Are People With ADHD Smarter?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the attention ability, self-control, and hyperactivity of people who are diagnosed with it. ADHD affects nearly 5-7% of children and 3-5% of adults globally. ADHD is a complex and diverse disorder that affects people differently, and because of this, people often wonder if it affects one’s intelligence.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is characterized by inattention, distraction, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. It can affect a person’s ability to concentrate on a particular task, finish projects, or keep up with daily routines. ADHD can also make it harder to control impulsive behaviors, leading to potentially negative outcomes such as interrupting others, impatient behavior, or trouble controlling emotions.

What is the Relationship between ADHD and Intelligence?

There isn’t a clear relationship between ADHD and intelligence. According to studies, ADHD has no significant effect on general intelligence. Individuals with ADHD have cognitive abilities that are as developed as those without ADHD, and in some cases, people with ADHD can be of above-average intelligence.

A study published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, compared the intelligence quotient (IQ) scores of children with and without ADHD. The study found no significant difference between the IQ scores of the two groups.

However, some studies suggest that people with ADHD may have certain cognitive strengths, which in turn, may enhance their intellectual abilities.

Cognitive Strengths of People with ADHD

1. Creative Thinking

ADHD can enhance creative thinking due to the heightened ability to think outside the box. Studies have shown that people with ADHD tend to be more creative since they have less of a constraint to think within the box. Individuals with ADHD tend to have rapid-fire idea generation that enables them to think creatively in diverse areas.

2. High Energy Levels

People with ADHD have high energy levels, which can allow them to efficiently perform physical and cognitive tasks that require energy. They can leverage their energy to sustain focus and see their work through better. ADHD can also enable individuals to solve complex problems or come up with solutions that require a high intensity of effort, making them stand out in their work or academic endeavors.

3. Bigger Picture Focus

People with ADHD often encompass a broader perspective that can be beneficial in complex problem-solving, strategic thinking, and management. Studies suggest that people with ADHD focus on the “big picture” or the main objective and are less deterred by details. While this can be task-specific, it can allow them to spot patterns that others might miss, giving them an edge in finding practical solutions.

4. Good at Multitasking

People with ADHD are often good at doing several things at once, and when applied in work and academic settings, it can be advantageous. Studies suggest that rather than working on a single project, people with ADHD function better in workplace settings where they have to multitask. ADHD individuals can juggle multiple tasks effectively and still deliver quality work.

The Downside of ADHD

Although people with ADHD can possess cognitive strengths that can positively affect their intellectual abilities, there are downsides to the condition. ADHD can cause impairments in working memory, attention, and cognitive processing speed. These can result in difficulties in finishing what they start or staying organized.

People with ADHD might find it challenging to manage or adjust to changes in the work environment. ADHD individuals can have difficulty in staying motivated, particularly with tasks that don’t pique their interests or passions.


There is no doubt that people with ADHD can possess cognitive strengths that can enhance their intellectual capabilities. With strengths such as creative thinking, high energy levels, bigger picture focus, and multitasking ability, individuals with ADHD can stand out in the workforce or academic settings.

Nevertheless, ADHD still has significant negative impacts, particularly on working memory, attention, and cognitive processing speed. It is essential to address the downsides of ADHD, and people diagnosed with the condition can seek treatment or therapy to overcome them.

While ADHD has no direct effect on intelligence, individuals with the disorder can leverage their cognitive strengths to maximize their potential in various aspects of their lives.


Are People With ADHD Smarter?

1. How does ADHD affect intelligence?
ADHD does not affect intelligence, but it can affect a person’s ability to focus and concentrate, making it difficult to complete tasks that require sustained attention. However, people with ADHD may have strengths in areas such as creativity, problem-solving, and thinking outside the box.

2. Is there any evidence to suggest that people with ADHD are smarter?
While there is no definitive evidence to suggest that people with ADHD are inherently smarter, some studies have found that individuals with ADHD may have higher levels of creativity, divergent thinking, and cognitive flexibility. However, it is important to note that intelligence is a complex and multifaceted trait that cannot be attributed to any one factor.

3. How can people with ADHD harness their strengths to succeed in life?
People with ADHD can benefit from identifying and harnessing their strengths, such as creativity and problem-solving skills, to succeed in life. This may involve finding jobs or hobbies that play to their strengths, developing strategies to manage their attention deficits, and seeking support and guidance from mental health professionals.


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2. Faraone SV, Perlis RH, Doyle AE, et al. Molecular genetics of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biological Psychiatry. 2005;57(11):1313-1323. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2004.11.024

3. Shaw P, Malek M, Watson B, et al. Development of cortical surface area and gyrification in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biol. Psychiatry. 2012;72(3):191-197. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.02.029