You’ve heard all your life: “If only you could live up to your potential.”
It would take an industrial-sized dump truck to hold all your brilliant ideas that never got off the ground.
You know you can create something amazing… but sometimes knowing that means you end up creating nothing at all.
Yup?!? Well, my friend, you’ve got an incredible and incredibly unique brain. So unique, in fact, you might be exceptional. Twice-exceptional.
What exactly are twice-exceptional 2e adults with ADHD?
So what is twice exceptional anyways?
Ok, my friend- ready for this? Brace yourself for a witty detour through the labyrinth of brilliance and quirkiness!
Marcy M. Caldwell, Psy.D. of Rittenhouse Psychological Services, is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment and assessment of adult ADHD as a ADHD Psychologist in Philadelphia. With offices located in Main Line Philadelphia offering ADHD treatment Main Line at 40 E. Montgomery Ave. Ardmore, PA 19003. Take the Adult ADHD test to see if you are at risk.
Imagine a Venn diagram where one circle represents giftedness, bursting at the seams with intellect and imagination. Now, add a second circle swirling with the chaotic energy of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dancing to its own unpredictable rhythm.
In the middle, where the circles intersect, is the magical realm of twice-exceptional adults with ADHD – a harmonious yet bewildering blend of soaring intellect, boundless creativity, and occasional bouts of organized chaos. It’s like having a genius conductor guiding a symphony of fireworks while simultaneously chasing after a mischievous butterfly.
More specifically, twice-exceptional adults with ADHD have both ADHD and exceptional abilities or talents in one or more areas.
They may have exceptional strengths in areas such as:
But they also may experience difficulties with things like:
Getting and staying productive
This combination of exceptional strengths plus genuine struggle can make it challenging for 2e adults to get all that great giftedness out of their brains and into action. Their ADHD symptoms block their ability to harness and express their exceptional abilities.
Specific characteristics and abilities of 2e ADHD adults
When the exceptionality of an ADHD brain meets the remarkable abilities if a gifted one, the combination creates a mixture that is more than just doubling of exceptionality. In fact, research shows that 2e brains work in distinctively different ways than either ADHD or Gifted brains alone. It’s as if the unique brilliance of giftedness intensifies the natural gifts of ADHD, creating a brain where ordinary rules fade away, and extraordinary brilliance takes center stage.
The Twice Exceptional Checklist:
Intense Brilliance: 2e adults possess exceptional intellectual abilities that often surpass their peers. The 2e brain can be like a supercomputer, capable of solving complex problems and grasping abstract concepts effortlessly. This supercomputer is partly fueled by its giftedness and neurodiversity and curvilinear thinking creating powerful, novel connections.
Unconventional Thinking: Most ADHD brains can think in out-of-the-box ways. But when that thinking is paired with exceptional ability, it creates brains that can think outside the box and make connections that others might miss. The creativity of a 2e brain knows no bounds, allowing them to come up with innovative and unconventional solutions to challenges.
Hyperfocus Superpowers: While the attention of a 2e brain might waver in everyday tasks when it finds a subject or activity that captures its interest, it can enter a state of intense hyperfocus. This laser-sharp concentration enables them to achieve incredible productivity levels and immerse themselves deeply in their passions. While this is true of all ADHD brains, the hyperfocus of 2e brains can be particularly intense and productive.
Multitasking Dynamo: Despite the common belief that multitasking is impossible, 2e adults with ADHD can juggle multiple projects and ideas simultaneously. Their ability to switch gears quickly and handle various tasks at once can lead to impressive productivity at times and overstimulation and overwhelm at others.
Rapid-fire Creativity: 2e adults have a knack for generating ideas at lightning speed. The 2e brain can be like an idea factory, constantly churning out new and inventive concepts, which can be a powerful source of inspiration for people around them.
Impulsive Innovators: 2e adults are often known for their spontaneity and willingness to take risks. The 2e brain is often unafraid to venture into uncharted territory, partly because it can understand it more than others. So the 2e brain tends to embrace the unknown with an enthusiasm that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries.
Quirky Quandaries: Alongside their brilliance, 2e adults with ADHD may exhibit particular quirks that often arise from their neurodiversity. Like most ADHD brains, they often struggle with organization and time management, frequently misplacing everyday items or losing time. Unlike other ADHD brains, however, because of the unique abilities of 2e brains, these struggles can be seen and interpreted by others as minor quirks that add an extra layer of intrigue to their already fascinating brains.
Infinite Curiosity: The insatiable thirst for knowledge and curiosity of a 2e seems to know no bounds. It often dives deep into subjects that captivate it and can become an expert in multiple areas due to its voracious appetite for learning.
Charismatic Energy: You’ve heard me talk about the sparkliness of an ADHD brain. 2e brains are no different, and their contagious enthusiasm and magnetic personalities often draw others towards them. The unique blend of brilliance and quirkiness of 2e brains make them captivating stars that leave a lasting impression.
These characteristics make twice-exceptional adults with ADHD a vibrant and exceptional group, weaving their way through life with their brand of brilliance and bewilderment.
Unique challenges faced by 2e adults
Twice-exceptional (2e) adults with ADHD brains face a set of unique challenges that arise from the intersection of their giftedness and ADHD. And while their giftedness can make some aspects of living with ADHD easier, it can also offer its own brand of ADHD struggle as well.
