By Elizabeth Weiss
Everyone is given the opportunity to stop and consider what they’re thankful for at Thanksgiving. We all differ in our gratefulness, but there are many people who surprise others by giving thanks for their ADHD.
Sometimes, thankfulness is about seeing the positive where others do not. Those who live with ADHD every day are happy to set the record straight about why their diagnosis is a gift.
Here are five reasons for that:
1. Boundless Creativity
“People with ADHD are wired to perceive, process and engage with information in unconventional ways,” says Karisa Karmali, a personal trainer based in Toronto who has ADHD. “This unique perspective can bring fresh insights, innovative ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. I am thankful for my ADHD, because my creativity is off the charts.”
Karmali credits ADHD with her innovative methodologies in business and ability to zero in on niche ideas and quality control no matter the product or service.
“I do have an ADHD crash after (working for long hours) and have to rest so I don’t burn out, but the creativity is worth it in the end,” she says.
Seeing connections others might miss is a hallmark of well-harnessed ADHD.
2. Intense Hyperfocus
Karmali also gives thanks to ADHD for her ability to keep her mind on projects for long stretches of time. Experts on ADHD say that’s common for people with ADHD.
“People with ADHD often experience hyperfocus, allowing them to concentrate intensely on tasks they’re passionate about,” says Amy Braun, a licensed clinical professional counselor in Chicago who specializes in working with women with ADHD.
Braun has seen people with ADHD multitask and thrive in fast-paced environments. That, combined with an innate ability to think outside the box, leads to creative problem-solving and unique solutions.
3. Powerful Emotional Connections
“Many people with ADHD can easily tune into the feelings and needs of others, making them sensitive and caring friends, teammates and leaders,” says Lara Honos-Webb, a clinical psychologist in Walnut Creek, Calif., and author of The Gift of ADHD.
People with this diagnosis can connect with others on a deep level, Braun says. She says people with ADHD may be more empathetic and understanding of others’ challenges, as they’ve experienced their own difficulties.
Even though the emotional intensity that comes with ADHD can sometimes be overwhelming, it can also be a source of passion and allows individuals to care deeply about their pursuits, says Honos-Webb.
“This intense emotional response can be channeled into many successful avenues, from artistic expression to advocacy work,” she says.
4. Incredible Independence
“Every bit of success I’ve had is because of, not in spite of, my ADHD,” says Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur and author of Faster Than Normal, a book about the ADHD brain. “When I was diagnosed, everything I’d ever done in my life started to make sense. The fact that I could start and sell a company in three years for millions but couldn’t remember to take out the trash made perfect sense.”
When Shankman was in public school, he says, “ADHD didn’t exist.” What did exist, he says, was the oft-spoken line: “Sit down, you’re disrupting the class.”
Without that ADHD diagnosis, Shankman was able to figure out what worked for him and implemented it once he was out of school and could follow his own rules.
“I learned to advocate for myself at an early age and it’s been incredibly useful all through my life,” he says. “I’m glad I wasn’t diagnosed until my late 30s.”
Reinvention in life doesn’t happen often, if at all. But someone who has previously been marked as “troubled” or “difficult” can suddenly find great relief in an ADHD diagnosis. This newfound superpower gives them an opportunity to disprove who they’ve been told they are and slough off labels society has put onto them. They can finally, unapologetically — thankfully — be their independent selves.
5. Contagious Exuberance
For many people with ADHD, there is an incredible sense of relief in getting their diagnosis. After a lifetime of being different or struggling to relate to others, those four letters mean a person finally knows what’s happening with their brain and behavior. There is also a great relief when the discovery includes a green light for unleashing all that exuberance other people may have been trying to deflate.
“The vibrant, often intense enthusiasm and excitement that many individuals with ADHD experience can be a powerful motivator,” says Honos-Webb. “This energy can fuel passion, engagement and determination, driving them to pursue their interests with zeal.”
The person with ADHD exuberance can also be infectious and inspiring to those around them, says Braun.
“Those with ADHD can infuse spontaneity into their lives, making them adventurous and open to new experiences,” she says. “A great sense of humor is a common trait too, allowing people with ADHD to find joy in life’s ups and downs.”
Shankman is an excellent example of exuberance and positivity. His obvious but undiagnosed attention issues ultimately led to his rise to the top.
“I attribute my success to the fact that I was always too fast, too off the beaten track, too squirmy,” he says.
He is now a bestselling author, has started and sold three companies and is a worldwide keynote speaker about neurodiversity in the workplace.
“I’m thankful every single day for my ADHD,” he says. “It’s 100% made me who I am.”
Harness Thankfulness for ADHD
Learning how to be truly thankful for ADHD gifts and leveraging their benefits begins with paying attention to and nurturing the most helpful mindsets, Honos-Webb says. Someone with ADHD or a parent who has a child with ADHD can benefit from:
- Encouraging curiosity and discovery.
- Fostering a sense of healthy competition.
- Setting personal goals and striving to achieve them.
- Embracing change.
- Promoting questions and critical thinking.
“ADHD is not a curse,” says Shankman. “People with ADHD have been gifted with Lamborghini brains. Once they learn to drive their brain like the race car it is, there’s absolutely nothing they can’t do.”