On the positive aspects of ADHD.

Usually when you hear about ADHD all you hear about is the negative aspects of life for those of us who have the condition. So it’s refreshing to read a short, but good article titled The Upside of ADHD over at MSN’s Health & Fitness site that gives an overview of the positives that are rarely mentioned.

JetBlue Airways CEO and founder David Neeleman is famously frank about his ADHD. He was diagnosed in 2001, seven years after he realized he had it. By then, he’d already founded and then sold Morris Air. He had done so well in his own eccentric way that he felt he was doing fine without medication. Still, Neeleman says he’s not anti-meds: “I have talked to a lot of people who swear by the medication.”

Neeleman credits ADHD with his creativity and “out-of-the-box thinking”—it led him to invent e-tickets while at Morris, for example. “One of the weird things about the type of [ADHD] I have is, if you have something you are really, really passionate about, then you are really, really good about focusing on that thing. It’s kind of bizarre that you can’t pay the bills and do mundane tasks, but you can do your hyper-focus area.” He spends “all my waking hours” obsessing about JetBlue. The rest of his life, Neeleman says, would be a “disaster” if not for his wife, who manages their home and children; his accountant, who pays the bills and tracks his finances; and his personal assistant, who sends him his schedule every day and steers him from appointment to appointment, keeping him on track.

As frustrating as being ADHD can be there’s no way I’d get rid of it if it were possible. I’ve grown to rely on the positive aspects it provides. I have no doubts that I wouldn’t be the professional geek that I am if not for my ADHD and I do seem to have an unusual ability to be able to work with just about anyone. Plus it helps to make me awesome at video games much to the annoyance of the thirteen olds whose asses I kick regularly in Call of Duty. Being ADHD easily has as many positives to it as it does negatives and it’s nice to see some of those good aspects being highlighted.

12 thoughts on “On the positive aspects of ADHD.

  1. Completely agree. I have ADHD and some days I can’t shut up the brain up to get a straight thought, somedays I can bust out an entire web site in an hour.

    It’s too bad that ADHD is treated like a sickness when IMO it’s more of an advanced form of thinking that the current public school set up isn’t catering to.

    If you can memorize what you read, you can be a 4.0 student with ZERO idea of reality. With ADHD, your brain WILL NOT STOP COMPUTING until the ENTIRE THEORY behind the subject is layed out in a way that makes sense.

    for instance 2+2=4 is what public schools teach and stop there. So what do we do, we MOMORIZE the SYNTAX instead of understanding WHY 4 is the answer or that math problem.

    A person with ADHD needs to know WHY adding 2 to 2 makes 4.

  2. I too have ADHD (Inattentive Type specifically).

    Multiple Things at Once

    Doing well with video games seems to be a common theme for those with ADHD. I think part of it stems from our shifting of focus so often. When I play RTS’s I jump all over the screen. I can react very quickly to attacks and other situations. I find it easy to manage multiple bases and skirmishes occurring in several places on the map. I notice with others I play that they get too bogged down on just one area. Since their mind doesn’t jump around they forget to upgrade their techs as often, or they can’t blip back and forth from some of the battles to home base, etc.. as easily. Usually I end up with scores that are two the fives times higher than my friends.

    In first person shooters I find that I can assimilate large amounts of data at once. Again, it allows me to assess what is going on and react quickly. Being able to predict what other people are going to try really helps when you want to dominate. In FPS’s that have goals and/or bases ADHD seems to be a bigger help since there is usually more going on and info to assimilate all at once.


    I’m a senior developer for a software company. I’m known for being able to come up with some unusual ideas that really have helped our products. For a software developer I also have the uncommon talent of being a graphic artist. The combo is the odd thing, not either separate. Not many developers can make an interface look good or do graphics. I think part of it stems from that I can get bored easy. With ADHD, I need things to not be boring and it needs to be logically organized, otherwise I have issues. Because of this I instinctively need to make UI or business documents easy to read, functional, and pretty.


    A really odd side-affect of having ADHD is being uber organized in some situations. It is odd since ADHD usually does the opposite.

    I have mail sitting on the floor in my living room that has been gathering for about a year. Luckily most of my stuff is on auto-pay. As a coping mechanism for loosing track of things of for short-term memory and focusing issues I have become super organized. Out of necessity I have to be as detailed as possible because I will simply forget parts and specifics.

