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ADHD and Creativity

Children with ADHD are impulsive, easily distracted, and disorganized. It has been suggested that creativity is related to a more adventurous, nonconforming, and impulsive cognitive style. Therefore, some clinicians have suspected that children with ADHD may demonstrate superior creativity as a part of their condition. Some have even proposed that increased creativity is an actual benefit of ADHD.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and other stimulants are commonly prescribed as a part of the treatment of ADHD. One desired outcome is to decrease impulsiveness. Some workers have suggested, therefore, that treatment with methylphenidate could inhibit the creativity of children with ADHD to the degree that it does decrease impulsiveness.

Jean Funk, PhD. and associates at the Medical College of Ohio evaluated this hypothesis. Using an accepted test of creativity (Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking), they compared 19 boys with ADHD with 21 control boys. The boys with ADHD were tested with and without medication and compared to the controls.

No significant differences were noted in levels of creativity between the controls and the subjects with ADHD. Also, no differences were noted in the ADHD boys with and without medication.

Two significant conclusions can be drawn from this study. First of all, elementary age boys with ADHD are neither more or less creative than boys without ADHD. Also medical treatment with methylphenidate did not affect the creativity of school aged boys.

Editors Note: I would not expect the treatment with stimulants to decrease creativity. Creativity is characterized by “divergence thinking”, or the ability to produce more than one of several possible “correct” answers. Impulsive children are prone to produce many repetitious, usually incorrect, responses. In fact, it is conceivable that correct medical treatment could allow a child to be more creative to the degree that such treatment allowed the child to “stop, look, and listen” to his real creative instincts.
Additional study on this subject with larger groups of children of more diverse ages is needed to settle these questions about creativity more completely.

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