Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and creativity are frequently linked. It makes sense that ADHD’s surplus of ideas, emotions, and energy might result in creative expression. Growing up, I had a hard time deciding what kind of art to pursue. I danced, acted, played the violin, wrote stories, and littered the house with drawings. It is no surprise that a number of composers (George Gershwin), artists (Leonardo da Vinci), and actors (Ryan Gosling) either have or are speculated to have had ADHD. Let us explore some good things about ADHD, such as why ADHD and creativity are linked and how making art benefits the ADHD brain.
Why ADHD and Creativity Go Together
ADHD and creativity come together in many different ways. For example, in college, my favorite part of the essay-writing process was brainstorming. People with ADHD can be idea machines. We have active minds, and studies show that ADHDers have an easier time coming up with ideas than completing tasks.1 Some scientists argue that people with ADHD have a hard time suppressing “brain activity coming from the ‘Imagination Network’.”2 This lack of mental, and sometimes physical, inhibition can lead to taking artistic risks (How to Succeed with ADHD When All Else Fails).
Because people with ADHD have difficulty directing their focus, they sometimes notice things that other people do not. This can give birth to a lot of unusual and interesting associations you would only get when ADHD and creativity combine. Add that to an abundance of energy, passion, and a tendency to hyperfocus on what interests them, and you get a group of people who want to communicate and share their observations.
Treat ADHD with Creativity (Art Therapy)
Art therapy treats a variety of conditions, and ADHD is no exception. For one, art therapy develops a skill, which in turn can improve self-esteem (Using Creativity to Build Self-Esteem). The process of making art can also sooth and ground the artist. Sometimes ADHDers’ busy minds and high emotions overwhelm them, and drawing or painting can be an almost meditative experience (ADHD Symptoms: Signs and Symptoms of ADHD). Creating art affects the part of the brain that regulates emotions, and molding a piece of art can resemble how it feels to try to control amorphous emotions.3
Creating art also improves focus and directs one’s energy, and it gives fidgety ADHDers a chance to use their hands. Sometimes they get too stuck in their heads, or they seemingly act without thinking. Sculpting or drawing integrates one’s body, thoughts, and emotions. On top of that, it reduces stress by boosting levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps counteract depression (something many with ADHD struggle with).3
Of course, producing art poses many challenges for ADHDers. I struggle to complete projects I’ve begun. If you have ADHD, let me know what helps you and what kind of creative outlets you are drawn to, whether it is art in the traditional sense or another form of expression. Whatever it is, it is nice to know that creating can be a tonic and that people with ADHD might be especially good at it.
- Science Daily. Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder score high in creativity.
- Scientific American. Scott Barry Kaufman. Creative Gifts of ADHD.
- ADDitude. Stacey Nelson. Art Therapy.
by Noelle Matteson
via Living with Adult ADHD – HealthyPlace