So, in addition to the typical struggles of distractability, executive functioning difficulties, impulsivity, and procrastination that are known and loved (okay- loathed) by all ADHD brains, 2e adults with ADHD also have particular difficulty with:
Overwhelm and Overstimulation: The heightened sensitivity and intensity often accompanying giftedness can amplify the effects of ADHD symptoms. The flood of stimuli from the environment can be extra overwhelming for 2e brains, leading to sensory overload and difficulties regulating responses.
Perfectionism Paradox: The combination of giftedness and ADHD can create a paradoxical struggle with perfectionism. While 2e brains possess the capacity for exceptional performance, ADHD-related impulsivity and distractibility can hinder a 2e brain’s ability to consistently meet it’s own high standards. This creates significant shame and distress, which can then further impede productivity.2e adults may struggle with perfectionism, which can manifest in anxiety, procrastination, and self-doubt. This can impact education. What is a twice-exceptional student challenge? An intense desire to excel to perfectionism in all areas of their lives, which can lead to burnout.
Asynchronous Development: Twice exceptional brains often experience uneven development across different areas throughout the lifespan. A 2e adult might excel in certain domains while struggling in others. This unevenness can lead to frustration and difficulty finding a sense of balance. It can also be perplexing and frustrating to the people around you who don’t understand the unique way the 2e brain works.
Misunderstandings and Misdiagnosis: Because 2e brains are so exceptional in some areas, their struggles can often go unseen or interpreted differently, leading to missed or misdiagnosis. And this missed diagnosis can have an even more insidious impact because a 2e brian is so often blamed for their struggles, creating internal labels like “lazy” or “screw up.”
Emotional Intensity: If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that ADHD brains have big feelings. But giftedness can intensify emotions too. The combo, therefore, can result in an even more heightened sensitivity and a greater propensity for experiencing strong emotional responses. This emotional intensity can be overwhelming, impacting relationships while also impeding productivity.
Social Isolation: 2e kids face social difficulties due to a combination of ADHD-related impulsivity, social awkwardness, asynchronous development, and feeling like they don’t fit into conventional social norms. But that doesn’t end at age 18. Navigating social interactions and establishing meaningful connections can pose unique challenges for 2e adults who walk through the world with a brain that operates differently than most. Due to their differences, gifted children as adults may struggle to form meaningful connections with others. They may feel misunderstood (giftedness mistaken for Aspergers, etc.), excluded by their peers, or struggle with social anxiety.
Unrealized Potential: The challenges associated with ADHD, such as difficulties with focus, organization, and time management, may hinder 2e adults from fully harnessing and expressing their exceptional abilities and talents, resulting in untapped potential. This can be one of the most painful aspects of living with a 2e brain- not being able to unlock the brilliance trapped inside your brain!
Stigma and Lack of Awareness: The concept of twice exceptionality is still relatively unknown or misunderstood in many settings. This, combined with people’s confusion about the uneven development of a 2e brain, can lead to frustration, shaming, and an overlooking of the unique needs of 2e brains.
Difficulty in finding appropriate employment: 2e adults may find it challenging to find suitable jobs due to their unique blend of talents and struggles. 2e brains have many interests and abilities, and often, the work that aligns with those struggles to understand and accommodate for the co-occurring challenges.
Managing multiple priorities and interests: A 2e brain is a magical unicorn that has both the big picture thinking and filterless processing of an ADHD brain but also the ability to dive deep into each and every talent, interest, and pursuit it dreams up. This can make it challenging to balance various priorities and commitments while also maintaining focus and organization.
Unleashing the Extraordinary: Managing Twice Exceptionality with ADHD
Embracing and managing your twice-exceptionality can be a wild adventure of high highs and crushingly frustrating lows. 2e brains take the maddeningly annoying truth of ADHD brains– that your greatest strength is also your greatest vulnerability– and put that truth on steroids.
My oldest son, who has a gorgeous 2e brain himself, love’s Ned Hallowell’s metaphor for ADHD brains: it’s a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. But his 2e brains takes it to the next level- it’s a formula one Ferrari brain (actually- my son insists that he is a red bull f1 brain) with bicycle brakes. It’s pretty darn hard to control the monster of an f1 motor with just those 2 little rubber brake pads!
And that, my friends, is the tricky thing about these remarkable brains.
So….. I’ve got good news and bad news for all you brilliant 2e brains. And because dessert always tastes best when you don’t have to follow it up with a meal of fried liver and Brussels sprouts, I’ll give you the bad news first:
Because the strengths and vulnerabilities are that much more extreme- the systems, structures and supports that help protect against the vulnerability need to be that much stronger too.
Yup. those little bicycle breaks aren’t going to do it and that f1 motor creates pretty intense power. So we’re going to have to bring in some industrial strength systems to help protect against the vulnerabilities and keep your incredible motor on track.
And those industrial strength systems. They take effort. They take thought. They take *gasp* resilience. And that’s hard. Even for (actually no– especially for) your 2e brain.
But remember? I’ve got a delicious dessert of good news too?!?
All the same systems that work for ADHD brains will work for 2e brains too!
And guess what?!? I have a whole blog’s worth of systems that you and your twice-exceptional brain can embrace, modify and master in the way only your amazing self can!
Original Article: https://www.addept.org/living-with-adult-add-adhd/twice-exceptional-adhd