New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

ADHD at Work

ADHD is a gift to me.

I find ADHD a gift for me, I’ve found it to help me be successful at work. I’ve used my ADHD to my advantage.

How do you feel? Do you use your ADHD to focus on work, or do you have other feelings about it?


If this is a ‘gift’, I am skipping Christmas this year.

I find it puzzling how one could consider having the attention span of a fruit fly as some form of advantage.  Dispassionate and objective research apparently bares out what is crystal clear to me.  ADHD is a disorder; a dysfunction.  Here is a portion of an interview with Dr. Russel Barkley, a well known ADHD researcher:

“...Interviewer:  Does the impairment confer any special gift based on your clinical research or from work with your own patient population?

Dr. Barkley:  No.  Thousands of studies of people with ADHD have never documented that such people have experienced any benefits, gifts or other positive effects from across more than a hundred (!) measures of psychological traits…”

Dr. Edward Hallowell, a well known author on the subject and regular contributor here, says those with ADHD have a ‘Ferrari Brain’.  What a catchy little phrase!!!  I don’t know what roadster ‘Enzo’ Hallowell is driving, but my air-cooled Volkswagen beetle has number 1 and 3 spark plug wires switched.  When I am able to get up to highway speed, the slop in my steering box has me careening from guard rail to guard rail - - munching fenders and smashing bumpers as I go.  Many on my little highway of life rightfully steer clear.  Ferrari references aside, Hallowell knows what this is.  His medical practice is full-up with the flotsam and jetsam this disorder produces.

The symptoms of ADHD I see read like a social and professional train wreck.  Lower incomes, higher divorce rates, few friends, unemployment, poor academic performance, anxiety,  anger, lack of patience, an inability to gauge others’ feelings, missed social cues and so many others.  Importantly, we are often unable to judge our level of success or failure in a given venue. 

I would argue that the first step in conquering an enemy is to first recognize it as such. 

Maybe you lucked out.  Maybe you don’t have this thing…  For your sake, I hope you don’t…  For my sake… I hope you are right and this thing really does provide some advantage.  If so, its been a long wait for any type of benefit to show itself.  In the mean time, I trudge on…

Posted by LakeLife on Apr 13, 2013 at 5:16pm


I’m sorry that you feel that you that ADD/ADHD is a curse. I have ADD, my brother has ADHD and dyslexia, two of my nephews have ADD one also with dyslexia and my son has ADHD. I would say that all of us once diagnosed and treated with lifestyle changes, medicine, etc. have been successful academically, in work, and socially. My brother runs a million-dollar business and I have a Ph.D. and am an assoc. prof. at a medical school.

Yes, life can be more difficult with ADD and ADHD because we just don’t think the same way as everyone else. I would argue that is what keeps life from being boring. If we all were the same the world would be simply black and white and not shades of gray.

Are their issues with ADD and ADHD:  yes just what you stated above - we’re more disorganized, memory issues, impulse problems, etc. From observing my son with his friends who would not be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, I would also say that we are more high energy, more persistent when we want something, more imaginative and creative. He is the one coming up with games when playing with friends. Did he have social issues - yes prior to starting medicine he simply could not stop his impulses. Now that he is on medicine, his social circle keeps expanding and I am watching him flower in terms of leadership, self-confidence and self-esteem.

I would also say that education is the key to being successful with ADD and ADHD. If I let my home or office environment start to get messy, then I’m overwhelmed and can’t figure out where to start to get things under control. So for me and my son, keeping things orderly is important. We are learning to build in cheats in our daily routine. If we can’t remember to get everything into the backpack before leaving for school, we’ll do it the night before. If we can’t find our shoes in the morning, then we’ll get a basket and put it by the front door so we always know where our shoes are.

I also know that ADD and ADHD are co-morbid with our conditions. For my son, it is anxiety. For me it is depression. For my nephew and brother, it is dyslexia. I wonder if in your case you have depression based on your general negative outlook at life.

Finally I would say that ADD and ADHD are not any more of a burden than diabetes is. Diabetes is a condition where some patients can manage with diet and lifestyle changes while others must be medicated daily or multiple times daily.

