ADHD and IQ: The Effect of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity on Intelligence


Your studies show that adults and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often have high intelligence quotients (IQs), but they face challenges in school or life. Why?


ADDitude Answers

The common wisdom used to be that if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’re not smart, and if you are smart, you can’t have ADHD. Nonsense. I did a study of 157 adults — all of them fully met diagnostic criteria for ADHD, and all had significant impairment in working memory and processing speed — but they each had intelligence quotients (IQs) of 120 or above, or would fall into the top nine percent of the population. Many of these people had late diagnoses and weren’t recognized as having ADHD problems until they were adults. They suffered a lot and often had difficulties in school before they received adequate treatment. All of them were demoralized and had given up. If they had been diagnosed earlier or had been in an environment where they were supported for their strengths and helped to recognize their limitations — not given a lot of phony happy-talk — their self-esteem would increase. Many people get put down so often that they develop defenses to protect themselves. Early diagnosis and treatment can mean so much in the arc of a person’s life.

Posted by Thomas Brown, Ph.D.

A Reader Answers

Dr. Brown hit the proverbial nail on the head!

He pretty much summed up my life. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Stephen Anfield, ADDitude Blogger

A Reader Answers

I think I have a pretty high IQ, but my wife would probably beg to differ. Regardless for all of the smarts that I’m supposed to have, I just can’t seem to make use of them!

Posted by ADDedValue62

A Reader Answers

I do have higher than average IQ, if that actually means anything! I have several friends who are VERY smart, and I can keep up with them on many topics.

My problems are finding a subject area that I can get into, and second part is finding a way to earn a living while doing that. My ADHD seems to ‘show’ and a lot of people will not employ me.

Posted by Bob from Cootamundra

A Reader Answers

I have read an abundant amount of information on the correlation between IQ, the MBTI, visual-spatial learning and creative personality types.

I am 44 and was diagnosed a couple of months ago. In a quest to satisfy my insatiable curiosity, I have discovered about myself that I am an ENTP personality type according to Myers-Briggs. I have an above average IQ. I am a visual-spatial learner and a DISC profile heavily weighted in creativity.

What has struck me as odd is that all of the ADHD symptoms are identical to the ENTP personality type and actually the ENTP went on to clarify even more things that I feel that ADHD doesn’t even cover. Nonetheless everyone has told me that is a fruitless argument, and maybe so, but it helped me IMMENSELY to gain further understanding. If you are the curious type I would recommend it if you still have questions.

More food for thought:

Einstein was deemed to have ADHD. He was also determined to have an ENTP personality type.

So who is right? Not sure if we’ll see that answer in our lifetime.

Now that I know this information about me, I do feel more powerful and not so powerless. Although it all really means nothing, no matter what label you put on it. All that matters is what you do with it! Every strength has an associated weakness; ADHD = my weakness, while IQ and ENTP personality type = my strength.

I suppose eventually I will find out who wins the battle.

Posted by Is_This_All...?

A Reader Answers

I don’t believe ADHD is a weakness. I believe it is a bright light shining on one of our culture’s deep inadequacies: its inability to accommodate the gifted.

Posted by BonoboRex

Read the original ADDConnect discussion here.

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Dr. Brown, is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and Associate Director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders. Dr. Brown was awarded by the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association and has been inducted into the CHADD Hall of Fame for his contributions to research and professional education about ADHD.

He is author of the books: A New Understanding of ADHD in Children and Adults, Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD, and Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults.

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