A PhD with ADHD

Anyone know of a person who has a diagnosis of ADHD and has achieved a PhD . I think Dr Ned Hallowell meets the criteria !


The title on this discussion makes me want to get a doctorate so much!

Dr. Ned Hallowell has an MD (Doctor of Medicine), not a PhD, so he’s an MD with ADHD.

But I think it is likely that there are many people with ADHD who have a PhD. After just a couple minutes of searching, I found a Quora profile for Stephen Lange, PhD, and his profile says he is a “parent, spouse, psychologist, and grateful adult with ADHD”.


Dr Russel Barkley , the expert on ADHD research, claims only 5% - 10% of people ever finish a college programme, I think very few people with ADHD, probably those with the mildest form of ADHD get a PhD !


I should clarify, I meant that I think there are many people in the world with ADHD and a PhD. I did not mean that I thought it is common. (After all, I’m the guy who’s gone through five colleges, five majors, 8+ years of higher education, and still no bachelor’s degree. And I work in IT at a university!)


My dad was never diagnosed, but apparently…
He had two Masters and a PhD.


I have a relative who has been diagnosed with ADHD and finished her Ph.D. I don’t see it as being all that uncommon. If someone has the right support structure while working on their doctorate, it seems reasonable. When I dropped out of my Ph.D. program, I came to the realization that it would have been better for me to choose an advisor at a smaller school and go there than go to a large program that I did.

As I see things, ADHD is independent of intelligence. And in some regard, being able to hyperfocus on something of interest could be a big benefit to doing research - as long as the research is in that field of interest. Of course, it would probably still be really useful to have people and systems (and medication?) to keep that focus even when it comes to the boring parts (“You mean I have to stop researching and write a paper about what I’ve discovered?”)


Yep. Guilty! And I know a good number of peers/colleagues who have PhDs and ADHD. It might be that those of us who have PhDs were diagnosed later in life.

What JohnW says is spot on. Getting a PhD gave me time to focus on (and, quite frankly, required me to focus on) whatever I wanted to. I could go down the biggest rabbit hole of all, and it was my job! The boring parts were hard though, and those boring parts are why I don’t still do research (I love the research part, but hate the grant-writing, funding, paper writing, academic politics, …).



I would like to say welcome to the ADHD community !

your ADHD seems fairly mild ( non - disabling ), if you got a PhD , undiagnosed but I cannot say for sure.

Maybe you have a very high intelligence which can counteract the ADHD as well ?

I got a degree, Pgdip undiagnosed with dyspraxia, ADHD and aspergers traits, also I have severe mental health problems since childhood, especially since the age of 15 !


I didn’t realize we were only talking about disabling ADHD :slight_smile:

It’s true; I have a lot going for me that allowed me to actually get a PhD: I am really smart (as noted in my neuropsych testing; my verbal and reasoning scores are in the 99th percentile; my working memory and processing speeds are in the 50th percentiles. This makes me look really dumb sometimes). I’m lucky-- I worked with a very supportive advisor who ensured my success, no matter how much I struggled and took weird side paths that had nothing to do with my thesis. I’m also a very curious person, and enjoy learning almost anything, which made it easy for me to stay focused in classes that weren’t in my major.

It also took me much longer than my peers to get through to actually finishing my PhD. It was much more difficult. I used many tools to compensate. I’m considered less successful than my peers. Since finishing, my ADHD has made it much more difficult to keep a job for a long period of time. As I noted, I think staying in school suited me. I had fewer decisions to make about what to prioritize, and it was not just accepted but encouraged for me to hyperfocus and follow the various academic threads I found interesting.

But, I also know I’m not alone. As I said, while I don’t know that I’d consider it common, it certainly isn’t rare. Having a PhD is not an indicator that you don’t have ADHD, or that your ADHD is mild (whatever that means).


@aha I agree , ADHD spans the intelligent range . Having a PhD indicates a high IQ, independent of ADHD.

Congratulations on getting your PhD !

I have a similar, profile of verbal reasoning in the 96% percentage, average working memory , average processing speed, my perceptual organisation is below average, my coordination is below average, resulting in me having dyspraxia, ( a learning disability in the USA).

How is your coordination and perceptual organisation ?

If you have below average coordination, a high IQ, one or more below average working memory, perceptual organisation, processing speed, a good indicator of dyspraxia.