Personally, I think it’s time for our pity party to be over, find the positive and make the changes we need to be successful, happy, and fulfilled.
Just my two cents

Posted by faye on Apr 13, 2013 at 6:12pm

I was diagnosed with ADD at age 49.  I also used to call it a curse.  My home is a mess, etc, etc.  I have heard the key to successfully learn to cope with this disorder is to be diagnosed young, like age 7.  If I remember correctly Dr. Hollowell, was diagnosed with ADD as a young child, so he grew up learning to cope and take advantage of the positive traits of ADD.  Eventually, I got tired of hearing myself blame my ADD for my disorganization, depression, anxiety, procrastination, etc.  I came to the point where I have accepted the mess, etc.  I am who I am.  I try to focus on what I enjoy.  I try to find balance in my life.  Is it easy? NO!  But I no longer go about casting stones at my ADD.  I have no support group.  If there was one, I would rush to join it.  Anyway, best wishes, and God bless you.

Posted by Sherry468 on Apr 13, 2013 at 11:07pm

I didn’t mind the OP’s post.  But I completely understand Lakelife’s reaction to the original post and I certainly don’t think her response is a sign of depression.

For some who’ve suffered,  it’s like saying to a blind person, “be glad you’re blind, you can hear so much better because of it.  Think positive.”. 

I myself see it for what it is, a “disability”. Yes, I’m very creative in solving problems.  But I would trade that for better social skills and being able to drive better so I don’t kill myself anyday.  Those skills I’m weaker in would have helped me do better in life than my creativity.  Studies do prove that overall, ADHD is a handicap to life success.  I was just officially diagnosed this month and I’m 38.

Maybe the trick is to be diagnosed young.  That doesn’t mean I think it’s a gift ot those people.  To me, it just means that they have a better chance of reducing the adverse affects of ADHD if you find out about it when you’re young.

Posted by heehee62 on Apr 13, 2013 at 11:36pm

While I admire the optimism shown here, it boggles my mind that people kind of like having ADHD!  Good for you but I would love to dump it.  Quickly!  I was diagnosed last year at 54. It is good to know why my mind is like being in a room with 50 televisions on different stations with the sound turned all the way up on all of them but I really would prefer some peace and quiet.  And better social skills.  And not having it affect my co-morbid problems.

Anyway, I’m glad you’re happy with your situations even though I absolutely cannot understand why!  Best of luck to you!

Posted by Missed That on Apr 14, 2013 at 12:04am

Dr. Faye shows what it takes to conquer this thing - - or any other nasty, for that matter.  I know it.  You take whatever tools god has given you and you apply them. 

Dear Faye has applied them.  Good for her and I hope she continues to post because I need…  I would think we all need ...  examples of ADHD folks out there who have beaten this thing.  Her words make me remember there have been times I have been able to say those things, too. 

It’s just at this very moment I cannot muster the focus to brush my teeth.  Co-morbiditys are an issue with us.  I am not going to blather poetic about my situation other than to say times are simply tough and I need to do what Faye has done:  Develop a plan and march on. I have the skills, a degree and some years left to apply them.  I need to do it.

I also think her view of this thing is a realistic one.  She does not claim that this thing is some kind of misunderstood gift.  From what I sense, she sees it as it is:  a problem that she works around and through.  (at least, that is how I read it).  Even Dr. ‘Enzo’ Hallowell,  who I reference above, never claims this thing is an advantage. (For the uninitiated, ‘Enzo’ Ferrari was the father of the automobile company which bares his name.  I call Hallowell ‘Enzo’ because of his oft used “Ferrari Brain” references). 

For those who do claim this is a gift..  Think hard.  The symptoms of this thing are anything but pleasant.

Posted by LakeLife on Apr 14, 2013 at 1:17am

We MUST be talking about two different conditions.  My entire life has been a living hell with ADHD:  I have no friends, am about to be fired from my job,  am separated from my husband who couldn’t take it anymore, can’t make a decision, can’t seem to clean my house, and have never finished college…in fact, never finished anything, EVER.  I wake up every morning scared and anxious, dreading the day ahead.  I have tried many different ADHD and anti-depressant medicines, and nothing has helped.  I don’t have that “creativity” that other ADHDers have talked about, or that boundless energy that keeps them going.  I am 50 years old and have absolutely nothing to show for it, except for my wonderful children.

I don’t know how anyone can call this curse a “gift” or embrace it and turn it into a positive thing.  I can hardly get out of bed in the morning.

Posted by kelprin on Apr 14, 2013 at 3:08am

Hi kelprin.  If you are pretty certainly going to be fired in the US, I’d consider disclosing your ADHD to your bosses.  If you want advice on whether to disclose or not, I’d start another thread giving more details on your situation since it’s hard to give an opinion not understanding much.

