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Book Summary: ADHD 2.0 – New Science and Essential Strategies for Thriving with Distraction – from Childhood through Adulthood

ADHD 2.0 (2021) provides updated science and guidance on living a successful and happy life with attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder – ADHD. It offers insights into how people with ADHD can tap into their strengths and unleash their full potential.

Introduction: Learn how to tap into the unique potential of your brain.

For a long time, society has been quick to brand people with attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder – ADHD – as unreliable, impulsive, and disruptive. But it’s a lack of support and education about ADHD that’s the real problem. Without the right tools, ADHD means a huge loss of talent, ingenuity, and creativity for the world. And it can mean unhappiness, poor mental health, and reduced life expectancy for individuals.

Book Summary: ADHD 2.0 - New Science and Essential Strategies for Thriving with Distraction – from Childhood through Adulthood

When the right support is available, however, that story is different. ADHD can become a powerful asset that propels individuals toward success and fulfillment.

This summary will first shed a light on what’s happening inside the brains of people with ADHD and the influence this has on how they experience the world. Then, we’ll explore four strategies that anyone can use to unlock ADHD as a superpower.

In this summary, you’ll learn

  • why you find it so hard to fall in line;
  • how a doctor changed a little boy’s life without ever meeting him; and
  • why you should get a pet.

Finding your

People with ADHD have brains that are structured and function differently.

If you or someone you care about has ADHD, you’ll be used to the negative stereotypes. There’s the socially awkward kid who disrupts the class. The spouse who’s constantly late and forgets appointments. The employee who’d be a workplace star if they could just get their act together.

And this isn’t fair. Because people with ADHD are many other things, too. They’re the kid whose projects are amazing when they’re interested in the subject matter. Or the partner who loves more fiercely than anyone else you know. Or the colleague who comes up with a brilliant solution seemingly out of nowhere.

Yes, they may be impulsive, hyperactive, and distractible. But they have important qualities that outweigh this. An ADHD brain makes you energized, creative, fearless in the face of problems no one else wants to deal with and committed to seeing whatever you’re invested in through – no matter what.

These are some of the many gifts ADHD brings to the world. In fact, it can be a superpower. To unleash its full potential, it helps to understand what’s going on inside that dynamic brain, and then put some strategies into practice to get the most out of it. We’re going to explore those strategies a bit later on. But first, let’s take a look at what makes these brains in particular, such a hive of activity.

We’ve recently learned a lot about how different brains function, thanks to the development of fMRI – functional magnetic resonance imaging. This amazing new technology lets us watch the brain in action, kind of like a moving X-ray. It’s helped scientists identify two key modes of thinking that act like a seesaw with each other.

The first is TPN – which stands for task-positive network. This type of thinking happens when you’re immersed in a task – in the zone, so to speak. When TPN is in play, you pretty much forget everything except what you’re doing. If you experience hyperfocus, you’ll know how that feels. It’s also the reason why sometimes you can’t step away from what you’re doing.

The second mode of thinking is DMN – or default-mode network. This is the realm of the imagination. It allows you to look back, draw on past experiences, and look forward to imagined plans or outcomes. When you’re in DMN, you might be innovating or solving problems.

TPN and DMN are designed to tag team each other, keeping us balanced between getting things done and dreaming up the next big thing. The challenge for people with ADHD is that their brains don’t switch between the two modes of thinking as seamlessly or regularly as other people’s brains. This makes them susceptible to getting stuck in one mode. And this can lead to all kinds of consequences.

First, they might be so engrossed in a task that they forget their other obligations – picking up the kids from school, going to an important appointment, meeting the person they’re dating. Or their imaginations can lead them into dark places, making them fixate on failures, disappointments, and shame they may have experienced because of their ADHD.

The other recent discovery we’ve made about ADHD brains is that a strip down the center of their cerebellum is smaller than in other brains. The cerebellum is the part of your brain that looks after motor function, as well as cognitive and emotional processes. It’s responsible for things like learning new skills, regulating emotions, and making quick decisions, but, interestingly, also balance and coordination.

Luckily, the cerebellum is also the most plastic part of the brain, meaning that with some understanding and commitment, people with ADHD can strengthen it and overcome some of the challenges ADHD causes.

Your brain has the engine of a race car.

So, what does all of this mean in practical terms if you have ADHD? Well, the best way to think of an ADHD brain is that it has the engine of a race car but the brakes of a pushbike. That’s why it’s running a mile a minute and you can’t seem to slow it down.

But there are four distinct strategies that can help you strengthen those brakes over time. And when those brakes are nice and strong, you’ll be able to tap into the enormous potential of your superpower brain. These strategies are adaptable for adults and kids, so they’ll interest you whether you have ADHD yourself, or are supporting a child with ADHD.

Before we delve into them, a case study. We’ll be talking about this case study as we explore the strategies because it really shows how they can work. It’s about Samuel, a seven-year-old boy living in Shanghai, and his mother Lily.

Author, psychiatrist, and ADHD specialist Dr. Hallowell met Lily after giving a talk about his and Dr. Ratey’s first book, Driven to Distraction. Lily told Hallowell that her son exhibited all the classic ADHD characteristics he’d mentioned in his talk. Samuel was struggling to focus at school, couldn’t follow instructions, and his grades were slipping. And worse, he was getting sadder every day. Since there were no local professionals to help Samuel, Hallowell agreed to treat him remotely by drawing up a treatment plan for Lily to follow. And because there wasn’t a local psychiatrist who could prescribe medication for Samuel, Hallowell would rely on other treatment methods to help this little boy thrive.

Hallowell’s plan centered around the idea that Samuel needed to strengthen the brakes on his race-car brain. The first step of the treatment plan might surprise you. Lily was asked to give Samuel lots of hugs each day to counter the punishment he received at school. She was told to ground all her interactions with him in warmth and kindness. Each day, Lily told Samuel that she believed in him, that all he needed to do was strengthen his brakes and he’d be a success.

Hallowell also prescribed daily balancing exercises which he supplied instructions for. Every day for 30 minutes, Samuel did a range of exercises, from standing on one leg with his eyes closed to taking his socks on and off without sitting down.

In essence, that was it. Lily was dedicated and motivated. She got her husband and Samuel’s school on board and within weeks, her little boy was more focused and less disruptive. His progress was so impressive that everyone started asking Lily what her secret was. She told them there was no secret. She’d just found a strategy that worked better than punishment – a strategy that focused on Samuel’s strengths instead of shaming him for his behavior.

With that as our inspiration, let’s keep looking at how strength based strategies work.

Connection is the foundation of a strength-based strategy.

People with ADHD are prone to disconnection – no matter how old they are. It’s not that hard to imagine why. If your brain functions differently from 90 percent of the population, you’re going to feel confused and out of step with everyone else.

Disconnection is the cause of so much pain for people with ADHD. It can lead to anxiety, poor performance at work, relationship difficulties, and acting out at school.

In many schools, the consequences for kids acting out only make them feel more alienated. In Samuel’s case, he was punished, felt shame as a result, and then withdrew because of that shame. All this does is encourage kids to put up even thicker walls between themselves and the rest of the world, leading to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. And by the time kids reach adulthood, it becomes even more challenging to tear those walls down.

That’s why Hallowell focused so much of his treatment plan for Samuel on connection – the foundation of a strength-based strategy for managing ADHD. He believes that kids with ADHD need boundless connection, every single day and throughout the day. Lily implemented this by initiating lots of cuddles, telling Samuel how much she loved him, and by creating connection and intimacy through reading to him each night. Her husband also joined in and gave Samuel lots of hugs.

What this did was flood Samuel with what Hallowell calls “the other vitamin C” – connection. Whether you’re an adult or a child, it’s important not to dismiss its power. Fear and shame are the biggest barriers to learning, and connection is the antidote.

Connection is so potent that it can even mitigate childhood pain. And if you have kids of your own, it can create a better childhood for them. In fact, the biggest gift you can give yourself, or anyone else, is a life filled with diverse connections. And remember that connection doesn’t just happen on its own, it’s important to actively practice it. Here’s how.

First and foremost, make it a rule that worrying is never a solo activity. If you share your worries with someone you trust, you’ll quickly find yourself in problem-solving mode which eases the burden and identifies solutions while staving off loneliness.

