Recently a Facebook post came across my page asking, “Can AD/HD be a Gift?” It was posted by an Occupational Therapy group here in Canada. I clicked on the post, read the comments, and instantly regretted doing so.
It is not unusual to hear people proclaim that ADD/ADHD is a gift, however, speaking as a person with severe, life disrupting ADHD, I have never believed this disorder to be a gift. Would we tell a person their cancer is a gift? Would you tell a person who’s only mode of transportation is a wheelchair that not being able to walk on one’s own is a gift? Would you tell a person who is blind that their lack of clear sight is a gift? The answer to all these questions is likely to be an emphatic “no”.
There are people with ADHD who have gifts, this is no different than people without ADHD. Having this disorder doesn’t prevent a person from being born with incredible gifts or developing excellent talents. Those with ADHD experience different symptoms and are effected differently due to circumstances such as one’s occupation, gender, age, family circumstances, access to psycho-social supports, personal beliefs about the ADHD, and socio-economic status.
The Mayo Clinic lists some of the symptoms of Adult ADHD (2018):
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing
- Poor time management skills
- Problems focusing on a task
- Trouble multitasking
- Excessive activity or restlessness
- Poor planning
- Low frustration tolerance
- Frequent mood swings
- Problems following through and completing tasks
- Hot temper
- Trouble coping with stress
Looking over this list, do these sound like “gifts”. If someone wrapped all these symptoms up in a bow and offered them to you, would you accept them. Would you trade your even temper, patience, and self-control for the “gift” of ADHD?
The key to living successfully as an adult with ADHD is managing one’s symptoms. Again, everyone experiences different symptoms and to varying degrees. Some manage successfully without medication, others need high doses of prescribed stimulants in order to maintain a job and look after themselves and their family. It’s important to find out what management methods work for each of us.
What I see as a gift is the fact that I was able to finally be diagnosed as an adult. I was able to find a psychologist who was able to do testing for free and refer me to a medical doctor for an official diagnosis. It was a gift to attend a university where ADHD was viewed as a legitimate disability and I was allowed to have a liaison and academic support; without this I wouldn’t have been able to complete courses and graduate. It is a gift that I don’t have to pay for ADHD medication. Health care is not free in Canada, we have to pay for a variety of services. There are adults who have ADHD and are not able to access free services. Health care coverage in Canada varies according to which province you reside in.
Those who do well despite having this disorder do so because they have been able to find suitable and/or accommodating employment, social and/or family support, the right medication and dosage (if needed), proper diagnosis, and a variety of ways to manage and decrease symptoms. This is the “gift”.