Is my ADHD a “superpower?” 🤔
The superpower narrative is a common one in the neurodivergent community, and especially prevalent on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.
And I get it.
When I was first coming to terms with accepting my neurodivergencies, I absolutely bought into the superpower narrative as well.
You can probably still find the Instagram posts about it.
I almost think trying this reframe on for size is an official part of the ADHD acceptance journey.
But with time and deeper understanding of neurodivergence, disability, and social justice, I’ve realized that the superpower narrative can be harmful.
So I no longer call my ADHD, my autism, or any of my other disabilities a “superpower.”
In this article, I want to explain the main reasons why.
Keep in mind that these are my own opinions and you’re free to disagree with them, but I hope you’ll consider where I’m coming from.
Why ADHD is not a superpower
Reason #1: It minimizes a huge part of the ADHD experience
Looking at ADHD like a superpower paints the ADHD experience as all positive.
If that’s been your experience, congratulations! Truly. You’re extremely lucky, and that experience is rare.
But a lot of the ADHD traits or behaviors that people associate with superpowers most often? Things like hyperfocus?
They come with negatives too, and it’s toxic positivity to pretend they’re never anything but good.
For example, when I let myself go into hyperfocus mode, I forget to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or stand up for hours. With multiple other disabilities and chronic illnesses, this can be harmful to my health.
So my experience of hyperfocus is one of getting pulled into an activity until my dizziness, chronic pain, or stomachaches and hunger pull me out of it. At which point I’ll usually feel like sh*t.
At some point, I decided it isn’t worth it to feel that way for a spell of increased productivity. Since then, I try to limit my time spent in hyperfocus and set boundaries to help pull me out of it once I’m there.
This goes directly counter to the “hyperfocus is an ADHD superpower to celebrate and maximize” ethos you see on social media along with the rest of the superpower narrative.
Sure, there are parts of ADHD that, more often than not are positives to me. Things like creativity and the ability to entertain myself.
But even those positives aren't so glamorous that the word "superpower" feels anything like an accurate description.
Reason #2: It's the same mindset often used to deny accommodations
Second of all, the superpower narrative of ADHD feels like a slippery slide into disability denial to me.
(And yes, ADHD is a disability, even if it isn’t disabling to everyone who has it.)
Because why would someone full of superpowers and hidden strengths need accommodations, help, modifications, empathy?
It positions ADHD people as not just equal to, but superior to, neurotypicals…mere mortals compared to our superheroes. As having an unfair advantage over them. As having mystical powers (we’ll get to that in a second) worthy or worship.
And that misunderstanding can and will be used against you or other disabled people.
When disability is minimized or erased, so is the need for accommodations in workplaces, schools, and society at large.
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Reason #3: It dehumanizes human traits
Finally, calling ADHD traits and behaviors “superpowers” makes it seem like they’re not human traits or behaviors.
Superpowers aren’t real, but humans with ADHD are.
And the thing about ADHD is that almost every “symptom” can also be a completely normal behavior.
Everyone gets distracted.
Everyone loses track of time.
Everyone feels sensitive to rejection.
These things are human behaviors.
What’s different about those of us with ADHD isn’t that we have all these uniquely original traits no other humans do.
We just have them more frequently, more intensely, and feel them differently than people without ADHD.
That common ground could be a powerful tool for getting neurotypical/non-ADHD people to better understand and empathize with our experiences.
But not when we paint an exaggerated and fictionalized picture of them.
Superpowers aren’t real. ADHDers are.
I understand the desire to reframe ADHD traits and behaviors as superpowers. I really do.
Especially early on in your diagnosis journey. It’s the first time it feels possible to see them as anything but a fault, a negative on your scorecard.
In that context, it’s easy to see how so many of us swing from one extreme (“ADHD is a flaw”), to the other (”ADHD is a superpower”).
But, like in most cases, the real answer isn’t in either extreme, it’s a sweet spot in the middle.
Where ADHD isn’t all negative, but it’s not all positive either. It just…is.