Next, if you live with other people, use mealtimes as a way to connect. Whether it’s family members or housemates around the table, make a point of sitting down together and inviting friends to join you.

Foster at least two meaningful friendships and make a point to connect with these friends each week. That might mean a regular lunch date or an evening phone call. And say hello to people you see all the time but don’t count as friends – like the barista at your local café or the trainers at your gym. This stops you from being another anonymous face in the crowd.

If you’re supporting a child with ADHD, block off 30 minutes of one-on-one time each week to do whatever your child wants to do. This special, dedicated time will do wonders for your relationship. Organizing a sleepover for some friends from school will also help your child connect with peers.

And if ADHD is part of your household, consider getting a pet. A furry sidekick guarantees a hearty dose of “the other vitamin C” each day.

The right kind of challenge will unleash your superpower.

If you were a kid with ADHD, like Samuel, you were probably in trouble a lot at school. You may have been labeled as naughty because you were disruptive, or lazy because you were never motivated to do your work.

This happened because teachers didn’t understand that you have a race-car engine in your brain. Race cars are powerful. They’re designed to go fast. Adrenaline, risk, and boundary-pushing is their thing. They’re not meant to be used for a drive to the local grocery store any more than a family sedan is meant for a Grand Prix. That’s why it’s so hard for people with ADHD to sit quietly and fall into line, either at school or in many work environments.

Because of this, the extraordinary talents of people with ADHD are often at risk of lying dormant or being dismissed. Typically, people with ADHD have one of two things that they’re exceptional at or passionate about. And when you – or the people supporting a child – can identify those talents or interests, you can finally put that race-car engine to good use. That’s why it’s so important to take a strength-based approach to managing ADHD – nurturing that superpower.

Say you have a child with ADHD, and you know they’re obsessed with science or video games or playing the cello, share this with their classroom teacher. If the teacher can integrate these interests into your child’s classwork, something magical will happen. They’ll stop being disruptive and they’ll be motivated to do their work because they’re interested in what they’re learning. Kids with ADHD aren’t naughty or lazy. They just need adults to engage them effectively. When this happens, the relationship between the teacher and your child will improve too, which makes everyone happier.

This is why identifying your interests is the second of Hallowell’s strategies for managing ADHD. If you’re an adult, it’s crucial that your job involves your interests somehow, otherwise, you’ll end up bored and unmotivated, and your performance will naturally suffer. Poor performance in the workplace leads to anxiety, shame, and depression, and you might end up stuck in the DMN mode of thinking we explored earlier.

If you’re not sure what your interests and talents are, write a list of everything you’re good at, what achievements you’re most proud of, what you love to do, and what you’d like to get better at. Also, think about things you find easy that other people struggle with.

Use this list to assess whether there are ways to better align what you do at work with your interests and strengths. Ideally, you should be spending your work hours doing something you like and that you’re good at. This is when you’ll do your best work, and be your happiest and most engaged. If you can’t find any scope for alignment, it might be time to start looking for work that makes better use of your talents.

Keep in mind that creativity is an innate part of having ADHD. Whether your interests are writing a book, carpentry, or turning your latest invention into a marketable product, creativity is an itch you just have to scratch. When you center your work around your drive to create, your superpowers will shine.

Create environments that work for you.

The environment you’re in has a huge impact on whether or not you flourish. We saw this in the case study about little Samuel. By following Hallowell’s treatment plan, Lily turned Samuel’s home environment into a safe, loving place where his ADHD was accepted and valued. She was also able to influence the school environment by sharing what she’d learned about ADHD and advocating for a more supportive approach.

But environment is more than just the physical spaces you move through. It spans everything from routine to diet. You won’t be able to change every aspect of every environment you’re in, but there’s always scope for some change to support yourself or someone with ADHD better. It would be easy to instinctively resist what comes next but, give it a chance.

Start taking charge of your environment by introducing more structure. Now, the ADHD brain is hardwired to resist structure, so this will be a challenge but the secret is to start small, setting yourself up for success.

To-do lists are a great way to introduce structure into your day. Just the act of writing them reinforces the importance of those items in your brain. Begin with just two tasks each day and try your best to complete those. Ticking them off the list will give you a hit of self-satisfaction that’ll keep you motivated. Over time, start adding more items to your daily list.