I actually might be fired soon myself so I went to a lawyer and he gave me a bunch of advice.  I’d share that with you if you wanted though my situation may be different than yours.

Posted by heehee62 on Apr 14, 2013 at 7:29am

If your life is miserable and for most of you who have posted in response to the question whether ADD/ADHD is a gift, it sounds like it is.

I would just suggest that perhaps you find an ADD/ADHD life coach who look at the environment around you, and make suggestions about what changes you can make that might make life easier.

I too was not diagnosed until my son was at the age of 7. Suddenly it all made sense why I was so overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, and starting WAY too many projects in life and at work than I could reasonably see through. When my son was diagnosed, I read everything I could put my hands on. His first two years of school were miserable. In kindergarten, he spent more time in the office than in the classroom due to poor impulse control. He was diagnosed about 3 months into the first grade and we started trying to find the best medication, and lifestyle changes to help him be successful.

Yes, he was diagnosed early and I am trying to make sure that he learns all the skills and cheats and everything else so that he can be successful and happy in life regardless of what he eventually decides to pursue. I personally hope that he goes to college and then onto a graduate school but hopefully I will be supportive regardless of what he chooses.

Interestingly, as I read I learned that just having stuff overwhelms those of us with ADD and ADHD. For years you couldn’t find the top of my dining room table because it was piled as high as possible with papers from work, etc. As I worked and continue to work to make a cleaner (not sterile just not so much unnecessary crap) environment and more organized and putting up lots of things to help my son STAY organized and on top of things, I discovered how much the same changes are helping me.

I have been in the same place as a lot of ya’ll. Feeling sorry for the hand that life has dealt me. That is not the attitude I want my son learning from me. I want him to learn that anything is possible as long as I work hard enough toward it.

So use the resources at this website to learn how to better organize, simply, and manage your time. Make sure that you are getting appropriate amounts of exercise. It’s ironic that the more you exercise the more energy you will have. It won’t happen overnight, but I promise that it will happen.

I joined this group because I needed a support group of people who understand the demands and yes hardships that are associated with ADD and ADHD. I hope that when I post about the negative things that I associate with ADD and ADHD (such as not always making sure the filter between my brain and my mouth is engaged when talking to my boss/colleagues) that someone will remind to find the good. Life is so much better and worth living that way. I hope that I never go back to that dark, negative, no interest in myself, the world around me, etc.

One of the things that has worked well for me, is for me to ask colleagues and friends that I trust to give me a heads up - is my filter not engaged, am I taking on too many projects, am I reacting before I’m thinking. I don’t always like what I’m told, but I trust that they will make sure I don’t do something that I’m going to regret later (and trust me there has been plenty of those times).

Lakelife, take that first step, make one positive change to help you cope better with your situation. It may not work for you all the time, but if it helps 50% of the time then it’s a win. I find that when I am in depression, it’s easy to forget that there are others around me who care for me and are only waiting to be asked to help. And lately I have been depressed, my mentor at work noticed, commented on it and made suggestions to help me get it back under control. For example, my son is currently in second grade working hard to play catch up with his reading. He got very behind from kindergarten and first grade. He’s getting close but his class is the first that students will be retained if they fail the reading exam in third grade. I know how my son will take this - extremely hard - and he will associate that working hard doesn’t mean anything. Not the lesson I want him to learn. I have been freaking out, trying to figure out what else to do to make sure that he is on track with his reading. Finally, it hit me, if I knew what the third grade test is like, I would be calmer and better able to access whether he can pass or not. So I volunteered to proctor the test this year. After watching the kids taking it and looking at the books that they are reading, I am now much calmer about my son’s situation. Now, I know what to do to help him be successful. It’s easy to get in the rut - take an active step no matter how small to get out and then the next and the next step is easier. That’s what I want to teach my son and what I try and teach my students as well.
Good luck

Posted by faye on Apr 14, 2013 at 10:47pm

I am 48 years old and can’t imagine thinking of ADHD as a gift.  It has made life very difficult for me and my family. I have known since late teens that I have it.  However, I have not sought treatment due a fear of being “found out”.  I recently went back to school for nursing.  When I graduated, I ended up working on a hospital unit and loved it.  For the first time I felt competent and had the sense that I had finally found where I belonged. I gave my position up after 16 months because the hospital schedule kept me away from home and family too much.  I landed a job in a busy medical office and feel like I have landed in ADHD hell. I should have asked more question in my interview. I wear a headset pretty much all day and field phonecall after phonecall. In between calls I have to fill in mountain of paperwork, see patients on the fly, and essentially act as a secretary to a high-strung physician.  I stay late every night just to get my work done.  I grieve the job that I gave up and wonder how long it will be before I am fired.

