Mental Disorders as Advantages?


And, indeed, ADHD may have negative consequences for academic achievement, employment performance, and social relationships.

But ADHD may also bring with it an advantage: the ability to think more creatively. Three aspects of creative cognition are divergent thinking, conceptual expansion and overcoming knowledge constraints.

Divergent thinking, or the ability to think of many ideas from a single starting point, is a critical part of creative thinking.

Previous research has established that individuals with ADHD are exceptionally good at divergent thinking tasks, such as inventing creative new uses for everyday objects, and brainstorming new features for an innovative cell phone device.

via Holly White

Relevant to yesterday’s blog post about founders with ADHD:

More interesting stuff:

This new study suggests that ADHD may be especially beneficial when the goal is to create or invent something new without being locked into — and constrained by — old models or conventions. The innovative, original thinking style of people with ADHD may be a great fit for innovative fields where it’s an advantage to be on the cutting edge.

Naturally, I want to like this a lot but I’m hesitant to adopt this view for a number of reasons. But, for starters, this is how I’ve always thought about the mental disorders that I have – this is simply how I operate and I don’t know that it’s either an advantage of disadvantage.

In other words, I never really thought of these things as downsides or disadvantages when I was growing up – how could I? It was all that I knew, very much like how a child growing up blind or with hearing loss doesn’t have a comparable as to what life is like without that disability.

I have always seen the world slightly differently, which isn’t to say that I see the world more rightly than anyone else. In fact, I see the world uniquely, just like everyone else.

It was only until I was older where I started to see how the world treated and understood folks with mental disorders and I began to think that something was “wrong” with me. It’s only as an adult where I began to doubt the lens through which I was seeing and experiencing the world.

I began walking backwards on what I had originally seen as true and right and proper and okay. I began building an internal narrative that told me that I was unacceptable, that I lacked a little less value than others, and that I wouldn’t be nearly as useful as I hoped I could become for others.

Those were dark times; I won’t lie. Those were times of deep questioning, wrestling, and doubt. I can distinctly remember moments where I’d stop everything I was doing in that moment to simply reflect on the very purpose of my existence and I’d conclude that I had very little to offer.

The more important message is this: We need others to help do our best work. Teams, tribes, and communities enable us to do even more than we could do by ourselves.

One of the first technologies ever created was the social contract and the tooling that was born between two people when they agreed that they could do even more together than apart.

The folks with mental disorders, as we understand them today, have just as much to offer as the folks who do not. That’s as it should be and it’s a glorious and wonderful thing.

%d bloggers like this: