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High functioning ADHD professional

High Functioning ADHD professionals | ADHD Ambition

Sep 17, 2021

You may be a high functioning ADHD professional.

Many adults with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) are high-functioning professionals. So what is it that they do? Well, you can find them in all sorts of jobs, but many end up being entrepreneurs. This blog post will talk about the common types of work these individuals may be doing and how they manage their ADHD to achieve success. Adults who are high functioning ADHD professionals, can be found in all sorts of careers. They have learned to work with their ADHD symptoms and find ways around obstacles that most people might not be able to overcome. High functioning professionals often refer to themselves as “ADHD entrepreneurs” because it takes a certain type of person who can successfully manage all aspects of life. High-functioning professionals can have an increased risk of burnout, but many can achieve great things.

Jobs for high functioning ADHD adults

What types of work do high-functioning ADHD individuals pursue? Well, there is no specific type. They can work in all different sectors and positions - both paid and non-paid ones (e.g., stay at home parent). For example, lawyers and doctors, but many end up running a business of their own.

What are the signs of high functioning ADHD?

People who have high-functioning ADHD are often successful in their lives, but they may not feel that way. They may experience a lot of irritability and frustration when they are trying to accomplish a task. They may feel like everyone else can do things with ease, and that’s not the case for them. Even for high-functioning people with ADHD, some of the common challenges include

Being disorganized
Lack of awareness of time
Difficulty prioritising tasks
Unable to multitask
Easily distracted when trying to focus
Putting off or not finishing tasks

Find more information on ADHD symptoms HERE.

Mental Health and high functioning ADHD

Individuals with ADHD are at a greater risk for developing mental health challenges because they have to work so hard to keep up and maintain the same level of performance as their peers without attention deficits. Most people who gain relief from their symptoms and function better due to treatment do not have other conditions. They're just in the group of people with ADHD that can benefit. Adults with ADHD feel tired much more often than their peers, so they need to find ways to reduce their energy expenditure when possible. The need to preserve energy can mean spending time on activities like watching TV or sleeping, during which no mental effort is required. While this may help, it can also lead to anxiety, weight gain, and social isolation. Adults with ADHD who are not in stimulating jobs often get very tired and seek constant stimulation and attention.

ADHD and anxiety

Anxiety is a mental health issue that seems to occur more frequently in individuals with ADHD than without. One study found that 42% of high-functioning adults were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, while another discovered almost 70% had some psychiatric condition at some point during their lives. The insecurity and doubt you feel about yourself are generally unfounded. But it can be authentic to you, and your success in life may depend on how much of a struggle these feelings are for you. Adults with ADHD often suffer from anxiety because of their racing minds. When you live with ADHD, it can be difficult to keep track of every task on your list and stay organized, leading to internal vigilance. One of the most difficult things about ADHD is not clearly explaining why you can’t get your life together. They might find that something keeps them from reaching their full potential despite being intelligent, motivated, caring people. That something is ADHD. The unique challenges that come with ADHD only add to the identity crisis that many high-functioning professionals feel. They have a lot of trouble being successful because it’s not something they never thought they would be, impacting self-esteem. The ongoing struggle with identity and finding their place in the world leads to a lack of certainty about their future direction, which is the source of much anxiety for adults with ADHD.

The cost of compensation methods in adults with ADHD

The DSM-5 criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD include inattentiveness, problem prioritizing, excessive daytime somnolence, memory problems and impulsiveness. Compensation methods include conscious, ‘energy demanding' and time-consuming efforts to prevent symptomatic, behavioural dispositions. For people with ADHD, there is help in medications such as methylphenidate, which can assist with some of the symptoms by reducing the need to constantly apply compensation techniques (Palmini 2008). However, these medications can carry side effects which are different for everyone.

Compensatory strategies for ADHD symptoms

There are two broad types of strategies: effort-based and practical. Taking notes frequently, creating complicated warning or alarm systems to avoid missing appointments, and reading only portions of books before attempting to capture the key meanings are common for high functioning professionals with ADHD. After trying these basic activities, some people with ADHD become exhausted, frustrated, and hopeless with everyday tasks.

Early intervention for mental health

Many adults with ADHD experience depression, stress or anxiety at some point during their lives. It's important to recognize the signs of these struggles early because untreated mental health conditions tend to get worse. The good news is that treatment can help you learn to manage your symptoms and live a successful life despite them.

Defining high-functioning ADHD

If you have high functioning ADHD, this means that no other condition causes your symptoms, and a high IQ does not necessarily help with ADHD. Having a high IQ makes some people good at things, but higher intelligence does not compensate for the common struggles of having ADHD. Having ADHD and being a higher performer means that there are some things you need to work harder on tasks than other people.

Common challenges linked to high functioning ADHD

Adults with ADHD often have trouble sleeping because their mind races when trying to wind down before bedtime. They also usually have a low tolerance for boredom. As people with ADHD are often in tune with what is going on around them, so they need to be stimulated constantly for their brains to function normally.

High Functioning ADHDers Unique Problems

For adults with ADHD, even when they receive a diagnosis, there is still a lack of clarity about how to move forward and get the best out of life. When people find out they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it often comes as a shock. In fact, almost 62% of high-IQ ADHD persons have dropped out of school at some point during their careers. They hold onto the belief that their intellectual capacity will enable them to overcome their limitations. High-IQ people with ADHD seem to function well. But they also pay an emotional cost for it. They rely on compulsive behaviour to maintain order and structure. Despite success in managing procrastination and hyperfocus, Adults with ADHD become weighed down and weary. They will anxiously self-monitor, monitoring everything constantly. They are overly vigilant about hiding things so that other people may not see their internal issues, meaning they are always on edge.



High functioning attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ADHD symptoms

The following is a list of difficulties that high-functioning people with ADHD confront and how they overcome them.

1, They can struggle to stay organized. ADHD adults need a good amount of time at the beginning of each week or month to get everything ready for that given period. Otherwise, it will cause stress later on. High-functioning entrepreneurs find systems that work best for themselves, whether a colour-coding organization system or writing everything down on their phone.

2, Might find it difficult to concentrate for a lengthy time, and they may become frustrated when being disturbed. It's aggravating to read for hours when you don't have time to rest. It can be more helpful to read for 20 minutes, take a break, then return to reading.

3, Often, I have difficulty with time management. Getting so caught up in one project prevents moving onto another task due the next day, resulting in being late for an event or forgetting to complete something else important altogether. High functioning professionals with ADHD know that they need to work on their time management and set priority deadlines, so we do not forget what needs to be done.

4, They can have difficulty following through on projects or tasks because of the high energy levels associated with being hyperactive, which causes them to lose focus quickly. High-functioning entrepreneurs with ADHD set themselves up for success by finding ways to channel their energy so they can get the task done efficiently.

5, We may easily become bored of a project, resulting in quitting before it is finished or rushing through something that should take time and care. High-functioning professionals will seek out people who are different from them so they will not get bored with their work and come up with new ideas.

6, We may have difficulty keeping still or sitting in one place for long periods of time. High-functioning entrepreneurs know that if they need to sit down and focus on something, it is best to do it when the house is empty or in a coffee shop.

7, Could have a hard time following instructions from others, which is known as executive functioning. Individuals with ADHD have trouble accessing their executive functions. High-functioning entrepreneurs will ask for other people's opinions on the project to see if they missed something important and then take their own steps towards completing it.

8, We can struggle to get organized when in workplaces which can lead to low self-esteem. High-functioning entrepreneurs know how to deal with their ADHD by using technology or apps when they need help organizing something or asking for help from others if needed.

Can people with ADHD be high performers?

The reality is, many of us with ADHD lead successful and productive lives despite the challenges we face. We think in a unique way that can be beneficial to our career, or it may hold us back when we should trust our instincts more. We have an uncanny ability to read between the lines and see the big picture. We're also very creative, leading to interesting ideas that we'll inevitably give up on because we don't have the patience for tedious tasks.

The link between entrepreneurs and ADHD

Many entrepreneurs have ADHD, and they are highly successful because of it. High-functioning entrepreneurs know how to deal with their ADHD and use it as a strength rather than a weakness. High-functioning entrepreneurs can think outside the box, stay positive in tough situations, be creative and energetic. High-functioning professionals tap into these strengths when they need an extra boost of energy or creativity at work.

Cognitive dynamism and ADHD

A recent study into the positive aspects of ADHD discussed Cognitive dynamism, which is a way to think. It means that your brain is always busy, not just when you are working. You can have many thoughts, and they will be different from each other. You might have an image or a flash of an idea in your head. People with ADHD are "outside-the-box" thinkers, but they can also focus on one thing. Hyperfocus is common for people with ADHD. Often you might find yourself focused on something for a while and really pay attention to fine detail. Hyperfocus in ADHD can be unhelpful when needing to shift between tasks. However, research has found that hyperfocus has led to higher productivity in a group of flourishing males with ADHD (Sedgwick, Merwood & Asherson 2019).

Solution-focused for high functioning ADHD

High functioning individuals with ADHD can find ways to overcome their struggles by knowing what works for them and what does not. High-functioning professionals know that it is important to ask for help and support from others as needed, such as family members or co-workers who also have ADHD.

High functioning entrepreneurs will use strategies like time management and setting deadlines to get their tasks done efficiently. Knowing how to deal with your ADHD is positive will help prevent mood swings and other mental health challenges (Geffen & Forster 2018).



Shannon Bowman is the SJB Clinical Consulting Pty Ltd
Director and Create Balance Psychotherapy & Counselling VIEW HERE.
Shannon has a clinical interest in treating trauma, PTSD and ADHD.
He has a lived experience of ADHD and is a passionate advocate for those affected by it.
He is accredited as a Mental Health Social Worker AMHSW,
psychotherapist and registered EMDR practitioner. Associations below. 
Australian Association of Social Workers
EMDR Association of Australia.
Psychology Today Profile

Daniel Van der Pluym is a Psychotherapist Coach
Founder of Deeper Potential and Part Founder of ADHD Ambition Daniel specialises in Mindfulness as a way of regulating difficult emotions and working with impulsive behaviors.
He has a lived experience of anxiety and impulsive behaviors and is a passionate advocate for those affected by it.
He is an Associate Member of the Australian Psychological Society and Member of Meditation Australia

Reference List 

Palmini A. (2008). Professionally successful adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Compensation strategies and subjective effects of pharmacological treatment. Dementia & Neuropsychologia2(1), 63–70.

Geffen, J., & Forster, K. (2018). Treatment of adult ADHD: a clinical perspective. Therapeutic advances in psychopharmacology8(1), 25–32.

Sedgwick, J. A., Merwood, A., & Asherson, P. (2019). The positive aspects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a qualitative investigation of successful adults with ADHD. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders11(3), 241-253.



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