnson they interview a family in which the mom and two sons are all ADHD, and also all very creative, they are great examples of this exact idea. Some great quotes (also in the Johnson&Johnson series) that exemplify this are:

“I have this wild imagination that races all the time and if you can tap into that, great things can happen”

“One day…George was in kindergarten and he said, “mom, what is odd?” and I said, “why do you ask” and he said “well, max says I'm odd”…so I said “well ya know odd means that your…your different” [as an accomplished artist Davina says that she’s determined to give “different” a creative twist…] “if you’ve ever heard of Einstein or Mozart or, ya know, Bill Gates or Stephen Spielberg, ya know ever heard of them?” and they say “yeah!” and I said well I heard that those kids were kinda “odd” when they were little. When those off different kinda kids grew up they did great things.”

“I daydreamed all the time”

[While talking about Brad] “[Brad’s imagination has been vivid]…he was so out of the box…and so creative”

“Letting the creative drive the agenda like this Lego movie”

All of these very directly show they connections between these aspects of a person and how they can work together.

A Recent Study on the Subject

(As discussed in Schwartz’s Article)

There was a study done on 60 university students in which half were diagnosed with ADHD, and the results showed that these students were in fact more creative thinkers then their non-ADHD peers. These students were found to excel at divergent thinking but struggle with convergent. Also, they were found to have many creative achievements. This is great for further understanding the connection between these two things however there is an issue with this study. The sample for this study was of successful university students and not representative of the ADHD population as a whole. These students were clearly already successful and made it this far in their life, causing some experts to be skeptical about the study. However, if you look at it like that you must also take into consideration they fact that the non ADHD students were also highly successful and still showed significantly lower creative thinking and achievements, therefore I feel like the study is therefore still accurate.

What all this brings up is the idea of what do we do with this information and what does this mean?

The importance of this relates to diagnosis. Understanding the similarities means that when diagnosing students there should most likely be a really comprehensive evaluation of the child (Bouchez). Clearly these two things are not one in the same but they are similar, can be mistaken for each other, and can coexist. Therefore extreme caution must be taken when diagnosing a child. Also, this information is vital for knowing how to treat a child. If a creativity test is done it may help understand the child’s specific situation better and allow for a more appropriate treatment plan. As often stated, creativity testing should be used to inform of treatment options, not necessarily dismiss the ADHD diagnosis (Carson). Another issue to consider when looking at students is that two thirds of people with ADHD have co-existing disorders such as anxiety, depression, conduct disorder, or bi-polar disorder and therefore must be considered in the overall treatment. Though it’s interesting to see that statistic and think about the connection between bi-polar people and creativity as well.



ADHD: Treatment. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Bouchez, C. Understanding ADHD and the Creative Child. Retrieved from

Brad’s Story: A 12 year-old with ADHD. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Carson, S. Creativity and ADHD may share some common genetic vulnerabilities. Retrieved from

Davina, ADHD Mom. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Davina, ADHD Mom, part 2 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Living with ADHD. [Video file]. Retrieved from:

Salamon, M. (2011). ADHD’s upside: greater creativity? Retrieved from

Schwartz, C. (2011). ADHD’s Upside is creativity, says new study. Retrieved from