Emotions & Shame

In Praise of the ADHD Funny Bone

Children and adults with ADHD often get called out for being too silly, but the quirks that we are born with keep our lives fresh, interesting, and full of creativity. Here, learn how to be funny and embrace your silliness without getting in trouble all the time.

Woman makes a silly face, choosing to smile about her ADHD symptoms.
Woman makes a silly face, choosing to smile about her ADHD symptoms.

We who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) often get called out for being too silly, zany, inappropriate, and over-the-top to meet the demands of daily life. As children, we get in trouble for being immature or disruptive, and as adults with ADHD we get in trouble for not following directions or proper procedure, or for making jokes when we should be getting down to business.

In Praise of the ADHD Funny Bone

But for all the commotion our monkey business causes, I praise it to the skies. I praise silly, irrelevant, tangential, foolish, slapdash, and spur-of-the-moment. I praise the ADD funny bone.

Why? Creativity begins in a mess. It begins in a swirl, in a mudpie, in a stream of words slapped on a page. When you sit down to make something, you don’t know where you’re going or where you’ll end up. You’re flying blind. You’re going where no man has gone before. That’s why so few people do it, and fewer still show what they make to others.

[Self-Test: Do I Have Adult Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD?]

Someone wrote, “He who imitates the divine Iliad does not imitate Homer.” That’s because Homer had no predecessor. He was an original. When you sit down to make something new, you’re the original, the originator. This is something we with ADHD do well. We originate, and in doing so, we trust our unconscious, swim out over our heads, and trust that we will make it back alive.

I write books. Why do I punish myself, when I know that no book is as good as it could be? Because if I do not have a book in progress, I get moody. All of my books begin in the realm of the ridiculous, the messy, the unplanned, the chaotic, what some might call the stupid or inappropriate. This is the land of ADD. Honestly, this is where we feel most comfortable, even when others — family and friends — insist that we clean up, smarten up, and get out of there.

If we go out of there, if we didn’t have our zany places, if we couldn’t spill over, we wouldn’t discover the accidental beauty we sometimes create. True, we also wouldn’t make ugly messes that are a pain in the butt and have to be cleaned up.

[Free Webinar Replay: From Shame and Stigma to Pride and Truth: It’s Time to Celebrate ADHD Differences]

Silly Ideas Lead to Good Things

I know our messes cause consternation. I’ve been plenty consternated at times! But then I remember my son, Jack, at age seven. It was early in the morning in a motel room on the Jersey turnpike, and I told him to go back to sleep. Instead, he took all the clothes the five of us had dropped on the floor and tied them together. He tied one end of his creation to the window handle and the other end to the door of the room. He woke me up and said, “Look what I made, Dad!”

Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I looked up and saw a line of clothing stretching across the room. “What’s that, Jack?” I asked.

“It’s a clothes line,” he proudly replied.

Silly ideas bring something that can matter. Being too serious and doing only what others have done before is not what changes the world for the better.

Long live the silly and the messy, and all the beauty and great inventions they can lead us to.

How to Be Funny Without Losing Your Job

1. Know the rules before you walk in. You don’t talk on your phone in church, so respect the culture of your workplace.

2. Leave the scene! If you start having an onslaught of the giggles, get outta there before you look foolish.

3. Apologize. If you do something you know is dumb, say you’re sorry.

4. Don’t get defensive if someone takes you to task. Just say you’re high-spirited by nature, and you’ll try to tone it down.

5. In private, ask for feedback from others. We are not good self-observers, so it’s good to know how we come across.

Edward Hallowell, M.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.

[Stifled Creativity and Its Negative Impact on the ADHD Brain]