Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

Michael Phelps ADHD Hyper Focus Concentration Helps Win Gold Medal in Beijing!

“Single-Minded Focus”

Michael Phelps won the Gold Medal in his first swim in Beijing! There seems to be some confusion and wonder at how and why Michael Phelps was able to overcome so many odds to not break under so much mental pressure. Michael is described in countless articles to have laser like focus on his swimming and single mindedness on being the best. His concentration has even been described as other-worldly. Yes, Michael has the body makeup of a perfect swimming machine, but in competition it is always the mental aspect which allows someone to step above the rest – in Michael’s case, way above the rest – domination.

Michael Phelps has ADHD. I am not the least bit confused by what others are describing about his laser like concentration, this mental part of his makeup, believe it or not, is rather normal for most people with ADHD. It is called Hyper Focusing. Hyper Focusing allows us to concentrate on something so intensely that we cannot break away from whatever we are focusing on, it can provide supreme drive and motivation. Before I go on about how this helps Michael, let me first be clear about the reality of Hyper Focusing for most people with ADHD. Hyper Focusing is a major cause of dilemma and strife, it can be more of a distraction than anything else. It is often said that kids with ADHD cannot focus and concentrate in school, that’s not entirely true, it is just that these kids are focusing on other things – day dreams, that butterfly outside the window, or maybe something they want to do outside of class.

It is when we start Hyper Focusing on something which we have a talent in, and can make a career of, that Hyper Focusing becomes a benefit. If you read over many of my articles here on ADDer World you will notice that I have written many times at how people with ADHD can be the best at anything they set their mind’s to, well, not just the best, better than anyone who has come before them! This has been proven time and time again, this is not a myth or made up wishful thinking, it is a fact. Find someone with ADHD who is doing what they Hyper Focus on in which they have talent and you will find someone doing amazing things which defy all logic. Michael Phelps is the latest proof.

In my book I clearly describe how pressure, stress and yes, even fear, helped me Hyper Focus. I am a pool / billiard player and when I am under the most pressure, which could seem unbearable to others, I would always perform at my best – I hardly ever lost when under extreme mental pressure. That same pressure, stress and fear does not help me Hyper Focus in other things, it can do the opposite, if it is not what I am self-motivated for. That’s a longer explanation better left in my book and not this article.

This brings me back to Michael winning a Gold Medal yesterday in Beijing. In an article I was reading this morning this stood out to me:

“In an event in which he was supposed to be pushed, he had no peers. In a race in which there was to be stress, he became the picture of relaxation, so at odds with the feat he accomplished. With President Bush, the first lady and former president George H.W. Bush in the stands waving American flags, Phelps won the 400-meter individual medley at the National Aquatics Center in a world record time of 4 minutes 3.84 seconds — crushing his old world mark, winning an Olympic gold medal and likely sending chills through the rest of the competitors on hand, many of whom could succumb to Phelps in similar fashion later in the meet.”

I read similar remarks in many other articles about Michael Phelps and it seems to me that few understand the power at Michael’s disposal when it comes to Hyper Focusing. Having the president watching, the first lady and the former President too, is enough to overwhelm most people and make them start rethinking what they are doing or forget what they are doing all together. It is extreme mental pressure and not to mention that just about everyone else in the world is watching too. Michael Phelps was expected to do well and that adds its own kind of intense pressure, the fear of failure and not living up to expectations. The reality that many fail to comprehend about someone with ADHD is that all such pressure is simply more stimulation – it is natural Ritalin, if you will, but far more effective! Whereas Ritalin helps release someone from their single minded, hyper focused and seemingly distracted thoughts, mental pressure of an intense nature helps one increase their Hyper Focus on whatever has captured their mind’s attention.

Congratulations Michael and a special thank you from the rest of us with ADHD!

A short warning to parents of ADHD children: Hyper Focusing cannot be easily directed to activities that you choose are best for the child. Fear, pressure and stress will not help a child improve in school or other activities as I describe above. If confused, read what it is like from “inside” in my book One Boy’s Struggle.

Update: 2012 -

Michael Phelps, A Person With ADHD Is The Greatest Olympian Ever!


nerdymommy August 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm

There was a beautiful piece done on NBC during the Olympics right before his race, about his mom. I can identify alot with her – she was also a single mom, raising 3 children… what touched me more than anything was how close he is to his mom, how much he credits her with his success. Shows how truly attentive and loving parenting can influence success – especially for an ADDer. Growing up in a loving and accepting environment with parents who foster strengths and help overcome weaknesses can make all the difference. Michael and his mom are truly inspirations to all of us!

lorodz August 13, 2008 at 4:21 am

I’m a big Michael Phelps fan! I never knew that he has ADHD!.