    Ability to Focus

    As a coping mechanism with difficulties in being able to focus I (luckily) found a way to do really well at work. I found that the more I care about something, the easier it becomes to focus on it. Note, I didn’t do this consciously. It was completely automatic. I wasn’t even aware of what I had done until I found out I had ADHD.

    At work I have an intense desire for our products and company to do well. The downside is that I become a little to emotionally wrapped up in my work. I become upset when I don’t think others aren’t doing their best or are taking an approach that will hurt any of our products. The upside is that since I’m super motivated I can usually focus fairly well on our products. At work I’m known for being an intelligent, hard worker. I have been very lucky that I chose a career path that would allow me shine and be tolerant of my issues with ADHD. It is funny that I can usually solve more complex (and therefore interesting) problems than simple problems.

    Laid Back

    I’m a pretty laid back guy. I’m known for taking everything in stride and not getting upset easily. I think the reason for being laid back is because I have issues with forgetting things and maintaining attention on tasks/conversations, etc… I am usually more understanding of issues other people may have. Also, since I can usually react quickly to new (possibly unpleasant) situations, I usually don’t become as bothered as others.

    Recently Diagnosed

    I only found out July that I have ADHD. I find that the medication really helps out, but it only helps mitigate my issues with ADHD. Hmm… if only I had known when going to college. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken 7 years to get a BS in computer science. Damn homework…

    Hopefully I explained some of these things the right way. Also, I’m sure that there are coping mechanisms that I have come up with to ADHD that others with ADHD may not have developed and vice versa. I definitely am lacking in quite a few areas. There is so much that I have yet to figure out.


    ps. Supposedly, there is an ampakine called CX717 that should help with ADHD (and lack of sleep). This site is a bit more fluffy than I’m used to but it is still an interesting article.


  3. My old business partner had ADHD and I doubt he would be able to accomplish half of what he did in an average day without it.  Granted my main job was to keep him from going over the edge while maintaining his overall vision, but he was a machine that left me completely draind trying to keep up.

  4. Wow, Todd you are right on. That’s EXACTLY what I wanted to write.

    So I guess we would be the “special Ed” kids of the 80s? Superior Ed turns out.

    I also was into videogames from the begining (less now but tetris is still #1) and could beat games to the point that I’d find every single glitch just by covering every square inch, every controler combo.

    Also went into computers, MIS which included everything from web and graphic design, network maintenance, pc builds.


  5. As a Mom with a ADHD/SLD son your comments have been uplifting.  Some days I really do wonder what the future holds for my little one…. he is bright IQ of 150+ but unable to produce at school unless it is on a one to one basis which just is not pratical every day every lesson etc.  He does have lots of plus points and I do my best to highlight them – I is hard after repeating myself for the 20th time!!!!!  Anyway your words, all of u had some inspiration for me – thanks…. PS could do with some game tips we r not in the West so they are not easy to come by but anything you can reccomend for GB would be great

  6. Indya, is your son currently on any medication for his ADHD? If so and it’s not helping him to focus then it’s a waste of time and money, but if not then it may be something to consider. I lived for 33 years without medication and I managed OK and I’ve spent the last several years taking medication to as well.

    In my case it does help me to focus and was thusly worth the time and expense of taking it, though with being unemployed for the last 8 months I’ve not been taking it for awhile now. It’s not a cure-all, but it may help. Counseling with someone to learn how to recognize and live with his ADHD is arguably more important than medication. If you can get him counseling then I recommend it without hesitation.

  7. Hi
    Yes he is on the equalvalent of Ritalin – just 10mg twice a day… he really looses it when he doesnt take but I do try and give him drug holidays at w/e and school hols etc.  He has had counselling – I have had counselling but what happens there and then in an everyday situation are just two different things.  To be honest I think the medication needs increasing – he has gained weight since given that script but it is his choice not to have more.  He has just given me his homework to look over (had to request it at least 5 times.  Its a mess.  Teachers have just put a line through his work and told him to re-do.  He has done that – well done – but it is still a mess.  All his pencils have deliberately been snapped the covers of his books torn and to me it seems he has no interest in trying to improve – I am so close to giving up

  8. Indya, sounds like your son is a bit of a challenge, but don’t give up on him. He probably doesn’t fully understand what he’s going through. I didn’t find out I was ADD until I was 33 years old and suddenly I understood why my later school years had been such a problem. At the time, however, when my parents were mad as hell at my report cards and asking me what the hell my problem was I was as much at a loss to explain it as they were. You at least know the problem and can work on learning to cope with it.

