Inattentive ADHD and Creativity

inattentive adhd creativity

A study performed at the University of Memphis and published this month in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences found that undergraduates with a diagnosis of ADHD were more creative that non-ADHD undergraduate students. The study did not separate the ADHD Predominantly Inattentive subtype from the other subtypes of ADHD but students diagnosed with ADHD were found to have more 'divergent' and ‘creative’ thinking than other students.

This should not be too surprising. Much of what goes on in the brain of children and adults with ADHD Predominantly Inattentive is divergent thinking. They are rarely thinking of exactly what is being discussed or addressed as their minds naturally wander off to tangents of the given topic. This can produce some very creative and 'outside the box' thinking but I am not sure that I would necessarily call divergent thinking, in and of itself, creativity.

I believe that divergent thinking only leads to creativity in the presence of a couple of factors. The most obvious one that comes to mind is a high I.Q. People with ADHD Predominantly Inattentive and a high I.Q. will be better equipped to use these tangential thought for a higher good. The founder of the copy company Kinko’s had ADHD but also had the IQ to put his divergent way of thinking into devising a highly successful company. 

Divergent thinking combined with extroversion or a desire to perform can lead to amazingly creative performance art or other artistic creations. I recently read that a major comedy club in Los Angeles was hiring a full time psychotherapist so that the comedians that performed at this comedy club, many or which were amazingly creative, would have access to therapy for their mental health issues. 

Comedians are quite likely to be highly creative and divergent thinkers but even a lay person can observe obvious ADHD traits in the majority of comedians. This comedy club understands that the divergent thinking and lack of inhibition in comedians can often lead to, or be the result of, mental health problems.

I would love to embrace the results of this study and label all ADHD individuals as, 'Amazingly Creative'. Unfortunately this study has at least one major flaw. All the participants in this study had achieved the goal that eludes many people with ADHD Predominantly Inattentive and other subtypes of ADHD. They had all been admitted to a University. That, if nothing else, makes them different and more able to succeed than many people with ADHD. It is quite possible that University students with ADHD Inattentive are more creative than other university students but it is not clear, from this study anyway, that a signature trait of ADHD is creativity.

People with ADHD are likely to be ‘divergent’ thinkers.  In today’s lingo this is the equivalent of “thinking outside the box”.  This is a useful tool to have in life but people with ADHD must control the negative symptoms of ADHD that lead to less successful life outcomes in order that this highly creative and divergent thinking style be put to good use.

ADHD's Upside Is Creativity, Says New Study - The Daily Beast

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