Is ADHD Neurodivergent?

Oct 18, 2023

Is ADHD neurodivergent? This question often crosses people’s minds. In simple terms, it’s important to note that not all neurodivergent individuals experience ADHD, despite ADHD being a form of neurodivergence.

ADHD originates from the natural variation in the brain, influencing its development, structure, and functioning. That’s why it falls within the spectrum of neurodiversity.

Additionally, the neurodiversity trait shares similarities with ADHD, as it directly affects an individual’s behaviour, cognition, and emotions. It’s important to understand that symptoms can occur in varying degrees, from mild to severe. This emphasizes the diverse ways ADHD can present itself in individuals. 


Overview of the Neurodiversity Paradigm

The neurodiversity paradigm represents a transformative shift in the way we perceive neurodiversity. It acknowledges that variation is not only limited to ethnicity or gender but also to variation in brain functioning. Rather than expecting people to be what society considers “normal,” it teaches us to appreciate and accept these unique differences. 

Thanks to the neurodiversity movement, the concept of neurodiversity has gained significant popularity. Historically,  autistic self-advocates and other neurodivergent activists initiated this social movement. They advocated for acceptance of the autism spectrum, viewing it as a natural variation in the brain rather than a disease that needs a cure.


Understanding Neurodiversity and Being Neurodivergent

Neurodiversity is the notion that the human brain comes in different natural variations and has distinct strengths and weaknesses. Neurodiversity believes these variations in behavioural or cognitive patterns are not deficits but rather differences that can offer unique strengths.

Additionally, if an individual’s thinking, acting, or learning deviates from societal norms, they can be considered neurodivergent.

Other conditions that fall under the umbrella of neurodiversity are:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Dyslexia
  • Down Syndrome
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


The Significance of Embracing Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity emphasizes that everyone learns and processes information differently, each with their own unique hardwiring. There is no right or wrong way. Neurodiverse advocates strongly believe that these conditions are not deficits; instead, it’s a difference. In the past, our society ostracized and stigmatized those who were neurodivergent. However, today, thanks to the neurodiversity movement and self-advocacy, there has been a significant increase in the acceptance of neurological differences.

Neurodiversity recognizes diversity in how people’s brains function and eradicates the idea of a one-size-fits-all approach created by society. Instead, embracing neurodiversity promotes understanding and acceptance of the condition.


Impact of Neurodiversity on Society and Inclusion

Neurodiversity is valuable to society, as there are differences in how the brain works in neurodivergent individuals. It allows them to look at things from different perspectives and have vastly different skill sets, driving creativity and innovation. When we embrace neurodiversity, we create an accepting and accommodating environment where everyone’s unique abilities are valued.


Neurodivergent vs. Neurotypical

Neurotypical: Anyone with a normal brain function and behaviour that falls under societal standards.

Neurodivergent: Anyone who differentiates from what society considers a normal standard in terms of the way they think or behave. It includes conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, etc.

Key differences between neurodivergent and neurotypical are:

Aspects Neurodivergent Neurotypical
Cognitive Style Differs in the way they think, process, and learn. Typically, it follows a standard thinking pattern that fits societal norms.
Sensory Sensitivity They are highly sensitive to sensory stimuli. They can filter out sensory stimuli to focus on specific tasks.
Social Interaction They have trouble interpreting social signals. They can easily understand social signals.


ADHD as Neurodivergent

ADHD is a neurodivergent condition affecting how individuals think and perceive things. ADHD brain differs in functioning, structure, and chemistry from the neurotypical brain. That’s why the ADHD brain works differently from the neurotypical brain. And they often struggle with inability to focus, impulsiveness, and distractability.


Is ADHD Considered Neurodivergent?

ADHD brain is wired differently from the neurotypical brain, as there is a significant difference in brain development, structure, and functionality. These differences are due to lower dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s reward system. It affects executive functioning, which includes concentration, self-control, and the ability to focus.

Typically, dopamine is released when a neurotypical individual performs a specific task, motivating them to repeat the same behaviour. In contrast, neurodivergent individuals have a lower amount of dopamine, which can result in difficulties with focus, motivation, and intense mood swings. It leads them to crave dopamine even more. To satiate this craving, they may engage in risky behaviour to experience an immediate dopamine rush.


What is High Functioning ADHD Neurodivergent?

High-functioning ADHD is not formally diagnosed; it describes an individual with ADHD whose symptoms don’t hinder their daily life. Although some might exhibit severe symptoms, they have built coping mechanisms to tackle daily responsibilities effectively. Not everyone with ADHD shows the same symptoms; the intensity of symptoms differs from person to person.

Some of the neurodivergent ADHD symptoms include:

  • Trouble to focus
  • Distractability
  • Talking excessively
  • Chronic procrastination
  • Fidgety and difficulty sitting still
  • Poor organization
  • Risk takers

Despite the challenges individuals with ADHD face in their daily lives, let’s look at the bright side. For instance, they can use their ability to hyperfocus and concentrate intensely on a job.


How do You Explain ADHD to Neurotypicals?

ADHD is a neurological condition primarily characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms can occur simultaneously, or one may occur without another. ADHD affects the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls executive functioning and impairs an individual’s ability to think, plan, and control.

In addition, there is a thin line between ADHD and normal human behaviour, which is why some people receive an ADHD diagnosis later in life. Individuals with ADHD may exhibit symptoms such as inattentiveness, distractibility, restlessness, and procrastination. And, the intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person. However, with the right support and treatment, individuals with ADHD can excel in various aspects of life.


Is ADHD Considered a Disability in Canada?

ADHD is considered a disability in Canada, and individuals with ADHD may be eligible for disability benefits. However, diagnosis alone doesn’t qualify an individual for disability benefits. The severity of ADHD is used as a determining factor to evaluate the eligibility for disability benefits. Therefore, diagnosis alone doesn’t guarantee that neurodivergent individuals receive disability benefits. It ensures that individuals whose daily lives are significantly impacted by ADHD receive the benefits.


Concluding Thoughts

Everybody’s brain is hardwired to learn and work differently; we shouldn’t stick to the “normal” standards created by society. Individuals with ADHD often mask their symptoms to fit these societal norms. However, it comes at the cost of one’s physical and mental well-being.

By embracing neurodiversity, we’re normalizing these neurological differences, breaking stereotypical standards, and creating a society where everyone’s unique abilities are valued and appreciated. Learn more about “Neurodivergence.”


Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari

Carson Kivari is the Founder and Clinic Director of Thrive Downtown, with years of experience helping individuals and couples overcome anxiety, depression, and burnout. He guides clients on a journey of self-exploration and trauma release to find purpose, connection, and safety. Take the first step towards healing and contact Carson today to schedule a session.

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