I suspect that many of you reading this have been in this place.

Posted by oceangal on Apr 15, 2013 at 5:42pm

Oceangal, I admire you.  You went into the nursing profession!  I struggled as a bank teller.  It’s one thing to mess up someone’s money, but if I was a nurse, well…your dealing with people’s lives!

That being said, the hardest part for me as an 62 y/o adult with ADHD (and only diagnosed 8 years ago when I interned in an internationally re-known lab), is dealing with unhappy coworkers and supervisors.  In stressful situations, like starting a new job, I tend to make a lot of “stupid” mistakes. 

Toss in a “non-people” type of boss, co-workers who sense the opportunity to be a tattle tale and a bully, and it’s not a good mix for me.  In several jobs I quickly became the “scapegoat” and all mistakes were pinned on me.  I found myself being “set up” to look stupid while co-workers watched.  The more stressed I got, the more mistakes I made, and the bigger the “feeding frenzy” became until being fired was a relief from the torment.

Now that I’m older, panic and depression set in when I sense I’m in “hot water.”  (I won’t be able to find another job, etc. etc.) Thankfully, in the job I’m in now I went to the confidential employee counselors, who referred me to a therapist.

Last week I observed that a young co-worker getting the same treatment.  I felt livid!!  I picked up on it in an instant.  Unfortunately, I was so upset that my performance suffered that day, and so noted to me by my supervisor.  My therapist reminded me to bring my anger and angst to her and to “chill”  at work.         

My frustration led me to find this group.  Misery loves company - hopefully I will find the good in my situation.

Posted by nancychef on Apr 15, 2013 at 10:17pm

Yes, TagEHeuer, you are not the only one who sees AD(H)D as a gift at work!  The key is your statement:

“I’ve used my ADHD to my advantage.”

Work WITH it.  Choose a job that fits you.  Oceangal has an awesome example.  Aren’t we all more likely to succeed at work we like to do?  We’ll at least be happier!
(Oceangal, please don’t give up on finding a position like the hospital but with better work hours!)

ADD doesn’t mean I can’t focus on anything - when something interests me, I go into that hyperfocus thing, I’m like a dog on a bone.

Another valuable ADD trait - excuse the reference to the tired cliche - we naturally think outside the box.  We can offer more creative solutions because we don’t see the same boundaries the average people do.  That is GOOD!  I can see that one may think of ADD as negative if the goal is to fit inside that box.  I don’t know why anyone would want to do that, especially in a time when most companies are trying to change that limited mindset.

Posted by Butterfly on Apr 16, 2013 at 2:51am

I recently found out I had ADHD.  Like many of you here, I was on a collision course with no brakes and watched as I smashed my career into a brick wall.  I saw it coming, which is the hardest part of all this.  I couldn’t stop it.  So, I’m not feeling that ADHD is a gift at this particular moment.  BUT, I want to.  Otherwise, there’s no hope for a better life, only watching as I smash my life up over and over.  I cant do that anymore.  I’m tired. 

I know that I have other gifts, whether they are related to ADHD or not, I cant say.  I dont know.  I have relied on these gifts so far, and though its not enough, its something. I dont actually think there’s anything really “wrong” with me. I know I have a lot to offer. Its just unfortunate that what I am isn’t what society values.  I think that’s kind of a loss—which is sad—for everyone. 

My greatest strength is that I believe in things.  Unfortunately, not so much in myself at this point.  BUT, I do believe that there are a lot of people on this site who do have a lot to offer society.  ADHD is a disability for many like me, but like other disabilities, it doesn’t make us any less human or worthy of respect.  If we are getting fired/losing jobs (and thus other opportunities), unable to keep relationships/families together, trying to get by with minds that are as disorganized as our physical spaces, maybe this is something that as a society we need to deal with.  This isn’t just about singular individuals messing up their lives.  Its about a lot of us who might need different things, work in different ways, live different kinds of lives.  I think the question is, how do we do that?  I am very new to all of this, so I am going to rely on those of you who have more experience handling ADHD.  Thanks.