Next, think about the home, education, and work environments you’re in. Are they fear- and shame-free? Are the rules and expectations clear? Do they promote open dialogue and engagement or are there hierarchies you need to bow down to? And importantly, do you feel valued in them? If not, what can you change to improve these environments? If the answer is “nothing,” it might be time to move on.

Your environment includes what you eat – so reflect on your diet. You wouldn’t put low-grade fuel in a race car and expect it to perform. Are you doing this to your brain? We are best fueled by unprocessed foods that are free from additives, preservatives, colorings, and sugar. Try to stick to whole grains, unprocessed meats, fish, nuts, and as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. Water is also essential. Ditch the sugary soda, limit coffee, and stick to water or tea instead. You’ll be performing at your best this way.

Finally, prioritize quality sleep. People with ADHD are prone to FOMO – that fear of missing out. It keeps you at parties or online longer than is good for you. Your race-car engine needs its downtime to work well, and quality sleep helps offset the risk of low mood or anxiety that DMN – that’s the default-mode network, if you’ve forgotten – might cause.

Optimize your sleep by switching off all devices at least an hour before bedtime and banning them from your bedroom. Keep your room dark and cool – but not cold. We all know how much easier it is to tackle a challenge after a decent sleep, so it’s worth doing yourself that favor.

Exercise is one of the best tools to optimize your performance.

We’ve now covered three of Hallowell’s four strategies that formed his treatment plan for little Samuel – connection, tapping into strengths and interests, and creating supportive environments. But what we haven’t covered is those balancing exercises that Hallowell prescribed.

Hallowell’s treatment plan included specific balancing exercises because he knew from Lily that Samuel was already getting plenty of physical activity. He played soccer regularly and got plenty of traditional exercise, so his heart and other muscles were getting a good workout each week.

Continuing this level of activity was a crucial component of Samuel’s treatment because exercise releases dopamine which helps concentration. But Samuel needed some tailored exercises to target the area of his brain that needed the most support.

Remember at the beginning of this summary, we looked at how part of the cerebellum – which manages our cognitive and emotional responses as well as fine motor movement – is a bit smaller in people with ADHD? Well, when Samuel did 30 minutes of balancing exercises every day, he was giving this part of his brain a workout. Don’t forget – your cerebellum is the most plastic part of your brain, so you can beef it up the same way that you could improve your pecs by doing push-ups.

People with ADHD benefit from any exercise that involves balancing but martial arts is a particularly good option. It combines balance with coordination, discipline, and focus.

But if that doesn’t appeal to you so much, yoga is a good alternative. It’s another practice that fosters focus and balance, forcing you to concentrate on your body’s alignment. Some forms have cardio exercises integrated into them too, so you can get that beneficial dopamine hit.

Twenty to 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day is all it takes to get those neurons firing. If you add balancing practices to your regular routine, you can actually renovate your brain. In just eight weeks, you’ll notice that your stress levels are lower. You’ll also have thickened that smaller part of your cerebellum which is in charge of learning, memory, and emotional regulation – all areas that people with race-car brains need a bit of extra support with.

Exercise can also be a really helpful short-term tool when you feel those pushbike brakes failing. If you’re struggling to focus on a task, raising your heart rate by going on a quick jog, doing some jumping jacks, or even putting on a good song and dancing it out can give you that quick dopamine hit which makes it easier to concentrate.

Many schools are actually using this technique now. Some teachers have started getting kids to jump on mini-trampolines instead of sending them to the principal if they’ve been disruptive. If your child has ADHD, you might want to swap your time-out with an impromptu workout. You’ll be amazed by the difference it makes.

Final Summary

People with ADHD have an essential role to play. They’re creative, energetic, entrepreneurial, and love a challenge. We need people like this to innovate and tackle big issues. With the right tools and support in place, you can harness the power of your brain and release your own brand of brilliance onto the world, making it a better place and helping you reach your full potential.

And here’s some more actionable advice: Get out of your head.

