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The positive aspects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a qualitative investigation of successful adults with ADHD

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders
Early online date29 Oct 2018
Accepted/In press19 Oct 2018
E-pub ahead of print29 Oct 2018

King's Authors


The behavioural characteristics of ADHD do not exist in binary form (i.e. normal vs. abnormal); instead, they exist on a spectrum or continuum. This implies that some aspects of ADHD can be adaptive rather than impairing, or some adults may possess certain strengths or attributes that mediate and/or compensate for their ADHD-related deficits or impairments. More research is needed to clarify these observations. To explore and describe positive aspects of ADHD from the perspective of successful adults with ADHD. A phenomenological approach with open-ended interviews was used to collect data. The interviews were audio taped, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic content analysis. Six core themes (cognitive dynamism, courage, energy, humanity, resilience and transcendence) defined by 19 sub-themes were found. These themes were compared against attributes catalogued in the character strengths and virtues (CSV) handbook and classification for positive psychology. Two core themes (cognitive dynamism and energy) were not listed as virtues in the CSV, and neither were six sub-themes (divergent thinking, hyper-focus, nonconformist, adventurousness, self-acceptance and sublimation) listed as behavioural traits. We propose these constructs as positive aspects specific to ADHD, and the other constructs, as positive aspects relevant to people in general, with or without ADHD. This study offers insights into positive human qualities, attributes or aspects of ADHD that can support and sustain high functioning and flourishing in ADHD life. This study also addresses the question in the disability research about “how we might reconsider the behaviours associated with ADHD so that they are seen as valuable and worthy of conservation?”.

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