• Tricia Thornton

Happiness and Heartache of ADHD

Continuing my series on ADHD, this is the third article focusing on ADHD from a different lens. ADHD as we know comes with challenges, but it also comes with positives too. Let's explore the happiness and the heartache of ADHD, the "H" in ADHD.


The following is a good article reviewing some of the positive aspects of a person with ADHD.

https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/benefits-of-adhd#3

This article reviews four personality strengths of an individual with ADHD: energetic, spontaneous, creative and inventive and hyperfocused. There may be a flip side to each of these characteristics, but for now we are focusing on the positives.


One of most common traits of an individual with ADHD is that they have a high amount of energy. The well known Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, is a great example of someone with ADHD with heightened energy levels. When channeled, the hyperfocus and energetic aspects of his personality have produced record-breaking success. An undeniable dedication to what they are passionate about is usually quite evident in a child or adult with ADHD. The creative side of an individual with ADHD is evident in someone like HGTV star, Ty Pennington. He has been open about his struggles with ADHD, and certainly the positive creative side of his personality. He has used the highs of having a lot of energy to create and to become an expert carpenter and tv personality. The positives sometimes get clouded by the negatives with a person with ADHD. Ty would agree. A study in the Journal Child Neuropsychology shows that an individual with ADHD actually can be more creative. Refer to this link to read about the results of the study.

psydok.sulb.uni-saarland.de/volltexte/2007/904/pdf/ADHD.pdf


Being impulsive is commonly known to be a quality of ADHD. This impulsive behavior can be displayed as a fun and free spirit who thrives on spontaneity. The high energy as I mentioned before is the way that a person with ADHD has been successful. For a list of other well-known individuals with ADHD, refer to the above mentioned article.


The happiness of ADHD can quickly turn to heartache. All the positive aspects I reviewed above can turn into challenges. In the last article, I outlined the 4 areas of the ADHD brain that are not functioning to full potential. One of those areas, the limbic cortex, when it is underdeveloped, emotional regulation breaks down. So, the hyperfocus, high energy, spontaneity, and creativity can all become clouded and turn into impulsivity without regulation and distractibility. Interestingly, Ty Pennington's mother, Yvonne Burton, is a school psychologist. She states, " I frequently see depression in adults whose ADHD wasn’t recognized and treated in their younger years. Having endured so many blows to their self-esteem, they’ve accepted the idea that they’re lazy and stupid-or not good enough to succeed socially or professionally." Let's explore a little more about depression and ADHD.


The following article outlines the increased risk for depression and suicidal thoughts in children with ADHD. https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/news/children-with-adhd-at-increased-risk-for-depression-and-suicidal-thoughts-as-adolescents

The symptoms of depression and ADHD are very similar. The lack of focus typical in an individual with ADHD can look like depression as well. It may look like a lack of interest. The impulsivity of ADHD can look similar sometimes to a manic state of a depressed individual that often has mood swings. Distinguishing between ADHD and depression can be confusing, but we do know that there are specific neurotransmitters that are effected by both disorders.


Described in my last article, dopamine is a key neurotransmitter that is not functioning properly in the ADHD brain. There is evidence showing the same dysfunction in the depressed brain. This scientific article explains the similarity.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/scicurious-brain/the-dopamine-sides-of-depression/

The article states: "And dopamine could also be important in major depressive disorder. People with depression often exhibit reduced motivation, anhedonia (a decrease in pleasure from usually enjoyed things), sometimes motor decreases as well. All of these are linked with dopamine." This article does go into the medical interventions that can be given to someone to increase the function of dopamine. I will be covering ADHD treatment options in another article.


I will conclude by reiterating that there is happiness and heartache both come with ADHD. When some of the more negative symptoms of ADHD are channeled properly, those symptoms can actually turn into strengths. As in the case with some of the famous individuals with ADHD, they have used some of their creativity, hyperfocus, and energy to have great successes!


Tricia Thornton, MA, LPC, RPT

615-212-9977

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