ADHD in Creative People
A frequent client of Creativity Counseling presents with symptoms and/or a diagnosis of ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD are presentations that mimic traits of creative personalities- you don't need to be afraid of them! You can reclaim them!
Creative Children with ADHD Signs & Symptoms
We can further subdivide this group into what I (unofficially) call "dreamer" type and "builder" types:
"Dreamer" type ADHD symptoms look like "zoning out," distractibility, trouble concentrating, changing focus from one task to another, organizing logistics, and frustration when plans change, I call this type the "dreamer" type, because this type is highly intuitive, creative and invested in their own creative world, and is often highly intelligent in visual arts, reading and writing.
"Builder" type ADHD symptoms look like difficulty concentrating also, but especially when not interested in the task at hand, while hyper focus can occur with tasks they are interested in, as well as hyper motor functioning, both in sound (sound effects and/or chattiness) wiggliness, problems sitting still. I call this type the "builder" type because this type is often highly intelligent in STEM subjects like math, science and engineering.
Let's get this out of the way: just because a child shows characteristics of ADHD does NOT mean they have DIAGNOSABLE ADHD. Many if not most children who are highly creative will demonstrate characteristics of builder and/or dreamer type ADHD. Certainly it is important to recognize when diagnosis of a clinical disorder is necessary, and I will provide supportive care to that end, but what I will also do, is back you down when you are feeling overwhelmed, and help you see when a creative child can be supported as such and you can feel empowered with the skillset your kiddo was born with!
Why do creative kiddos have ADHD signs and symptoms? Let's talk about executive functioning. Executive functioning is the part of your brain that is essentially in charge of multitasking. It is the RAM of your brain. In kiddos, like everything, that is under development. We know that creative people, kiddos are no exception, feel things strongly. Have strong emotions. Emotions happen where? In our executive functioning centers (at least at first!) Imagine strong and powerful emotions that kiddos are still learning to regulate, flooding those still developing executive functioning centers, taking up all of the available RAM. What might that look like? Difficulty engaging in a task if they don't like it? Difficulty changing gears if they are fully invested in a task? Difficult emotional regulation? "Zoning out" when they are dreaming or fantasizing? Yep. All of these. They are not broken. They are highly creative. And- just like ADHD is genetic- so is Creativity- so a parent is highly creative if a kiddo is. That means, parents, get your own creative mind understood and healthy, and you can help your kiddo, too!
Creative Adults with ADHD Signs & Symptoms
So you have muddled through your life with overwhelm. You have struggled through making schedules and to-do lists. Organization and decision making is not your forte. Emotional regulation is difficult. You have wondered about ADHD, but felt embarrassed. Maybe you have been diagnosed or a medical person has suggested testing to you. Maybe you have been diagnosed as a child and hoped things would be better by now- that you would outgrow some of this stuff. Did you know that being highly Creative can look like ADHD, and these difficulties can actually be your creative strengths in disguise?!
Many symptoms of ADHD and your Creative Personality are the same. Which one do you have? Maybe both. Maybe you have been misdiagnosed and it has been your Creative Personality that has needed supporting all along! It all has to do with that ever-important executive functioning center.
Your executive functioning is the RAM of your brain. It is where "what is happening now" is getting processed- and the size and ability is limited (read: only so much can happen at once). Let's add to this what we know about Creative Personalities: You Live Large. Large feelings, need for meaning, drive for authenticity, investment in activities. When one of these tasks is "online" it takes up most of your RAM. If we apply this concept to what we know of ADHD, suddenly we are seeing a clearer picture! Imagine yourself doing the last thing you really enjoyed, then how difficult it was to feel interrupted? Or, conversely, how hard was it to focus on something that you really did not want to do? While both of these could be signs of ADHD, they are also hallmarks of a Creative Personality with big feelings- strong investment filling executive functioning making it hard to disengage, or, strong aversion filling executive functioning making it hard to engage. Having a Creative Personality is a wonderful gift- but you need to know the controls and how to drive- otherwise you can be left feeling confused and overwhelmed instead of empowered and in a state of natural flow.
When you are wondering about symptoms of ADHD, or have struggled with issues in executive functioning, by understanding your Creative brain, and learning how to support your Creative Personality, you will be able to live your life in a state of flow and ease by working with your natural born tools, rather than fighting against them! If you are ready to end the struggle and start living with your natural born strengths, Creativity Counseling is for you!
A Note About Creativity, ADHD & Analysis Paralysis
One of the most difficult things ADHD and Creative Personalities have in common, is "AP" or "Analysis Paralysis." That is, the difficulty in making decisions. You find yourself doing all the research, weighing all the outcomes, and still get stuck between choices, afraid to take the leap. There are two main drivers in your Creative Personality, also featured in ADHD that can account for your struggle:
1. Perfectionism. You have visions and/or standards for particular outcomes. Your inner critic is loud. You believe only certain levels of achievement are acceptable. In short- you put a lot of pressure on yourself and your choices! The healthy reset? Teach your brain that "mistakes" are important and necessary parts of life and learning, and give yourself permission to make them. Realize, you can go back to "fix" or change your mind!
2. Strong Emotions. You have weighed pros and cons. You have done all the research. Twice. In short- your choice is important and you are invested! When strong emotions (and for Creative People emotions are strong!) are online, your executive functioning center is pretty full, and your decision making ability doesn't have much room left to operate. Result? Analysis paralysis and overwhelm. The healthy reset? Using skills like mindfulness you can learn to work with your strong emotions rather than against them, freeing up space to make important decisions!
When Analysis Paralysis strikes, there are accessible, usable redirects to work with your strengths rather than fighting against yourself. When you you are able to see your creative personality clearly, you can use your natural-born skills to live your life with ease!
(C) 2021 Creatively, LLC
Hello, Artist ❤️
Have you been feeling a lack of energy in your creative practice? Have you been feeling isolated and lonely from friends and other artists? Have you lost sight of your creative purpose or experienced a loss in your creative meaning-making?
The past few years have impacted artists in diverse ways- but these are some of the themes I have been hearing in the Creatively rooms, and I have been working on creating something I can do to help.
I would like to invite you to the beta test of my new initiative at Creatively: the Virtual Retreat! Artist Retreats are designed to give artists dedicated time and space to their creative work. I am adding to this dedicated virtual space to connect with each other, with my professional tips and guidance to help you creatively get back on track.
During the Artist Residency, you can expect:
1) To create studio space for yourselves that feels productive and allows you to work with a sense of ease
2) To begin to work within the structure of your daily life and commit to a daily practice for your artwork
3) To experience a sense of purpose and regular guidance, structure, and tools of residency
4) To experience motivation of regular work in dedicated time of daily practice and space applied to the commitment to present in a show at the end of the residency
5) You will participate in an online community of other artists in residency for support, motivation, and guidance
6) You will participate in an art show at the end of the residency to present your work to each other and the community
7) You will learn the importance of dedicated time, space, routine, commitment, and community to personal goals and progress as an artist
8) You will have the opportunity to add additional support with coaching add-ons throughout residency
I would love to have you join us for this amazing opportunity. I plan to launch the artists in residency program from September 27- October 24. The sign-up deadline is September 19! If you are interested in participating in the residency, email me for your members-only login info to get started. That's it! There is nothing else that you need to join.
I am so excited to share this opportunity with each of you. It is going to be an amazing time!
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.