I read the story about Phelps mom and how she have beaten the odds.

Long live phelps!

Lizard August 13, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Truly an impressive young man that really shows what going after your dreams can accomplish! This is the kind of mentor I think all kids with ADHD and any kid, can learn from! Oh, and gotta love his english bulldog too!

Jannalou August 14, 2008 at 1:49 pm

He just proves what I’ve said more than once about ADHDers: find what we are able to hyperfocus on, and channel that into a career, and we will be unstoppable!

Lee Andrews August 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm

We thought something special was happening with Michael Phelps.
No one has ever, ever achieved such “Super Human” heights in Olympic history.

Last evening [August 14th, 2008], following his winning “qualifier” performance, was the first time I was made aware of this.

Want it done in record time [no pun intended] with pinpoint accuracy??

Leave it to a “Hyperfocused” ADDer!

Way to go Michael!!

Please read my newly published article on the Hallowell website and let me know your thoughts.

Sita August 14, 2008 at 5:41 pm

I am an undiagnosed ADDer and my son has borderline ADHD[that is what my psychologist said].What I learned about Michael Phelps today
has validated my thought and approach to help my son.I can understand hyperfocusing-a child who can spend 5 hours on a craft project spread over two days,but not on 5 math problems

Celia August 4, 2012 at 5:26 am

I too have a son diagnosed with ADHD and also Oppositional Defiant Disorder When he was 8 yrs old. He is now 22 and still takes meaitdcion daily. He has also been diagnosed with depression and takes meaitdcion for that. My husband and his father died in May of this year from Cancer and he has been having a really rough time. Like Michael he is rather tall and between the ages of 11 and 16 we had to stop meds as nothing could keep up with the rate of his growth. He went from about 5’5 to 6’6 in that time and was completely out of control. We went to many different drs for help and none were effective until we found his current dr. He is doing much better now and is holding down a good job and has had a girlfriend now for a year who is working with us to keep him on track and focused. It has been a very hard struggle but we are overcoming all the roadblocks that occur together and will continue to do so.Thanks for your information on ADHD I wish all this information had been available 15 yrs ago when we were going thru the worst of it!!!!!

Bryan August 15, 2008 at 8:45 am

Yes, he is indeed an inspiration for all of us!

Isn’t it interesting that an ADDer owns world records and the most gold medals won in Olympics history? And not to distract from his great achievements, but yet another ADDer has unveiled the first commercial space craft?

It is nice to take time to view and appreciate some of the positives out there… isn’t it?


Lumos August 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

ADHD & Spirituality

It’s the Gospel paradigm again: grace/cooperation changing weakness into strength, death into life (2 Cor. 4:7, 12:9). Knowing the Source helps keep things in focus.

ron sorenson August 16, 2008 at 9:03 pm

A.D.D. Setting Free

Dedicated to My Love Kathy

Steady is the frame
Chaos in my brain
Spinning round and round
Going up coming down
Loud so clear in sight
Racing to be still
Running from the heart
Beauty hear the beat
What there is to know
Flowing thru the soul
Having full control
Free in all to one
Selfish does it want
Letting go to know
Together we then see
Love is all so be

–Ronald Sorenson
I am a.d.d. and now that I have learned about this gift I have life is beautiful thanks to my love Kathy who showed me this and has made a all natural way to control it LIFE is !!!!!!!GREAT
her site is

Maryleen Macrae August 17, 2008 at 7:29 pm

I learned just recently that I am ADD . I also write poetry when the’ spirit moves me’

I found out two years ago after years of searching for answers . I will be 80 this year!

Checked out your wife’s site and would like to try some things – but couldn’t find where to/ how to/ register??

I am not that swift on the computer – just smart enough to get into a lot of trouble lol

from Canada

melinda Vose August 18, 2008 at 12:19 am

On sunday 8/17/08 at 8:55 am the commentators were discussing Michael Phelp’s accomplishments on WTMJ 620 radio station in Miliwaukee, Wisconsin. They were discussing the fact that Michael is not “sexy” has a crooked nose, ears that stick out and is “obviously not the brightest bulb in the bunch” How disgusting is that!!!

MARCY August 18, 2008 at 1:58 am


Lisa from Baltimore August 18, 2008 at 5:27 am

Michael is beautiful inside and out! I like his perfect imperfections! I can’t get enough of him! How boring would it be if he were seemingly perfect like many of those robots on t.v. That’s not real or interesting! Our add/adhd children have been knocked down so many times. Thank you Michael for not only representing our awesome country in the olympics, but also for inspiring our children and showing them that they too can exceed all expectations!

Paula Ringerson August 18, 2008 at 5:44 am

Thank you “Lisa from Baltimore” for responding to what Melinda Vose heard on the radio. I have just three words for those commentators-jealous! jealous! jealous!

Kayla August 18, 2008 at 6:03 am

I have to say, Michael Phelps really is an inspiration to me! I have ADHD and Im 14. Once i found out he had it, that just really inspired me to do well in whatever I do. And thank you for writing this article, so other people can understand what me and so many other people with ADHD go through! I’m considering reading your book.

Bryan August 18, 2008 at 6:22 am

Michael is an amazing inspiration to all of us and we can’t thank him enough for being who he is. Just remember though, that each and every one of you is an inspriation to each and every one of you too! We are all in this together.

Thanks for reading the article and taking a moment of your time to comment.

Devika August 19, 2008 at 7:29 am

I have ADHD too. I am from India. In my country people are not aware of ADHD. Thank you very much Micheal you are great……

Gina Pera August 20, 2008 at 5:28 am

Great analysis, Bryan, as usual.

Even as I thrill at Michael’s accomplishments, I worry that parents of children with ADHD will now decide against treatment for them and hope against hope that their child can find an object of passion like Michael did.

As you say, being a major swimming competitor is his hyperfocus. Someone else’s might be serial dating and continual dissatisfaction, spending on Ebay, and worse.

Every person–ADHD or not–should be seen as an individual, in my opinion, and not bundled with stereotypes that might not suit them. And I would hope people with ADHD also get a shot at happiness without having to break world records. It seems to be demanding a lot–and I sometimes wonder at the cost.

Bryan August 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm

I agree with what you are saying Gina. When I was growing up everyone wanted to be Larry Bird and then Michael Jordan or Joe Montana. So the advice is just as good for those without ADHD too. We should be inspired and motivated, but not at the cost of measuring up to our heroes. Not everyone is going to break world records and not everyone has to in order to find happiness. But, I tell you what, if I could throw the ball like Joe Montana…

Ryan August 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm

i have adhd just like michal phelps. i think that if anything his adhd is a big part of the reason he is so successfull. when i play basketball with my adhd in full force i find i can think much much faster and make plays quicker than when im on my meds. And for those of you who did not know adhd has many benifits this site lists most of the benifits that adhd contribute to and most people with adhd can relate to all of them. one of the ones is atleticism and he is prob gets his athleticism from his adhd. so people with adhd should know the benifits and use adhd for them and not think of it as a bad thing.

Jeci November 16, 2011 at 5:57 am

I am glad to read others’ opinions on the positive aspects of ADHD/ADD. My extreme tendencies towards hyperfocus make “Real Life” difficult. But maybe “Real Life” is not what we think it HAS to be…
However, managing ADHD/ADD is, for me, compounded tenfold by the fact that me, my spouse, and all my children are ADHD. Phelps’ self-discipline–rather, his good fortune at finding a constructive focal point…well, learning about him, and all this, is a relief and an inspiration.

Cassy November 4, 2008 at 8:43 pm

This article totally makes sense. My son who is 5 years old can outplay most adults when it comes to video games. It seems to be the only thing he can literally focus on. It does become a problem some of the time when he wants to play all the time and becomes upset when he can’t. But at the same time it’s amazing how he can actually walk his father (or any other person, for that matter) through a new game after only playing it for a couple of days. I believe he’s going to become a real gamer. And you never know, maybe my son will become a creator in the world of video games! =)

Kevin Plumb July 19, 2009 at 12:22 am

My son is a top hockey player I don’t know if it is better for him to be on drugs when playing or be with out. Hockey is a team sport but his skills are extremely strong. Which is better? I read the article on Phelps and I am so happy to see that hyper focus is such a big part of his success is he on drugs when he compets or only in practice? Help

Bryan July 19, 2009 at 6:15 am

That’s hard to say. Personally, I believe sports to be good for most of us ADDer’s without medication; however, there are some who need it and will benefit from it. Michael Phelps does not take any medication for his ADHD – he did when he was a teen and stopped for his own reasons. In hockey, very quick choices are a must – the question to ask the doctor is will medication help or inhibit those quick choices and reflexes. Some baseball players use ADHD medication; however, they are not flying around the field the entire game and are usually not in danger of being hurt…

sherry mulberry September 14, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I love Michael Phelps . He was so awesome in the olympics he was like a machine , that just couldn’t be stopped. And yes I love his sister and mom they were great too . His mom looked so proud she looked like was going to burst. And her helping kids with adhd is great. We need more people like both of them as role models for are kids. sherry

Lexiey February 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm

hi i am doing a report on michael phelps and i did not know that he had ADHD and i was very intredded on this subject because someone that has a problem on foceing that takes a lot of determination of wanting something so bad that he made it come true. and he is my idol ever thought i do not have ADHD. thank you michael

Matt Sakis June 28, 2010 at 9:14 am

Give me a script for adderall and Ill win the gold in anything. Michael Phelps took amphetamines in the olympics and got away with it because he claims it was for his ADD. First of all, there is no way to prove adult ADD even exists! And for a curveball, I have no problem with him taking them. I think everyone should be prescribed. If an 8 year old kid can take them, why cant I? So if ADD does exist, then prove it. Because im showing signs of ADD then I must have it? Who to say Im not faking it? Look Im the smartest, luckiest person there is. (Thats the best combo ever by the way) ADD is given to American children having difficulty adapting to our way of life. So instead of 50% percent of our nation failing out of school in 2nd grade, the government gives them a drug that will make them get er dun. Then when theyre 18, the wont give it to them. (insurance reasons) Everyone should be able to take an amphetamine if they want to. Why should I have to go to a psychiatrist that cant look at me and tell i have it or not, to get it. Oh I know, insurance reasons. Michael Phelps is who he is today because he was unable to sit through 8 hours confined to a chair 5 days a week discussing boring topics. Hes a man! he wants to use his hands, not his mouth. So he was given some amphetamines so he wouldnt realize he couldnt do what the other kids were doing. this hyper focus thing is possible, but stop trying to put a finger on it. its a fascinating idea, but thats all it is, an idea. you cant look in someones brain and say oh look, there it is. You see that red receptor? thats the ADD receptor. WRONG!! nobody can do that. Money is the root of all evil, and thats why this drug is in the predicament that it is. Start at square one, not the 3214th half of the 876th diaganol latitudes first second quarter. so here it is. Amphetamines are wonderful drugs that that give you superpowers. And the government regulates all drugs. And they have crazy agendas that when they finally reach you, break down to this- You can have them only if you are given them by a doctor. you can only have a doctor if you have insurance. you can only have insurance if you have a job. you can only have a job that has insurance if you do well in school. you can only do well in school if you have this drug. Why does everyone ask why? All BS aside, take it from me the smartest person ever, you might get lucky- Everyone should be able to go to wal mart and buy amphetamines. Look what they did for the greatest Olympian ever

Bryan Hutchinson June 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Interesting Matt… what? This subject has already been exhausted and the argument has been presented much better. Of course, you also mean to say that the Olympics drug testing failed and that the fact Michael doesn’t take ADHD medication is lost in the ‘facts’… right? Either way, when you win that gold medal, that’s what I want to know. Let us know.

Thanks…. ;)

Dave Davis June 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Matt, I don’t understand why you would read a site like this one, much less deign to post. What a waste of your valuable time and intelligence! You could be curing cancer, or ending world hunger! On the other hand, maybe you are seldom right, but never in doubt!

Rita August 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Michael you are person that God has given us as example that he is control of all things. Thank you for making your mother and the whole world so proud. I understand her strrength and all she has desired for her children, but most of all I am so proad of her faith. Both of you have shown the world how to understand our situations as blessings. I have a seven year son who mirrors your characteristics as a child according to your mother’s website articles. He is in the mist of beening screened for ADHD due to traits I’ve watched since he was five. I’m already certain of what the diagnosis will be. I too am alot like your mother. My son is a very smart little boy and I know he has a gift. I’m ready to give him all the support he needs in order to find out what that gift may be. Michael, he has been swimming since age 3. The pools is a place where he loves to be. And I love watching his accomplishments there. Thank you and your family for being such an inspiration and a support factor.

Mohit Seth September 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Michael Phelps has been an inspiration to lot of people including me. He has a great talent but talent is nothing without hard work and this individual is a great example for that.

Bryan Hutchinson September 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Well said, Mohit!

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