At a glance
Lots of people with ADHD are incredibly creative.
Some ADHD qualities could promote creative thinking.
People with ADHD might be more likely to take creative risks.
Are people with ADHD just naturally creative? Learn what the research shows — and where some experts see a possible link between ADHD and creativity.
ADHD and creative thinking
There’s no concrete evidence that ADHD (also known as ADD) leads to creativity. But there are a few studies that suggest ADHD challenges can have an upside. The same qualities that make it hard to take turns or follow directions, for instance, may promote creative thinking.
Take impulsivity, one of the main symptoms of ADHD. The studies suggest it might lead people to have more original ideas.
That’s because people with ADHD often lack inner inhibition. This means they have trouble holding back when they want to say or do something. And while that can cause problems, it can also make people less likely to have an inner critic that silences their flow of ideas.
People with ADHD also tend to be easily distracted. (That is, unless they’re hyperfocused on something.) But studies suggest a possible benefit to this, too. Kids who have trouble tuning out things in their environment may find that all those elements combine in interesting ways. And that can lead to new ideas.
Researchers in one study asked a group of college students with and without ADHD about how they prefer to approach problems. Those with ADHD were more likely to enjoy coming up with new ideas. Those without ADHD were more likely to enjoy using or developing existing ideas.
The students with ADHD also performed better in certain subject areas than those without ADHD. These included the arts, creative writing, science discovery, and architecture. (Their achievement was self-reported.)
ADHD and the arts
There are lots of actors, musicians, and other types of artists with ADHD. Some artists, like Black Eyed Peas founder will.i.am and Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu, even credit ADHD as a factor in their success.
Having talent and having artistic success aren’t the same thing, though. There’s no research to suggest that innate artistic abilities are tied to ADHD. In other words, having ADHD doesn’t make you an especially talented musician or painter.
But some experts think there are aspects of ADHD that might play a role in thriving creatively.
People with ADHD are often risk-takers. Pursuing a creative career requires putting yourself out there and facing possible rejection or career failure. In other words, you have to take risks.
Also, people with ADHD often intensely focus on things they have a great interest in. That can be a plus when creative people are working to develop their craft.
How to foster creativity with ADHD
Even when people with ADHD are highly creative, ADHD challenges can make it hard to translate ideas into reality. People with ADHD often struggle with planning, managing time, and following through on tasks.
For example, kids with ADHD might be bubbling with ideas for a short story for creative writing class. But they might not remember the ideas long enough to write them down.
A teacher might say a child’s science fair project has lots of promise. But that child might struggle to get together a list of materials required to build it, let alone start the project and complete it on time.
There are lots of ways to help kids express that creativity, though. The first step is to recognize a child’s creativity and see it as a strength.
It’s also important for people with ADHD to work on the skills that could keep their creative dreams from becoming a reality. That includes skills like organization and time management. Improving those skills can help clear the way for creativity to flourish.
Hear stories about ADHD and creativity on the ADHD Aha! podcast.
Lots of creative people have ADHD.
ADHD challenges, like impulsivity and risk-taking, could lead to creative thinking.
If people with ADHD follow through on ideas, their creativity can flourish.