If you’re finding yourself in the clutches of negative thoughts, it might mean you’re stuck in that default-mode network thinking, imagining or planning but struggling to be concrete. To switch your brain back to TPN – or task-positive network mode, do a task that’s based outside your head, like walking the dog, chopping a carrot, or doing a puzzle. It doesn’t matter what you do. The point isn’t to be productive – it’s to click out of one mode of thinking and into the other. DMN is seductive and will try to keep hold of you. But if you can fire up a different set of neurons by doing something – anything really – you can release yourself.


Psychology, Science, Fitness and Dieting, Mental Health, Children’s Learning Disorders, Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Parenting Books on Children with Disabilities, Children’s Health, Attention Deficit Disorders, Relationships, Education, Parenting, Self Help, Neurodiversity, Adhd

About the author

Edward Hallowell, M.D., is a board-certified child and adult psychiatrist, a world-renowned keynote speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author or co-author of more than twenty books, including Driven to Distraction (with John J. Ratey), which sparked a revolution in our understanding of ADHD. A graduate of Harvard College and Tulane Medical School, Dr. Hallowell was a Harvard Medical School faculty member for twenty-one years. A regular columnist for ADDitude magazine, he is also the host of the weekly podcast Distraction. He is the founder of The Hallowell Centers in Boston MetroWest, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and their three children.

John J. Ratey, M.D. is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author or co-author of numerous bestselling and groundbreaking books, including Spark, Driven to Distraction, and A User’s Guide to the Brain. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

1 A Spectrum of Traits
2 Understanding the Demon of the Mind
3 The Cerebellum Connection
4 The Healing Power of Connection
5 Find Your Right Difficult
6 Create Stellar Environments
7 Move to Focus, Move to Motivate: The Power of Exercise
8 Medication: The Most Powerful Tool Everyone Fears
9 Putting It All Together: Find Your Feel and Make It Real
Appendix A The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Definition of and Criteria for ADHD (abridged)
Appendix B A Compendium of Resources
Select Bibliography


A revolutionary new approach to ADD/ADHD featuring cutting-edge research and strategies to help readers thrive, by the bestselling authors of the seminal books Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction

World-renowned authors Dr. Edward M. Hallowell and Dr. John J. Ratey literally “wrote the book” on ADD/ADHD more than two decades ago. Their bestseller, Driven to Distraction, largely introduced this diagnosis to the public and sold more than a million copies along the way.

Now, most people have heard of ADHD and know someone who may have it. But lost in the discussion of both childhood and adult diagnosis of ADHD is the potential upside: Many hugely successful entrepreneurs and highly creative people attribute their achievements to ADHD. Also unknown to most are the recent research developments, including innovations that give a clearer understanding of the ADHD brain in action. In ADHD 2.0, Drs. Hallowell and Ratey, both of whom have this “variable attention trait,” draw on the latest science to provide both parents and adults with ADHD a plan for minimizing the downside and maximizing the benefits of ADHD at any age. They offer an arsenal of new strategies and lifestyle hacks for thriving with ADHD, including

  • Find the right kind of difficult. Use these behavior assessments to discover the work, activity, or creative outlet best suited to an individual’s unique strengths.
  • Reimagine environment. What specific elements to look for—at home, at school, or in the workplace—to enhance the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit inherent in the ADHD mind.
  • Embrace innate neurological tendencies. Take advantage of new findings about the brain’s default mode network and cerebellum, which confer major benefits for people with ADHD.
  • Tap into the healing power of connection. Tips for establishing and maintaining positive connection “the other Vitamind C” and the best antidote to the negativity that plagues so many people with ADHD.
  • Consider medication. Gets the facts about the underlying chemistry, side effects, and proven benefits of all the pharmaceutical options.

As inspiring as it is practical, ADHD 2.0 will help you tap into the power of this mercurial condition and find the key that unlocks potential.

Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview

Chapter 1: A Spectrum of Traits

Who are we, the people who have ADHD?

We are the problem kid who drives his parents crazy by being totally disorganized, unable to follow through on anything, incapable of cleaning up a room, or washing dishes, or performing just about any assigned task; the one who is forever interrupting, making excuses for work not done, and generally functioning far below potential in most areas. We are the kid who gets daily lectures on how we’re squandering our talent, wasting the golden opportunity that our innate ability gives us to do well, and failing to make good use of all that our parents have provided.

