Creativity and ADHD – is there a link?
Which traits are we considering?
Is it possible that the impulsiveness and quick-thinking that accompanies ADHD may also enhance creativity? Given that many people who are diagnosed with this condition, what role could medication have in the creative process? Does stimulant medication hamper creativity, or boost it?
The ADHD brain may not be held back as much by constraints on thinking. In a study conducted in 2006 (Abraham et al.), adolescents with varying disorders (including ADHD) along with a control group, were individually assessed. The ADHD group was found to have a higher rate of being able to overcome constraining examples. This is what we call “thinking outside the box”. They did, however, have difficulty creating an invention from imagery.
In another study (White and Shah, 2006), people with ADHD were found to score higher than those without ADHD in a measure of divergent thinking (i.e. coming up with creative solutions to a problem). However, people with ADHD did not score as well as those without ADHD on a measure of convergent thinking (i.e. giving the “correct” answer to a test question).
With or without ADHD, what is the difference?
A later study also discovered that people with ADHD scored higher in original thinking and creative achievement than those without ADHD. It was also found that people with ADHD preferred generating ideas. Those without ADHD preferred clarifying problems and developing ideas.
Contrary to popular opinion, (stimulant) medication may not hamper creativity. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, Farah et al. (2009) measured sixteen young adults on four measures of creativity. Two of the measures required divergent thinking, while the other two required convergent thinking. The study found that the medication did improve convergent thinking. No negative effects were found on convergent and divergent thought measures.
It is evident that more research is required. However it would appear that there is a direct correlation between ADHD and increased creativity. Given that ADHD is but one marker on a spectrum of so called ‘mental disorders’ it is obvious that much is still to be learnt.