Half of people with ADHD have dyspraxia. 40% of people with dyspraxia have ADHD .


@ALADDIN You can be gifted and have ADHD and might just of been able to cope with your adhd to a point of getting a PhD. I know there is some people in this forums that have a PhD


@aha Thanks for providing a first-person testimonial (and congratulations on finishing your Ph.D., and welcome to the forums!). I spent a few years in a Ph.D. program, and I still work at places where a large percentage of the people have doctorates. While I don’t typically know if any of them have been diagnosed with ADHD, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. My problem was that while I like going down rabbit holes, note that I used the plural. I would pretty quickly get bored with one and find another. And most of them were not related to my studies.


@vh0622 @j_d_aengus @Pithy @JohnW @aha

Part of the problem is that we are still at the infancy in research into ADHD , especially adult ADHD .

As times goes by, hopefully there will be more research, more understanding and better support across the world !


There are people who have a Phd, who have ADHD, a tiny percentage, around 0.2% - 0.5%. I think it probably requires a high IQ !


Me, and it only took 3 decades to get around to it :man_shrugging:
Also if you listen really carefully Sir Roger Penrose (nobel lauriate for physics 2020) in numberphile podcast why did the mathematician cross the road? Explains how he was not good at arithmetic and algebra … But his mathematical drawings! Penrose triangles, Penrose tiling …

links: https://www.numberphile.com/podcast/roger-penrose

Welcome @aha and thank you for your candid, if a little imposter syndrome sufferer, account.

Having the opportunity to complete a PhD in my 40’s was a challenge, and I am grateful for my the supervisors and the support of my family (read: if you want to succeed in your PhD be very discerning about the supervisor(s) you work with). It did not help that it was during a time of ‘self denial’ where I’d thought I’d been fixed, and was moving on without any of day-to-day mechanisms to manage my mood and energy. Can’t say that academia is a good place especially now with so many attacks on intellectualism. If it helps I have a ‘take my luck where and when I can get it’ approach and if the opportunity arises I .try to share in my good fortune.

If anything I can reassure you about is don’t sweat the fact that you keep moving … it’ll make for better dinner time stories than anyone else at the table. So far three decades in I’m averaging a career reboot a decade.

Anyway I’m starting to realise that most of my posts are me, me, me and I hope some of what I’ve written helps. Recently listened to Tim Ferriss interview Jerry Seinfeld recently http:/tim.blog/ and there are a lot of things that Jerry sais that are universally applicable (IMO) to any creative endeavour and life in general.

Stay safe and good luck!

oh and because I got distracted, and clicked a random post on PhD comics:


Yeah but evidence something makes us different is as old as antiquity: Apollo and Dionysus is my goto example (thnx to our resident 15 yo). Also we should rewrite Aesop’s the hare and the tortoise story because as hare brained as we can be … I think we get there in the end and the journey is all the more eventful :joy:


Ah the curse of the rabbit hole wonderer … There’s a u tuber oxtoolco … He has formalised the process with a rabbit hole diagram! https://youtu.be/xpwtpCnh1R0?t=148


I have a PhD from 2019 and I was diagnosed with ADHD just last week. However, I am never proud of my degree and feel that I don’t deserve it, mostly because of low self-esteem and because I don’t remember many things that I have done during this period. I find it very difficult to find a job due to this.
Now since I found what the issue is, with medication and therapy, I hope I could get better. Glad that I found this community.


Hi Chenna !

Welcome to the ADHD forum !

You got a PhD, without a diagnosis of ADHD ! That is amazing , amazing , amazing !

People say I did very well do get a degree , Pgdip, with undiagnosed dyspraxia, ADHD and aspergers traits !

With your PhD, I am sure you can friend a job you want around the world !


Welcome to the HowToADHD forums @Chenna!

Earning a PhD is no small accomplishment. I have a neurotypical friend who struggled for years before finally earning his PhD (mainly because his advisor was very exacting). I’m sure he wishes he could forget some of the grueling struggles he went through. It took a couple of years after being awarded his Doctorate, but he finally got a position that he loves!

I hope that you can recognize that even though you may not remember everything that you did to earn your PhD, the fact that you did proves that you are capable of much! Whether you apply your expertise in research, instruction, or practical application, I hope that you get your first post-PhD position soon, and that it is rewarding for you.

Welcome to the tribe!