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Description: So here is a thought: In psychology we typically talk about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) as an unquestionably undesirable thing. Look at its name, we view it as a deficit and a disorder. There is no doubt that there are many situations and circumstances where ADHD would NOT be adaptive (school usually being one of those places). I am not going to be critical of the mighty DSM and its inclusion of ADHD as a disorder. What I am going to do is ask you to step back and consider “ADHD-like” dispositions and behaviors from a bit broader perspective. You may or may not have heard about concerns raised by an apparent HUGE jump in the prescription of AHDH meds for children in the past 15 years. Diagnosis of AHDH in children in the US had increased by 43% since 2003 ( There is debate about whether there is a trend towards over-diagnosis and over-treatment of ADHD (see articles in further reading below) and there is some discussion of the possibility that children with signs and symptoms of ADHD do better once they get out of school and can “niche-pick” where and how they invest their time. So, what kind of a world and what kind of situations might ADHD tendencies (if not the full diagnostic condition) be an asset rather than a liability? Think about that and then read the article linked below.

Source: In Praise of ADHD, Leonard Mlodinow, Grey Matter, The New York Times.

Date: March 17, 2018


Article Link:  

Here is an interesting question to reflect upon. If there has been a huge jump in rates of ADHD while we might want to blame modern life for that is there some of the ADHD rate jump which might reflect adaptation? Of course, it is not an all of one or all of the other possible answer, but it IS worth thinking about. The disorder of ADHD as contained in the DSM is rather clearly defined and, when appropriate assessments are done, is rather consistently defined and diagnosed. However, the larger societal discussion around “ADHD” as a pattern of symptoms is not limited to what would appropriately fit into the DSM. This larger discussion does not conform to clinical (DSM) criteria for defining ADHD, but it is invoking the disorder label regardless and as such should be part of psychologists’ ongoing discussions of what AHDH is (or is seen to be) and how it, and these discussions, are impacting children with attributed ADHD symptomology.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are there social situations where a little ADHD might be a good thing?
  2. Are there differences between ADHD disorder and “ADHD-like” symptoms?
  3. How might the idea that ADHD might be adaptive in some situations for some people be affected by a shift away from the use of drugs like Ritalin in the treatment of ADHD?

References (Read Further):

Potter, F. F. E. (2018). A different perspective on why prescriptions of ADHD drugs have soared. Assessment, 15, 43.

Davidovitch, M., Koren, G., Fund, N., Shrem, M., & Porath, A. (2017). Challenges in defining the rates of ADHD diagnosis and treatment: trends over the last decade. BMC pediatrics, 17(1), 218.

Harding, B. (2017). The Field Guide to ADHD: What They Don’t Want You to Know. Psychiatry–Theory, Applications and Treatments. Online Submission.

Cramond, B. (1995). The Coincidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Creativity. Attention Deficit Disorder Research-Based Decision Making Series 9508.

Matejcek, Z. (2003). Is ADHD adaptive or non-adaptive behavior?. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 24(3/4), 148-150.