Posted by mmc64 on Apr 21, 2013 at 12:00am

Hallowell from what Ive read says that when you learn to find ways to cope with it, you can use your disadvantage as a tool to help you function afterhand. It has to do with the way we have tendencies toward so much creative intelligence and high energy. He says its about how you refocus your energy and find new ways to use your creativity.

Posted by Debra910 on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:10am


I can see why you are confused, and I think a part of all this is general confusion, at least for me.  What I am saying is that I know that I do not function like others or accomplish tasks as others do.  There is no doubt about this, and I am hoping that medication, education, skills building, etc. will help me change my life.  But, I think that society values certain qualities and labels them “normal.”  Everyone outside the parameters of “normal” is then automatically considered abnormal, less-than, incompetent, and incapable.  A perfect example would be down’s syndrome.  Society labels people with downs as mentally lacking and unacceptable.  But knowing someone with down’s, I know that they are the most loving, generous, and thoughtful people.  This cannot be measured in IQ.

So that’s similar to ADHD—although I am NOT saying that it is the same thing.  We struggle to conform to the ways that the larger population do things, so that we can achieve as they do, and live as they do.  There is no way around this, so that’s what we have to do, but that doesn’t mean that something is “wrong” with you or me.  We happen to be different in ways that most, including ourselves, cannot appreciate so much.  But maybe that’s what needs to change?  I know what you are going through, and having smashed up my life several times, I get it.  But my guess is that you are probably a really smart (judging from your comment), resilient (because you’ve managed to make it so far), generous and caring (from your final comment).  I think you are the kind of person people love. 

Good luck to you too.  My best wishes.


Posted by mmc64 on Apr 22, 2013 at 8:30pm

I agree with all of you who said ADD is not a gift. Its a curse and it never gets better. I never had a moment of peace in my life! I’ve been in school forever and suffered throughout it and still suffering. All that suffering led me to losing my graduate degree. Hard work does not pay off when you have ADD.

ADD is not going to help me out in any work place!
Not only school, I noticed that I can’t keep up with conversations ever. People think Im not listening. They don’t know how much effort I have to make to listen to them!
I try so hard to pay attention and to be relevant.
I don’t care if I have creativity, I would trade it any day to just be normal.

Posted by Hallie on Apr 24, 2013 at 5:41am

Hallie, my therapist said that ADHD is 90% biochemical.  Have you tried meds? 

I went on Concerta about 3 months ago.  18mg at first, and it was great!  I felt like a new person!  After about a month I noticed it wasn’t working as well.  So I am going up.

How about the rest of you?  What meds have you found helpful?

Posted by nancychef on Apr 24, 2013 at 6:53pm

ADHD is both.  I was recently diagnosed at 26 with ADHD combo type and after giving my “condition” a lot of thought I realized that while it did contribute to some breakdowns in my life, it also pulled me through one of the most difficult things a person can ever go through.  The abuse from my mother as a child, her leaving and then her being in and out of my life all the while continuing the abuse.  I know that I miss social cues, am annoyed easily, can have the attention span of a fruit fly and the memory of a goldfish.  But, I also know that I am very smart, warm and personable.  I have ADHD and there is nothing I can do about that.  What I can do is have a positive outlook, learn as much as possible, take my meds and go through life with a positive outlook.

Posted by sparkly blonde on Apr 24, 2013 at 9:35pm

I am 30 and my son is 6 we were both recently diagnosed with ADHD. Do I think it is a gift? Yes, I feel like God waited for me to find out I had ADD so that my son would never have to suffer the way that I did. Yes, I suffered I struggled thru school and I have up and left jobs for no real good reason. I have had relationship issues and sometimes I really dislike myself because I can’t seem to be the person that everyone thinks I’m capable of being. Sometimes no matter how hard I have applied myself to making a single task perfect I still find some way to F it up. The truth is that I HAVE to figure out how to use my ADD correctly, for my son, who is a gift. He is bright and funny and so witty sometimes it’s shocking and if I can just teach him that he doesn’t have to feel less than anybody else just because he’s different than everybody else then maybe I can figure out how to love these things about myself too.

Posted by RobynHH on Jul 17, 2013 at 7:55am

Join the New ADDitude Forums

ADDConnect is shutting down on July 31.
To continue sharing and receiving support from the ADDitude community, visit our new discussion forums.

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions