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The ADHD Brain: A Nonlinear Affair?


To get a better sense of the inner-workings of the ADHD brain, it’s good to familiarize oneself with some basic left- and right-brain functions. The brain has two sides (hemispheres), each of which is responsible for a specific set of skills. Both sides have their own strengths and weaknesses.

The theory that people with ADHD tend to be right-brain thinkers has gained popularity in recent years. Many books on the subject describe how both children and adults with ADHD display more creative, nonlinear thinking than those who are left-brain dominant.


Left- and Right-Brain Basics



  • Logical
  • Sequential
  • Rational
  • Analytical
  • Objective
  • Looks at parts


  • Random
  • Intuitive
  • Holistic
  • Synthesized
  • Subjective
  • Looks at wholes


The Left-Brain: Linear and Analytical

The left-brain is analytical, linear, concrete, detail-oriented, practical, organized, structured and firmly based in reality. It manages numbers, language, math, science and facts. This side of the brain uses logic, places labels and forms strategies.

Your left-brain helps you gather information and analyze things. It structures, plans and organizes your life, thoughts, concepts and so forth. It helps you plan and organize your day and understands the process of how to achieve a goal. The left-brain is crucial in our interaction with the world around us. The left brain gets “real world” things done.


The Right-Brain: Non-Linear and Intuitive

The right-brain is exactly the opposite. It is intuitive, non-linear and creative. It presents possibilities by using feelings, symbols and images as a means to interpret the world. Hence, the right-brain is the playground of philosophy, fantasy and imagination. It recognizes and understands abstracts, including what is commonly referred to as ‘The Big Picture’.

The right-brain “knows” intuitively what the answer to a problem is. It loves to dream and is the channel for boundless streams of creativity. Because it is aligned with the unexplainable, it can’t exactly explain why it thinks what it thinks or knows what it knows. It uses intangible energies like love, joy, compassion and intuition to express itself. It’s innovative, bright and imaginative.


The ADHD Brain: Characteristics of a Creative Mind

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Albert Einstein

Like it or not, the world we live in is built on pillars of left-brain functioning; planning, organization and analyses. Everything from our educational system to our work and home environment are based on this left-brain-oriented structure.

To be successful, people with ADHD not only have to craft an ADHD-friendly environment around them, they also have to change the way they perceive themselves. Many people with ADHD continually attempt to force themselves into accepting a conventional, linear approach to life. There are, however, far easier ways to deal with your ADHD brain differences than ‘shoe-horning’ yourself into a left-brained world.

In his book “Neurodiversity”, Thomas Hartmann suggests that people with ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism and other brain differences can make use of their talents and lead a happy and productive life by creating what he calls ‘Niche Constructions.’ For people with ADHD, creating a Niche Construction means crafting a living environment where obstacles and pitfalls of the condition are minimized and natural talents are enhanced.

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