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The Least Helpful Advice I’ve Been Given About ADHD

Please stop telling me my brain is special

Gray Miller
4 min readJan 27, 2023

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There are two kinds of people when it comes to ADHD.

On the one side, there are people like Dr. Russell Barkley, whose research has led him to call ADHD “the diabetes of the psychology”:

It’s a chronic disorder that must be managed every day to prevent the secondary harms it’s going to cause… ADHD is the most treatable disorder in psychiatry…”

And on the other side, people reject the idea that it’s a disorder at all. I’m not talking about the ableist idiots* who claim ADHD doesn’t exist at all. No, I’m talking about people like Thom Hartmann, a radio host and author of “ADHD: A Hunter in a Farmer’s World.”

Their premise is that a brain that doesn’t process dopamine as efficiently gives a person very valuable skills. Can’t focus on what’s in front of you or sit still? That’s because your hunter ancestors were constantly scanning their environment, ready to leap into action when a threat or prey was spotted. And once the chase began, that hyper focus was really handy in running the potential food for ground.

It’s a bias towards action, and in a hunter-gatherer society that was really useful! Not a disorder at all.

They can both be right.

I’m not enough of an academic to dispute either claim (though I do give the latter a bit of side-eye due to the evolutionary-psych aspects). I also very much appreciate the friends and readers who, when I first went public about my own experience, were quick to reassure me that there was nothing wrong with me at all. As one Medium comment put it,

“ADHD sounds like it’s your super-power, dude…Because your brain’s wired differently you have the ability to add a different perspective to our consensus World as well as to Life-Its-Own-Self — one that might prove exceptionally valuable for some other person who’s also “neurodivergent” or whatever the guys in the white lab coats are now calling it…am wondering why you are not celebrating.”

I appreciate that. I do! I understand the intent, and I have done it myself.

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Gray Miller

Gray is a former Marine dancer grandpa visualist who writes to help adults figure out what they want to be when they grow up.