Even though stereotypes about people with ADHD may have you believe that the condition will limit success, the high number of celebrities with ADHD proves otherwise.
ADHD, aka attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is neurodevelopmental disorder that can make a person overly active and struggle to focus or control behavior. But experts say that with the right treatment and support, ADHD can actually be a strength.
This applies to kids in school or adults in their careers. “Jobs that provide hands-on experiences and performance-based duties with clear, interesting objectives are often a good fit for people with ADHD,” Russell Ramsay, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, tells TODAY.com.
These 15 celebrities have found such professions and have spoken about living with ADHD.
The famous comedian and talk show host has struggled much of his life with ADHD, he revealed in a “60 Minutes” interview. He said he had a “severe level” of the disorder to the point that it actually made him feel like he had depression. “(ADHD) can be different for different people,” he said, noting that for him, it forces him to be very careful in how he manages his day-to-day tasks or it “can feel like the whole world is just too heavy to bear.”
The “Shakespeare In Love” actor said daughter Apple’s ADHD diagnosis helped her understand her own symptoms during an episode of the “Goop” podcast. She told clinical psychologist Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., that as she read about her daughter’s diagnosis, “I thought, oh my God, I have this, too!” Many parents receive an adult diagnosis after their children do.
Justin Timberlake told Collider.com that he has ADHD and obsessive compulsive disorder. “I have OCD mixed with ADD, you try living with that,” he said.
Writing for Additude Magazine, the comedian and “America’s Got Talent” judge said he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t dealing with ADHD, even though he wasn’t diagnosed with the disorder until he was an adult. “Back in the 1960s, when I was growing up, my symptoms didn’t have a name, and you didn’t go to the doctor to find out,” he wrote. He came to think of his symptoms as quirks, which “found their way into my comedy.” He also addressed how he found jobs suited to his condition. “’Deal or No Deal’ works nicely with my ADHD symptoms. I show up, meet the contestants, and move around the set. I’m not stuck behind a pedestal reading trivia questions,” he noted. He recommends meeting with a professional if you have ADHD symptoms. “Get diagnosed and get help. Your life will be much better for doing so,” he wrote.
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In the his memoir, “Beneath the Surface, My Story,” the winner of 23 Olympic gold medals gets candid about being diagnosed with ADHD in sixth grade. “I simply couldn’t sit still, because it was difficult for me to focus on one thing at a time,” he wrote. He’d sometimes lose track of his place in line for swim lanes, inadvertently cutting in front of other swimmers. “’No, Michael, you have to wait your turn,’ they’d tell me. Some kids threw fits when things didn’t go well; I’d throw my goggles,” he wrote.
The famous socialite and businesswoman kicked off her new memoir, “Paris: The Memoir,” talking candidly about ADHD. From the opening page and at least 45 times throughout the book, she talks about how much the disorder disrupted and even defined her life at times. “But it also makes me who I am, so if I’m going to love my life, I have to love my ADHD. And I do love my life,” she wrote.
The “Dawson’s Creek” alum has dealt with anxiety for years and learned that undiagnosed ADHD was a primary driver of those feelings. “I was diagnosed in fourth grade, but I wasn’t,” Philipps told SheKnows. “The medication back then was so different than it is now; with ADHD medicine back then, it was like you had one choice. And they tried that medicine and I really hated it.” When the time came for her child to see a doctor for ADHD, “they were going through all of the symptoms … and I was like, ‘I have all of those things that you just listed. All of those things apply to me,’” she said.
One of the richest and most successful businessmen in the world, Richard Branson has had no qualms acknowledging that he struggled in school and dropped out by age 15, in part because he had ADHD. “If I’m not interested in something, I just don’t grasp it,” he said in a TEDx interview. In the book “Famous People with ADHD,” ADHD instructor Rory Stern notes: “Like many others, (Branson) turns his focus to what he loves to do. Every venture that he has gone into has been something that sparked his interest,”
In his 2001 memoir, “It’s Only A Game,“ the NFL Hall of Famer and sports broadcaster revealed that ADHD caused him to struggle both with concentrating in school and with impulsive purchases. Though he learned to live with the condition as an adult, he noted that “I truly wish I had been tested when I was a child so I might have been able to reach my potential academically. But I wasn’t tested, I struggled, and in football I found my answers.”
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Writing for Additude Magazine, the Maroon 5 frontman revealed that he has “struggled with ADHD throughout my life. It was hard for me to sit down, focus, and get schoolwork done.” In adulthood, “I had trouble sometimes writing songs and recording in the studio,” he wrote. “I couldn’t always focus and complete everything I had to.” While he learned that ADHD “doesn’t go away when you get older,” he realized people with ADHD can find ways to function and thrive. “ADHD isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD,” he said.
In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, Channing Tatum shared that he was prescribed medication for ADHD after struggling in school. “I have never considered myself a very smart person, for a lot of reasons,” he said. “Not having early success on that one path messes with you.” Though he eventually found success as an adult, he wishes that the school system could’ve found a way to reach him at the time. “If we can streamline a multibillion-dollar company, we should be able to help kids who struggle the way I did,” he said.
In 2016, the American gymnast posted to X that she has ADHD and taken medicine for it “since I was a kid.” At the time, she was praised by fellow athletes and by journalists for, as ESPN put it, “taking a stand against ADHD stigma.”
Speaking with the Child Mind Institute in 2020, the humanitarian and actor said that he was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia and depression in his youth. The conditions made him feel “strange and unique and freakish” in grade school, he recalled, adding, “I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.” He said that if he could go back and speak to his younger self, he’d tell him that there’s help and “there are ways to deal with it and to manage it and to overcome it.”
The “Barbie” director and actor told The Guardian in July 2023 that she was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. “As a kid, my mum was like, ‘Let’s sign her up for every activity. Let’s tire her out.’ I’ve always had a tremendous amount of enthusiasm,” she recalled. “I was just interested in, like, everything. I had a really active imagination. I had a lot of really deep feelings. I was emotional.”
Journalist Lisa Ling was diagnosed while she was working on a story about the rise in ADHD diagnoses. “As I was watching these kids and their parents talk about (ADHD), I felt like it’s not really fair of me to just watch this happen,” she said on the Distraction Podcast. “Because this is something that I always suspected of myself, I felt compelled to finally after 30-some years get tested, and so I worked with one of the doctors that we profiled in our episode, and he went through the battery of tests and confirmed that I had ADHD.”
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