“The ADHD Advantage”: Depathologizing An Issue

Be proud of who you are and recognize that your unique combination of genetics, brain chemistry and personality could land you in the pages of history. Dale Archer, MD, author of The ADHD Advantage

Before Dr. Dale Archer‘s new book The ADHD Advantage: What You Thought Was a Diagnosis May Be Your Greatest Strength, there was his bestselling Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional. And it was actually during its writing that Archer realized just how much he could relate to one of those particular differences.

About Archer now bringing his perspective specifically to this ADHD diagnosis, Publishers Weekly sums up a probable overall reader response, “This provocative book puts forward a thesis that some may find reassuring but others will find problematic: that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be beneficial as well as detrimental.”

In addition to presenting his own story, Archer notes in The ADHD Advantage that there are plenty of well-knowns who’ve done fine in their lives and careers despite, or perhaps with the help of, having ADHD—Pink, Adam Levine, and Howie Mandel are a few from the creative realms; Sir Richard Branson and NFL player Dave Krieg are two from other areas.

More from Publishers Weekly on “the ADHD advantage”:

According to Archer, possible benefits include the ability to work under pressure, rebound from crises, multitask, and conceive of ideas outside the box. Part I of the book provides historical, genetic, and pathological context, Part II focuses on the so-called ‘ADHD advantages’ in more detail, and Part III connects them to entrepreneurship, athletics, and interpersonal experiences. Part I also contains the most potentially controversial material: Archer’s recommendation that ADHD sufferers and their guardians avoid managing the condition with medication and instead follow a ‘skills, not pills’ approach…

What are some other ADHD traits that can be helpful? According to the review by Anne Parfitt-Rogers, New York Journal of Books, they include:

  • lateral thinking
  • compassion
  • a sense of humor
  • good spirits
  • hyper-alertness when occupied

More about the medication issue? “The book presents a balanced approach, not ruling out medication altogether but reserving this as a last resort or for the most severe cases. As one specialist puts it, ‘Pills without further therapy don’t do much at all.’ Dr. Archer also mentions the serious adverse effects, such as stunted growth and suicide.”

Instead of medication? Included suggestions are “increased involvement in sports, associative learning styles, behavioral training, and addressing factors such as sleep and family problems. Promising results from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as well as ‘medication holidays’ for those on prescribed drugs are discussed.”

Who’s an ideal partner for someone with ADHD? Apparently Archer suggests that “finding someone with OCD-like tendencies may be a good idea.” Note from myself: I’ve seen this type of pairing, and although I agree that it has potential, I believe it also can lead to significant clashes.

Selected Reviews

Marilyn Wedge, PhD: “By framing ADHD as primarily a set of personality traits and a unique learning style, instead of as a disease or a disorder, Dale Archer moves psychiatry a step in the right direction.”

Johan Wiklund, Professor: “…Archer convincingly shows that in the right context, ADHD symptoms can be leveraged and provide advantages. I feel particularly satisfied that he acknowledges the linkages between ADHD and entrepreneurship.”

Allen Frances, MD: “By trying to suppress and medicate ADHD out of existence, we risk suppressing the gifts that are part of the package. Dale offers an array of useful and insightful alternatives for leveraging these strengths without the aid of a pill. Overmedicating…could dim the light that could be the next great business leader, explorer or innovator.”

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