From the Journals

Six strengths identified in adult men with ADHD



A qualitative investigation based on interviews with successful adults with ADHD identified six core themes that are positive aspects of ADHD.

Under a phenomenology framework, purposive sampling was used to enroll six successful male participants with ADHD diagnoses. The participants were interviewed in an open-ended way and were assessed with theme content analysis, reported Jane Ann Sedgwick, a PhD candidate within the MRC Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Center at King’s College London, and coauthors. The six core themes identified were cognitive dynamism, courage, energy, humanity, resilience, and transcendence. They then compared those themes with attributes cataloged in a handbook by Christopher Petersen and Marten E.P. Seligman (Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Washington: American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press, 2004). The study was published in ADHD: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders.

Because energy and cognitive dynamism as discussed in the present research were not cataloged in that handbook, they were unique to ADHD, according to Ms. Sedgwick and coauthors. The theme of energy described “participants’ reports about internal experiences and capacity for action,” with subthemes of spirit, which embraces higher aspects of self, sense of purpose, and meaning in life; psychological energy, including drive and volition; and physical energy, which can manifest as interest in and enjoyment of activities such as sports. Meanwhile, cognitive dynamism describes the “ceaseless mental activity that was reported by all participants,” including subthemes of divergent thinking, hyperfocus, creativity, and curiosity.

Limitations of the study included the shortcomings within the phenomenological framework, which requires participants who are capable of being articulate, expressive, and reflective. Another is the small sample size and absence of female participants.

“Too often people with lived experience hear about ADHD in relation to deficits, functional impairments, and associations with substance misuse, criminality, or other disadvantages on almost every level of life (school, work, relationships),” Ms. Sedgwick and her coauthors wrote. “This study affirms the positive human qualities, assets, and attributes in ADHD that can promote high functioning and flourishing.”

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