We are also sometimes the talented executive who keeps falling short due to missed deadlines, forgotten obligations, social faux pas, and blown opportunities. Too often we are the addicts, the misfits, the unemployed, and the criminals who are just one diagnosis and treatment plan away from turning it all around. We are the people Marlon Brando spoke for in the classic 1954 film On the Waterfront when he said, “I coulda been a contender.” So many of us coulda been contenders, and shoulda been for sure.

But then, we can also make good. Can we ever! We are the seemingly tuned-out meeting participant who comes out of nowhere to provide the fresh idea that saves the day. Frequently, we are the “underachieving” child whose talent blooms with the right kind of help and finds incredible success after a checkered educational record. We are the contenders and the winners.

We are also imaginative and dynamic teachers, preachers, circus clowns, and stand-up comics, Navy SEALs or Army Rangers, inventors, tinkerers, and trend setters. Among us there are self-made millionaires and billionaires; Pulitzer and Nobel prize winners; Academy, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award winners; topflight trial attorneys, brain surgeons, traders on the commodities exchange, and investment bankers. And we are often entrepreneurs. We are entrepreneurs ourselves, and the great majority of the adult patients we see for ADHD are or aspire to be entrepreneurs too. The owner and operator of an entrepreneurial support company called Strategic Coach, a man named Dan Sullivan (who also has ADHD!), estimates that at least 50 percent of his clients have ADHD as well.

Because people with ADHD don’t look any different from everyone else, our condition is invisible. But if you were to climb up into our heads, you’d discover quite a different landscape. You’d find ideas firing around like kernels in a popcorn machine: ideas coming rat-a-tat fast, and on no discernable schedule. Ideas coming in spontaneous, erratic bursts. And because we can’t turn this particular popcorn machine off, we are often unable to stop the idea generation at night; our minds never seem to rest.

Indeed, our minds are here and there and everywhere—all at once—which sometimes manifests as appearing to be somewhere else, in some dreamy state. And that means we often miss the proverbial (or literal!) boat. But then maybe we build an airplane or grab a pogo stick instead. We tune out in the middle of a job interview and don’t get the job, but perhaps we see a poster hanging in the human resources waiting room that sparks a new idea that leads us to a patented invention. We offend people by forgetting names and promises, but we make good by understanding what nobody else has picked up on. We shoot ourselves in the foot, only, on the spot, to devise a painless method to remove the bullet. The great mathematician Alan Turing summed us up when he said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” That sums us up perfectly.

Which is to say that ADHD is a far richer, more complicated, paradoxical, dangerous, but also potentially advantageous state of being than the oversimplified version most of the general public takes it to be or than even the detailed diagnostic criteria would have you believe. “ADHD” is a term that describes a way of being in the world. It is neither entirely a disorder nor entirely an asset. It is an array of traits specific to a unique kind of mind. It can become a distinct advantage or an abiding curse, depending on how a person manages it.

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

As different as ADHD can be from person to person, there are several qualities that seem nearly universal to people with it. Distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are the classic descriptors, but they find what we think are richer and more apt counterparts in Shakespeare’s musing about “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet.”

Having ADHD doesn’t mean you’re crazy, so admittedly “lunatic” may be too strong a word. But risk taking and irrational thinking go hand in hand with ADHD behavior. We like irrational. We’re at home in uncertainty. We’re at ease where others are anxious. We’re relaxed not knowing where we are or what direction we’re headed in. A common lament we hear from parents of teens with ADHD makes the point: “What was he thinking? He must have lost his mind!” Likewise the spouse who asks us, “Why does he keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again? Isn’t that the definition of insanity?”

Some people call this being a nonconformist, but that term misses the point. We don’t choose not to conform. We don’t even notice what the standard we’re not conforming to is!

People with ADHD are lovers in the sense that they tend to have unbridled optimism. We never met a deal we didn’t like, an opportunity we didn’t want to pursue, a chance we didn’t want to take. We get carried away. We see limitless possibilities where others see just the limits. The lover has trouble holding back, and not holding back is a major part of what it means to have ADHD.

Being a poet might best be defined with another trio of descriptors: creative, dreamy, and sometimes brooding.

