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Donald Trump and the Mysteries of ADHD.

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I’m by no means a Republican. But I’m not a Democrat either. I’m not here to tell you to vote for Donald J. Trump. I’m also not a doctor nor a therapist. I cannot diagnose or prescribe. I’m not taking a political angle here but rather making an observation. I want to point out something I’ve noticed recently in our great country’s Republican nominee. Something I think we as a whole notice but are not entirely aware of. Donald Trump seems to have ADHD. Not sure what that means? Sound hard to believe? Well I’m here to tell you, I have ADHD and I know an ADHD person when I see one. In case you didn’t know, ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That’s the “clinical” term for it. A disorder? Not really. Let’s call it a “state of mind.” It also sounds long and complicated right? It is. Oh is it ever. Literally and figuratively.

To sum it up, ADHD is a shortage of the brain chemical dopamine. The “feel good” chemical. Lacking dopamine means a higher need for stimulation. Those with ADHD will try to find ways to get that rush. Because of this shortage they are prone to act and think in abstract ways. They will see things from a different angle, challenge the status quo, and walk to the beat of their own drum. You see, it’s a double edged sword. This “need” for stimulation can have a positive or negative effect. It can lead you to a jail cell but can also lead you to greatness.

In “ADHD: A Different Hard Drive?” author and ADHD coach Jennie Friedman references the fact that one of four elements is needed to kick this brain into motion. Curiosity, urgency, interest, or challenge. It seems to me people with this brain wiring use these tools to their advantage or disadvantage depending on circumstances. There is a long list of entrepreneurs, innovators, entertainers, inventors, and yes even Presidents who have or have been thought to have had ADHD including Malcolm Forbes, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ann Bancroft, Ted Turner, Christopher Columbus, Zooey Deschanel, Lewis and Clark, Jim Carrey, Virginia Woolf, Lisa Ling, Channing Tatum, Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, Paris Hilton, Adam Levine, Richard Branson, Pablo Picasso, Mary-Kate Olsen, Kanye West, Michael Phelps, Michelle Rodriguez, John F. Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt.

Scott Barry Kaufman wrote an article for the Scientific American in which he says “In his 2004 book “Creativity is Forever”, Gary Davis reviewed the creativity literature from 1961 to 2003 and identified 22 reoccurring personality traits of creative people. This included 16 “positive” traits (e.g., independent, risk-taking, high energy, curiosity, humor, artistic, emotional) and 6 “negative” traits (e.g., impulsive, hyperactive, argumentative). In her own review of the creativity literature, Bonnie Cramond found that many of these same traits overlap to a substantial degree with behavioral descriptions of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) — including higher levels of spontaneous idea generation, mind wandering, daydreaming, sensation seeking, energy, and impulsivity.”

TV host and former Psychotherapist Thom Hartmann has a “Hunter / Farmer” theory in which he discusses how there’s potentially very strong evolutionary roots to ADHD. That those with lower amounts of dopamine were the “hunters” in our early days and since then have transitioned over to those more prone to be innovative.

These strengths and weaknesses above sound similar to the ones the public has directed at Mr. Trump relentlessly. What we are witnessing is unique. I haven’t seen this in a presidential candidate in my lifetime. The Donald seems to be your textbook case of ADHD. It is manifesting on the grandest stage in the world before our very eyes. Let’s face it, many of us particularly here on the west coast are not fans of The Donald. He goes against our beliefs and most of what he says just sounds well…insane. However we just can’t keep our eyes off him. We don’t know what he is going to do next. He is his own reality television show. It’s primetime TV. (“The Apprentice” and the World Wrestling Federation ring a bell?) Like watching a car accident. Painful but shocking to the point where we can’t ignore. ADHD has been hailed by experts as a “beauty and a beast”, a “blessing and a curse”, a “gift and a disorder” and a “superpower and a kryptonite.” So before you’re so quick to judge (you’ve already judged and you despise the man…I know) let’s look at some of these characteristics common to this mysterious condition in a little more detail. Some strengths and weaknesses.

