Ask the Experts

Can You Be “Too Smart” to Have ADHD?

“My teen has an IQ of 130, but she is still distracted and impulsive. Can people with high intelligence have ADHD, too?”

ADHD is found in individuals of all intellectual abilities, and those with high IQs face unique challenges. Due to the developmental delay that characterizes ADHD, most children lag three years behind their chronological peers in social/emotional functioning, even when they function three years beyond their peers intellectually. This discrepancy presents a baffling contrast in the abilities of the “twice exceptional” child.

Many with high intelligence compensate for the cognitive symptoms of ADHD. However, given society’s belief that a superior intellect carries an expectation of success, these children are confused by their own inconsistent performance. They judge themselves harshly and are reluctant to ask for help. For girls, self-esteem often hinges on successful peer interactions, and smart girls with ADHD feel ashamed of their social missteps. Many believe that a high IQ makes living with ADHD easier, but these stressors tell another story.