“Creativity,” as we use the term in connection with ADHD, designates an innate ability, desire, and irrepressible urge to plunge one’s imagination regularly and deeply into life—into a project, an idea, a piece of music, a sandcastle. Indeed, people with ADHD feel an abiding need—an omnipresent itch—to create something. It’s with us all the time, this unnamed appetite, whether we understand what it is or not; the act of creation offers the magnet’s north pole to our south and clicks us together. It captivates us, plants us in the present, and sets us transfixed within the creative act, whatever it might happen to be.

Even awake we’re dreaming, always creating, always searching for some mud pie to turn into pumpkin apple chiffon. Our imagination fuels our curiosity to find out what that noise was, or what was under the rock, or why the petri dish looks different from when we left it. If we weren’t so dreamy and curious we could stay on track and never get distracted. But we do investigate the noise, the soil, the petri dish. This is why the word “deficit” in the name of our condition is such a misnomer. In fact, we do not suffer from a deficit of attention. Just the opposite. We’ve got an overabundance of attention, more attention than we can cope with; our constant challenge is to control it.

As for brooding, this is the special blessing and the bitter curse of ADHD. You have a vision. Maybe you’ve come up with a novel technology for making an unbeatable knife sharpener. Or maybe you think you have the plot to the perfect novel. Whatever your vision, you go at it like you never have before.

But then, what you’ve created . . . disappoints. It’s not just disappointing, but suddenly you feel it’s terrible, awful, the worst ever, and you plunge into despair. Then, just as unexpectedly, out of nowhere the vision comes back. You get reinspired. You can see it, you want it, you can’t resist. You have to try again. Off you go—dreaming and creating and probably brooding again too.

Like all three characters—the lunatic, the lover, and the poet—we have a pronounced intolerance of boredom; boredom is our kryptonite. The second that we experience boredom—which you might think of as a lack of stimulation—we reflexively, instantaneously, automatically and without conscious thought seek stimulation. We don’t care what it is, we just have to address the mental emergency—the brain pain—that boredom sets off. Like mental EMTs, we swing into action. We might pick a fight to create a bit of stimulation; we might go shopping online with manic abandon; we might rob a bank; we might snort cocaine—or we might invent the best widget the world has ever seen or come up with the solution to what’s keeping our business from taking off.

Video and Podcast


“An inspired road map for living with a distractible brain . . . If you or your child suffer from ADHD, this book should be on your shelf. It will give you courage and hope.” – Michael Thompson, Ph.D., New York Times bestselling co-author of Raising Cain

“Hallowell writes with clarity and humanity. . . . [ADHD 2.0] is a message of hope . . . a remarkably clear, personable, digestible and useful book.” – Dr. Lloyd Sederer, Psychology Today

“Beautifully written, ADHD 2.0 is an inspired road map for living with a distractible brain. Two psychiatrists who have ADHD themselves combine the most recent brain science with humor, stories, and deep wisdom about how to manage your fluctuating attention. If you or your child suffer from ADHD, this book should be on your shelf. It will give you courage and hope.” – Michael Thompson, Ph.D., New York Times bestselling co-author of Raising Cain

“Infinitely validating, effortlessly funny, and staggeringly insightful . . . This book will save lives.” – Jessica McCabe, creator/host of How to ADHD

“I love the optimism and hope this timely book offers.. . . . Drs. Hallowell and Ratey draw upon the latest neuroscience as well as other key research fields to offer a comprehensive and helpful approach to living fully and happily with ADHD. . . . Highly recommended.” – Peter S. Jensen, M.D., founder, The REACH Institute

“As both a clinician and someone with ADHD, I found this book to be a reassuring masterpiece. Drs. Hallowell and Ratey combine evidence-based practice and research to help those with ADHD live a fulfilled and happy life. I will recommend it to my patients.” – Kristin Seymour, M.S.N., R.N., ADHD coach

“With knowledge and empathy, Drs. Hallowell and Ratey have written a book that draws on the latest scientific advances and their decades of clinical experience. Most important, ADHD 2.0 provides hope; it is a must-read for anyone who has or loves a person with this very common condition.” – Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., president and medical director, Child Mind Institute, and author of The Scaffold Effect

“This information-packed guide is a must-have for anyone dealing with ADHD.” – Publishers Weekly