  • Hyperactivity / Tendency to Fidget / Prone to boredom

Jane Mayer in “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All” writes “He looked fidgety, Schwartz recalls, “like a kindergartner who can’t sit still in a classroom.” Even when Schwartz pressed him, Trump seemed to remember almost nothing of his youth, and made it clear that he was bored. Far more quickly than Schwartz had expected, Trump ended the meeting.”

  • Are often seen seen as “selfish” or as “narcissistic”

Often times ADHD people are “seen” this way; however, in reality are actually misunderstood. That comes from an inability to focus on mundane tasks because of the brain’s low dopamine and need more to stimulate or activate it than the average person. Often ADHD people will make mistakes in their chaotic worlds and do “wrongs” to others unknowingly simply because they lack an ability to focus and are seeking these higher levels of stimulation. Before I was diagnosed and received treatment often times friends and family saw me as “selfish”. And I was! But I didn’t mean to be. My brain was so into finding that dopamine rush it literally could not hear what they were saying. I did not mean to be self-centered. My heart was in the right place all along. Once I started treatment my world opened up and I realized what I’d been missing. But enough about me.

  • Lack of focus on details
  • Difficulty with facts
  • Live in a world of chaos

President Obama nailed it in his DNC speech. “And then…There’s Donald Trump. Don’t boo. Vote. You know the Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy either. He calls himself a business guy which is true but I have to say I know plenty of business men and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits and unpaid workers and people feeling like they got cheated.”

Obama’s observations are 100% accurate! I am a definite fan of our President on a personal level and he really was actually quite accurate here.

  • Tendency towards black and white thinking

This was very evident in Donald’s RNC Speech. Hillary Clinton referenced in her speech at the DNC that he didn’t offer solutions.

  • Over-emotional / hot-headed / thin-skinned

Do I even need to elaborate on this one?

  • Extreme Impulsivity: Prone to act on something before thinking things through

I don’t think this one needs examples either…check Donald’s Twitter feed.

  • Love drama

Oh does he ever.

  • Are often childlike (this can be positive and negative)

Build a wall? Yes, sounds ridiculous. But when I see him talk about this I think of a 14 year old kid trying to keep wrongdoing neighbors out of their backyard. His mind is frankly “childlike” in a lot of ways. I’m sure you’re thinking Do we want that as our President?! Probably not.

Positives (I pulled many of these from “The Drummer and the Great Mountain” written by Michael Joseph Ferguson):

  • Creative
  • Imaginative / Spontaneous (Per above President Obama said Donald is “not really a plans guy”)
  • Often see the world from a different angle (think differently)
  • Extremely intuitive
  • Wildly Passionate: Low tolerance for mediocrity
  • Thinks big / dreams big (Trump Towers?)

“I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.” — Donald Trump

  • Boundless energy
  • Hard-workers
  • Skillful at over coming obstacles by finding an innovative solution
  • Feel most “alive” when exploring new things
  • Love people and humanity but are often seen as rebels
  • Go against the grain, dare to dream, and because of wild amounts of passion and youthful tendencies and personality traits are easily labeled as outcasts

So this is the risk we take with The Donald. It’s a condition of extremes. Of greatness and tragedy. Talking about his controversial ways we very well could be unknowingly discussing what it would be like with an extreme case of ADHD in The White House. Does he even have it? I have no idea. I’m not a doctor. But as someone who has been diagnosed myself , it sure looks like he does. Just know that I’m here to tell you it can go both ways. I myself am not sure who I will vote for. Yes, Trump could bring the coming of the apocalypse as many speculate. The man is risky business. I do not deny that. I myself really do question his intellectual IQ. And that is a concern. But I encourage you also to not disregard the fact that Donald J. Trump sees the world in a different way than most politicians that have preceded him. He “thinks differently” to reference the late Steve Jobs. And perhaps in our current state, this might very well be what we need most in a leader.

Geoff Pilkington

A recent podcast I was on discussing my theories on ADHD:

Twitter: geoffpilkington

Instagram: geoffreypilkington


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