Famous names 'flourished with ADHD'
Published 04/02/2010 | 08:12
Rock star Kurt Cobain, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Picasso and Sir Walter Raleigh all shared a developmental disorder which helped their talents to flourish, a Dublin academic has claimed.
They are among a list of names of notable achievers who displayed symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Others include Jules Verne, Mark Twain, guerilla leader Che Guevara, and actors James Dean and Clark Gable.
Professor Michael Fitzgerald, from Trinity College, believes they all owed their success to "risk taking" genes that play a role in ADHD.
The disorder is one of the most common behavioural problems in children, causing them to be restless, impulsive, and inattentive. In some cases the symptoms carry on through adolescence and adulthood.
But Prof Fitzgerald believes there can be an "upside" to ADHD, which he explained at a Royal College of Psychiatrists' meeting at Keele University. He said: "People with ADHD have symptoms of inattentiveness, but they often also have a capacity to hyper-focus on a narrow area that is of particular interest to them.
"Clearly ADHD is not a guarantee of genius, but the focused work rate that it produces may enable creative genius to flourish. For example, Kurt Cobain - who we know was prescribed the anti-hyperactivity drug Ritalin as a child - had an amazing ability to focus on writing music."
Cobain, lead singer of the "grunge" rock band Nirvana, who committed suicide in 1994, was hailed as a musical genius by many critics.
Prof Fitzgerald has conducted research that identifies ADHD as a recurring factor in the lives of many historic figures, with one classic example was the hell-raiser poet Lord Byron. "He had a turbulent life - at school he was often in trouble, and as an adult he engaged in criminal activities and was eventually forced to flee the country. But he was also the greatest lyric poet in the English language.
"There is a considerable stigma surrounding ADHD, and people tend to focus on the negatives of the disorder. But we should balance this by remembering that ADHD can, in the right circumstances, be a fertiliser helping to generate a seed of untapped potential in a person."