I just read this morning an article that described a study about the effect of ADHD in nomadic tribes in Kenya compared to Kenyans who are settled. One of the genes thought to be responsbile for ADHD, the DRD4, was found to have a positive effect in nomadic tribes such as the ability to find nourishment compared to farmers with the DRD4 gene. This suggests as I’ve always thought that ADHD creates problems in certain contexts but not in others. Our current work environment though resembles the “farmer model”, which is very sedentary and linear.
In nomadic herders, ADHD may be a strength because of ADHDers’ tendency to be easily distracted and notice stimuli in their environment, making them more likely to notice preditors and their impulsivity allows them to act quickly to protect the herd. In his book, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception (published in 1997), Thom Hartman wrote, he advanced the hypothesis that ADHD may be the product of evolution where the ability to hunt was necessary for the survival of the tribe. The ability to notice everything in your environment allowed people to find their prey while avoiding becoming prey themselves.
We saw first hand the validity of this hypothesis when a few years ago my husband, Duane, and a group of guys went into the forest in Banff to take pictures. Duane who has ADHD noticed all the animals in the forest, which lead one of the guys to ask Duane if he hunts. He doesn’t.
The effects of ADHD seem to be based on the context. In some situations it can be an asset like for herders and hunters while in others can be negative like in farming and in most of today’s work environment. The career you choose can have an impact on whether or not you succeed. Entrepreneurship is a career choice that resembles the hunter setting the most. This may explain why so many ADHDers tend to choose to become entrepreneurs.
Of course, other factors are also important in choosing a career such as level of interest, and many work conditions have to be taken into considerations. Each person is different and these differences mean you don’t have to become a Kenyan sheep herder to have success. You need to understand your ADHD and yourself enough and put in place strategies at work that will allow you to succeed, like improving your self-management, and adopting a healthy lifestyle.