Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADD/ADHD, is commonly discussed as a problem to be minimized. The condition can make it difficult to focus and achieve success at work and school. It can interfere with your relationships. It can lead you to feel misunderstood. What’s less talked about is how to leverage the traits associated with ADD/ADHD, and how the condition can actually help you become more successful by helping you reach your personal and professional goals faster. Here's what you need to know about the benefits of ADD/ADHD and how to use your unique traits to your advantage.
Main Characteristics of ADD/ADHD
ADD/ADHD causes three main characteristics: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. People who have this condition often have difficulty focusing on tasks, showing patience, and following instructions. They may be very talkative, seem to drift away during conversations, or lose important items. With proper treatment, however, individuals can often manage these symptoms and reduce their impact on daily activities.
Scientists think that the brains of individuals who have ADD/ADHD have a limited response to dopamine. This chemical produced by the nervous system governs attention and reward, which explains some of its common personality traits. Research also indicates that symptoms like inattention and hyperactivity are associated with an imbalance of the S100B protein, an important regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes.1 Though more research is needed to determine the exact causes of ADHD, these chemical imbalances, along with genetics, and environmental factors are thought to contribute to its main characteristics.
Embracing Your Brain’s Wiring: Cognitive Advantages of ADD/ADHD
Clinical research has given some insights into the positive aspects of an ADD/ADHD diagnosis. For example, the journal Child Neuropsychology reported that children with ADD/ADHD showed a higher level of innovation when completing a creative task than children who did not have this diagnosis.2
And the flip side of the impulsive behavior associated with ADD/ADHD is a willingness to take risks. This fearless attitude will be a boon if you want to start a new business, move to a new city or launch a podcast. You may have an impressive ability to think outside the box and create innovative solutions to problems. People with ADD/ADHD often report that they have developed unique, effective productivity systems. Other phenomenons, like hyperfocus, in which a person is able to spend a long time on a task without disruption, allow people with ADHD to thrive as long as they have strategies in place to support them.
How You Can Leverage ADD/ADHD Symptoms
Personality traits associated with ADD/ADHD, such as hyperfocus and creativity, can be harnessed and used to your advantage. Try these strategies to start learning how:
Capitalize on Hyperfocus
If you experience hyperfocus as a symptom, you might feel drained and depressed if all that energy goes into surfing YouTube all day. Instead, direct that undivided attention to learning a new language or picking up an old favorite hobby you've forgotten.
Embrace Multitasking when You Can
Keen multitasking ability is also a common trait for those who have ADD/ADHD as they bounce from one novel task to another. Instead of allowing these frequent transitions to prevent you from getting anything done, try using this skill to your advantage by setting goals and taking steps to work toward each one each day, alternating between tasks if it helps your workflow to do so.
Utilize Your Creativity & Think Outside the Box
People who have ADD/ADHD often have a big-picture way of thinking. This ability to see the forest despite the trees is an important quality for business executives, entrepreneurs and other industry leaders. Their ability to come up with unique solutions to problems or novel perspectives makes an ADHD person a force to be reckoned with in the arts, design, sports, and various other disciplines.
Building Effective Strategies to Get Ahead:
Pepperdine University published research in 2009 about how to optimize your performance if you have ADHD, especially the symptom inattention.3 The scientists recommended taking frequent breaks if you struggle with a short attention span at work or school, even if it’s as simple as getting up to get a cup of coffee or a snack Here are some other ways you can strategize getting ahead if you have ADHD:
Use Visual Aids & Reminders
Forgetfulness is a common problem for people with ADHD, whether it comes to remembering to take your medication or picking up the dry cleaners. Posting visual aids and reminders around the house or at work can be a big help here. This might look like a shared calendar posted to the fridge or reminders programmed into your phone (or both!).
Reduce irritability and impulsivity.
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Break Tasks into Smaller, Manageable Chunks
Leaving tasks unfinished is another common issue. When a task involves numerous steps, it’s easy to get stuck on one or have trouble starting altogether because the process can feel overwhelming or unmanageable. Try breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks instead and tick off each small victory as you make your way to the finish line. The dopamine hit you’ll get from each step will motivate you to keep going.
Create a Structured Routine
The ADHD brain thrives with structure. When you know what’s coming and the day feels predictable enough, you can prepare yourself for transitions and flow through them with ease. Start building a daily routine to use as a template with non-negotiables like getting up at the same time every day, eating meals at the same times, having carved out times for exercise or meditation, etc. This releases the stress of trying to figure out what to do first and what to do next because it’s all been decided beforehand.
Explore Alternative Learning Techniques
When you have ADHD, learning something new can be difficult whether you’re a child or an adult. You may not be able to catch on as quickly as others, but this might just mean you need a different approach. In addition to breaking tasks into smaller chunks and using visual aids, set timers to give yourselves plenty of breaks when studying, try wearing noise-canceling headphones when you need to focus, review notes before bed, and try studying in various locations to make the process novel and more engaging for your brain.
Seeking Extra Support & Accommodations
You don’t have to figure out how to deal with your symptoms alone. One of the best ways you can help yourself and learn to leverage ADHD to your advantage is to seek extra support. Here’s how:
Communicate Your Needs
Having ADHD is not something to be ashamed about. Instead of struggling silently and hiding your symptoms from others, communicate how your brain works differently and what you need to succeed. This might be asking for a quiet space to work, being able to send phone calls to voicemail so they do not interrupt workflow, requesting regular constructive feedback and more.
Use Technology & Tools
In addition to noise-canceling headphones, there is so much tech that can help. This includes digital day planners and shared calendars, smart watches with timers and reminders, trackers for items that you tend to lose often like keys and wallet, voice recorders for note-taking and more.
Seek Professional Help & Consider Medication
If you need more support, consider seeking professional help from a therapist, counselor, or ADHD coach. They can help you come up with tips and strategies you may not have thought of based on your own unique needs.
You may also want to consider ADHD medication for adults if you haven’t already. While there are a number of prescription drugs available, including stimulants and non-stimulants, these medications can also cause a range of side effects like upset stomach, drowsiness, or headaches, and more. While there is certainly value in prescription medications, we recommend seeing them as a last resort after gentler options have been explored first.
One such option is Brillia, a non-prescription medication clinically proven to reduce symptoms like hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, and anxiety without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, which we mentioned above as helping to improve communication between neurons. In balancing this brain-specific chemical without affecting any other systems in the body, Brillia stops symptoms of ADHD from occuring while normalizing the level of monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in different parts of the brain. The result is more focus and clarity without any off-target effects.
Learn more about how Brillia works and find more tips on how to manage ADHD and anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.