    My ADD is mild in comparison to what your son sounds like he’s going through and I was taking 22MG of Adderall to help with mine. I’m no psychologist or medical doctor, but it sounds like the dosage may be too small for your son’s needs. I’d suggest speaking with whomever is prescribing his medication about its current effectiveness and possible alternatives. You may want to consider having him try either Concerta or Adderall to see if they help more. Different people respond differently to various drugs. Ritalin didn’t do a lot for me. Concerta was good for awhile, but started to lose it’s effectiveness. Adderall was pretty consistently helpful in my case. In all those cases I took a lower dose than what a lot of folks use.

    Good luck and keep hanging in there. One day your son will understand and appreciate your efforts.

  9. Hi

    Thanks for your support – been an exceptionally bad week – meeting with the principle and letter from his form teacher saying he is unmanagable!!!  Your quite right it is about learning how to deal with him – I know what the problem is for sure but dealing with it on a day to day basis is different – I single parent for the majority of the time and have a daughter who does not get nearly enough of my attention as it is all focused on him.  Anyway I have dont lots of positive things this week – re did reminder lists, employed someone to sit with him twice a week to do his homework and revision, looking into finding someone to teach him electronics and computing on a one to one basis and have made an appiontment with his Dr to see if we can ajust the meds – addwise (ritalin) is the only drug available here at the moment though there was a rumour that concerta was coming to India – lets see…. in the meantime I am trying not to shout and as my 5 yr old whose as wise as anything says – Mom just say it once and walk away!!!

    Thanks a million once again

  10. listen im 16 and i have adhd and i think it is crucial that you do not medicate your child,difference is undoubtably something that should be fucking encouraged.People with adhd are usually capable of hyperfocusing on things they find interseting.Just accept his genius enrol him in activitys attempt to encourage his creativity and allow him to pursue his interests.Or you can ruin him and frie his head into being a stupid conformist and zombie.

    Leanardo Da Vinci
    Bill Gates
    Richard Branson

    Adhd innovaters and revoutionary thinkers-adhd

    Dont change him cos hes different.If he finds a talent or real interst youll fucking see who can focus

  11. Not trying to sound like a condescending parent/older brother but your comment shows a near sightedness that time and maturity will, hopefully, temper. While each person is different and the decision to medicate is a serious one (the younger the child the more complicated it becomes), it should never be rejected out of hand. Stimulant medication is, after all, the single most effective treatment modality available. A diagnosis of ADHD markedly increases an individual’s risk of occupational failure; relationship difficulties; drug abuse and addiction; involvement in other types of criminal activity, and so on. Ignoring these risks and just “winging it” is inviting disaster. And if you consider that attitude objectively, it is a clear example of the type of impulsive behavior that is the root of ADHD’s evil. Da Vinci, Gates, Branson and Mr. Neeleman, while perhaps inspirational, are the exceptions. To paraphrase John Adams, we all can’t be concert violinists, no matter how hard we try.

  12. I have to agree that the comment by the 16 year old is a little near sited. I’m only 20 so I don’t have the wisdom of age, but I’d like to think that I have some insight. I have never been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD (in fact I have been in denial if anyone brings it up) but I’m starting to realize all of the things I do are symptoms. Contrary to other ADHD people I am a great student and have zero trouble getting straight A’s because I have a great interest in math/science/engineering. But I can only imagine a person that isn’t interested in these subjects must have trouble.

    I personally choose not to get medicine, which is the hardest personal conflict I have. It may be for different reasons though because I have had small drug problems in my life and don’t want more drugs in my life or any for that matter. I think the drug problem stems from ADHD though. But for your son it’s very hard decision. I know some people that have had positive impacts from the pills but the people i know with negative consequences had a MUCH larger impact on their lives. For example a kid in my 3rd-5th grade class was a mess and was terrible in class. i meet him 7 years later and hes much better now ever since he has been off the pills. I would honestly not give him the pills and let him come to a decision on his own with your guidance of course later in life. Good luck with your son, I know it must be very tough.

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