By Mary Fetzer
In the United States, approximately 60% of children with ADHD become adults with ADHD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But of the 8 million adults with ADHD, fewer than 20% have been diagnosed or treated. In many cases, childhood ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity may diminish by adulthood. But other symptoms, such as impulsivity or inattentiveness, may continue.
Many public figures — in entertainment, sports, politics, and more — live very successfully with ADHD. These famous people have gone public with their diagnoses, to show ADHD has not kept any of them from living their best lives.
Famous Athletes With ADHD
Michael Phelps, a former competitive swimmer and the most decorated Olympian in history, was diagnosed with ADHD at age 9. School was challenging for Phelps, who told People magazine that he found it difficult to sit still and complete his work. He took medication but found that swimming was the best way to alleviate his symptoms. Today, Phelps is a public advocate for mental health therapy, saying that talking to someone changed his life.
“I’m an adult with ADHD,” Karina Smirnoff told The Saturday Evening Post in 2012. The Dancing with the Stars performer went public with her ADHD diagnosis in 2009.
As a child, Smirnoff’s parents packed her schedule with activities — figure skating, dance, ballet, piano — to provide an outlet for her hyperactivity, but they never had their daughter diagnosed. The national and world champion dancer continued to find ways to cope with her ADHD symptoms because she thought they were just part of who she was.
Smirnoff was an adult when a friend observed how her ADHD symptoms were impacting her life and finally urged her to see a doctor. The ADHD diagnosis introduced Smirnoff to the help that was available to manage her symptoms, including medication and organizational strategies.
Simone Biles was forced to go public with her ADHD diagnosis. In 2016, the U.S. gymnast’s medical records were hacked and revealed that Biles had a medical exemption to use a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“I have ADHD and have taken medicine for it since I was a kid,” Biles wrote from her Twitter account. “Please know, I believe in clean sport, have always followed the rules, and will continue to do so as fair play is critical to sport and is very important to me.”
More professional athletes with ADHD:
- Terry Bradshaw — football
- Michael Jordan — basketball
- Shaquille O’Neal — basketball
- Pete Rose — baseball
Famous Actors With ADHD
A number of the characters actor Jim Carrey has portrayed are, quite frankly, frenetic. The roles are grown-up versions of the class clown of his school days, when he struggled in school due to his ADHD. But it wasn’t until he reached adulthood and achieved worldwide fame that he understood that he was dealing with mental health issues.
Today, Carrey speaks candidly about both ADHD and his clinical depression. His artistic talents — both as an actor and a cartoonist —have helped him cope with lifelong symptoms.
The school years were tough for Ryan Gosling. The film star told Entertainment Weekly: “I didn’t feel very smart. They kept passing me in school even though I didn’t know how to do things I should have known how to do. Like, I couldn’t read…I couldn’t absorb any of the information, so I caused trouble.”
After taking knives to school and throwing them at fellow students, Gosling was suspended and underwent a psychological assessment for ADHD. He was never officially diagnosed, according to an interview he did with the London Evening Standard in 2016, nor did he receive medication to manage his symptoms. But he credits the resulting year of homeschooling with his mother as a turning point in his life.
When actress Cara Delevingne appeared on CBS’s “This Morning” several years ago to promote a book she had written, she described what it was like to grow up with ADHD and depression. (It is unclear when Delevingne was officially diagnosed.) For her, the worst part was not knowing how to communicate her feelings.
“I was very ashamed of the way I felt. I had a very privileged upbringing, I was very lucky, I went to an amazing school,” she said in the interview. “And then the guilt of feeling that way and not being able to tell anyone because I shouldn’t feel that way and I shouldn’t feel bad.”
Delevingne says things have improved. “Time moves on, feelings pass; it does get better.”
More actors with ADHD:
- Channing Tatum
- Zooey Deschanel
- Woody Harrelson
- Will Smith
Famous Musicians With ADHD
Google “Joyner Lucas ADHD” and you’ll get results for the American rapper’s album — called “ADHD” — and his mental health diagnosis of ADHD. Each of the tracks on “ADHD” references Lucas’s ADHD journey.
In a review of the “ADHD” album, the website Exceptional Indiviuals.com wrote: “Lucas describes having ADHD as ‘dyin’ on the inside’ (sic) and ‘tryna get by’ (sic). He says he doesn’t need any medication or drugs. He mentions other traits of the condition throughout the song such as his mind racing, overthinking, being born differently, being an hour late for his class, being disturbed, staring at the fire, having too many things in his head, being unable to sleep and hearing voices in his head that aren’t really there.”
More musicians with ADHD:
- Justin Timberlake
- Britney Spears
- Mel B (aka Scary Spice)
Famous People From the Past Who Had ADHD
Adult ADHD is not new. Many historic public figures struggled with the symptoms of ADHD while perfecting their craft.
- Alexander Graham Bell — inventor
- Agatha Christie — mystery writer
- Leonardo da Vinci — painter, scientist
- Thomas Edison — inventor
- Albert Einstein — physicist
- John F. Kennedy — U.S. president
- John Lennon — singer, songwriter, peace activist
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — composer
- George Bernard Shaw — playwright
- Jules Verne — science fiction writer
- ADDA: Adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)
- People Magazine: Michael Phelps Opens Up About ADHD Struggles
- The Saturday Evening Post: ADHD–Living in Overdrive
- Time: Simone Biles Says Her ADHD Medication Is ‘Nothing to Be Ashamed Of’
- Casting Frontier: Inspirational Actors With ADHD
- AllAccess: Maroon 5’s Adam Levine Raises Awareness of ADHD
- Exceptional Individuals: Joyner Lucas ADHD Album Review
- Collider: Justin Timberlake Interview—The Love Guru
- Entertainment Weekly: Spotlight on Ryan Gosling
- London Evening Standard: Ryan Gosling: Women Are Better Than Men—They Are Stronger and More Evolved
- NME.com: ‘I’m not in hell now’—Cara Delevingne opens up about her mental health battles with depression and ADHD