What are the characteristics of ADHD?

by CJ McDaniel // September 14  

There are two ways to look at the characteristics of ADHD and how they’re found in people.  One way is to look at the negatives, the weaknesses, or the things that cause those labeled with ADHD suffering.

These negative characteristics of ADHD typically include:

Inability to focus,  not being able to pay attention,  difficulty with follow through, often feeling overwhelmed, radical behavior,  impulsivity, defiance, overly emotional,  very hyperactive, all over the  place, disorganized, poor time management, difficulty learning,  and the  list goes on and on.

These characteristics are found in children and adults. In children they  affect  their school work, social skills,  their ability to do well in classes, to study, and to know what is appropriate behavior for certain  social situations.

In adults these characteristics of ADHD are found in the workplace.  They find difficulty in being able to achieve their tasks on time, to work well with other people, to get organized, to get paperwork done, to avoid distractions, and many more aspects that have recently been called “executive functioning issues”.

These characteristics of ADHD can also be found in a person’s personal life with relationships.  For instance, a partner may be impulsive easily distracted away from the emotional needs of another, forgetting certain special dates, being late to pick up the kids, missing deadlines for bills, and so on.

Although it certainly is the case that these characteristics of ADHD do indeed exist, there’s a whole other set of characteristics that are rarely talked about. These are the positive characteristics of ADHD that many refer to as a mental illness from a very different point of view.

These positive characteristics of ADHD include:

The ability to think outside  the box, to take risks, to think creatively, to see the whole picture, to think abstractly,  to improvise, to be eccentric,  to be a “people person”, to see many different points of view,  to problem solve in new ways, to be able to process things much  faster, to be able to integrate information from multiple sources, to have a heightened sense of awareness,  to have faster reaction times, to be adaptive,  to handle chaotic situations very well, to be good in a crisis, to be caring and compassionate, to be a very good hands on learner,  to follow their intuitions, and much more.

These positive characteristics of ADHD are the same traits that you would see in entrepreneurs, business owners, inventors, actors, comedians, musicians, and some of the most creative and intelligent people in our society.

These highly creative people come from a great variety of disciplines, but mostly all have these traits in common. These people created and innovated in ways that were not done before, and yet today they would be labeled with ADHD.

In fact, there are many celebrities today who have these traits, were labeled with ADHD, and have become extremely successful anyway. They are now speaking about ADHD.  Feel free check out my article of celebrities with ADHD to find out more information.

When wondering about the characteristics of ADHD it is important that we keep an open mind and that we see things from both perspectives, because the difference between the positive and negative characteristics is simply one’s belief in who they are.

Whether we see the negative characteristics or the positive characteristics, it comes down to a person’s choice as to where and how they look at it.  If we looked at many of the successful people who embodied these characteristics, some of them may have been labeled with ADHD, but they made a choice to see those characteristics as gifts.

In addition, they chose to recognize that, yes, they may have weaknesses in certain areas, but we all do as well.  Instead of focusing only on those weaknesses they get the assistance in those areas, and exploit their gifts to unleash their potential and became extremely successful.

However, if we took the most intelligent person in the world and drilled into them the perception that whatever they do they will fail, and continued this over a period of time, reinforcing their faults, weaknesses, and shortcomings, then it is very unlikely that their genius would ever materialize.

ADHD is a label used to describe an individual’s experiences, and as we all know life for everyone is full of a great range experiences.  It is up to us to decide whether those experiences will contribute to our growth or our feelings of low self-worth.

Characteristics describe a character, but not a human being.  A character is a persona or personality, but a human being is capable of changing their personality, and shifting their character throughout their life – if they choose to.

Shakespeare once said that “all of life is a stage”.  To him we are like characters in a great play; however we are also the play writers, the producers, the directors, the stage crew, and everything else as well.  We are writing the script, while we are also playing our part.

Many are not aware of it, but they have the power to change the script, to write a different play, and to shift character.  Indeed, this is what many of the great thinkers, innovators, and successful individuals did!

So, when you ask the question “what are the characteristics of ADHD”? , think about these positive traits.  Imagine reading them without knowing their link to the label of ADHD, and ask yourself would you still be inclined to say that this is a mental illness or a neurological disorder?

Wouldn’t you if you didn’t know anything about ADHD and you just read these characteristics be more likely to say that a person with these traits must be extremely intelligent, creative, and gifted?

I have questioned this all my life.  I was labeled with ADHD at 18 months, placed on medication, and educated by modern medicine to only see the negative characteristics.  However, something uniquely different happened to me.  I woke up!  I began to believe in myself, to make my own choices, and to tell my own story.  I have subsequently been medication and symptom free for over the past 22 years!

In this journey, I have learned to see things differently, and to explore my own gifts.  I have renamed the label of ADHD based on a closer examination of those characteristics and my own life experience.   Instead of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I see Advanced Dimensions of Human Development.

I can tell you, through my own life experience, that what stands between you living a lifetime of blaming yourself for the negative characteristics of ADHD or moving into their greatness is your belief and acceptance of who you are.

Learning to accept our weaknesses is equally as important as taking advantage of our strengths.  Many people do not realize that some of the most successful people throughout history also had both the positive characteristics of ADHD, and the negative ones too!

Disorganized, impulsive, lack of follow through, etc…would just as much describe Leonardo Da Vinci as it does any teenager or adult with ADHD.  The reality is that no one can be good at everything, and we all have strengths and weaknesses.  It is only when we embrace both of them completely that we are free from the labels or judgments of society.

Facing our weaknesses and learning not to judge them is one of the major keys in learning how to unlock our greatest potential.  People spend their whole lives times trying to fit into the box of what society tells them they should be or how they should act.  No one person can have everything figured out, and no one person comes without weaknesses.   Embracing and accepting what we are naturally not good at is not a sign of weakness, but strength.

It takes inner strength to face down our own weakness, and learn to accept ourselves as we are.  How can we see the positive characteristics of ADHD – if we do not really accept the negative characteristics of ADHD.   What most people do is they stay so focused on trying to change the negative that they never get past the feeling of being inadequate or not like other people.

However, when we study individuals who have been extremely successful with ADHD we learn that they took a different approach to how they view ADHD.   Instead, they readily accepted these negatives and therefore got to see the positives.

We all have much to give to this world regardless of the label of ADHD.  We have gifts and talents that have been bestowed upon us at birth, and abilities that we haven’t even scratched the surface of yet.   These talents can be mastered, and we can learn how to use them properly instead of  spending our live time trying to be something we are not.

Remember, your character is your part in the story.  However, the story hasn’t been finished yet.  History is read, but it is also being written.  Only you can determine how it ends.  Only you can change the story, and only you can change the characters!

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!