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"

Exclusive Interview: Dr. Edward Hallowell on ADHD & Positive Thinking

Dr. Edward Hallowell

Hello and welcome to my redesigned blog. I hope you like the new design! The new design is so fresh that there are still some bugs being worked out, if you notice any, please let me know. Special thanks to Jorge over at for the design!

For the relaunch of my blog I asked Dr. Edward Hallowell if he would answer a few (well, more than a few) questions in an exclusive interview. I am honored to provide you with his answers. Did you know he has a new book coming out or what he was asked would fall off when taking Ritalin? You’re about to discover those answers in a moment!

I am not sure that there is anyone in the ADD / ADHD community who is not familiar with who Dr. Edward (Ned) Hallowell is. But just in case:

He is one of the world’s foremost experts on ADHD. The Co-author of Driven to Distraction, one of the most important, groundbreaking books ever published concerning Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, which finally helped explain so many things to so many people and it helped to start lifting the stigma. Driven to Distraction and the further efforts of Dr. Hallowell are a significant reason why many of us talk openly about ADHD today.

Dr. Hallowell is also the author of 17 other books on mental health and the Director of the Hallowell Centers in Sudbury, MA and New York City. He was a member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School from 1983 to 2004 until he retired to devote his full professional attention to his clinical practice, lectures, and writing books.

He’s one of a kind and he’s a very special part of our community.


Interview with Dr. Edward Hallowell

 (Rather than repeat our names, Dr. Hallowell’s answers are in the large quotes and my questions are in bold.)

Q: Can people with ADHD lead successful lives and thrive?

Indeed they can!  I often say that having ADHD is like having a Ferrari engine with bicycle brakes.  With no brakes, a Ferrari is dangerous.  But with brakes, it wins races and becomes a champion.  There are Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award winners, Emmy Award Winners, doctors, CEO’s, millionaires and billionaires, highly successful entrepreneurs, professional athletes, writers, actors, and many more hugely happy and successful people who have ADHD.  The key is to get the diagnosis and get the right kind of help.

Q: Can people with ADHD develop good habits?

Absolutely, people with ADHD can develop good habits!  With proper coaching, training, and therapy—and sometimes just by the seat of their pants—people with ADHD can develop the habits of discipline, structure, and consistency that will ensure their success.

Q: If so, what would be the most important trait/habit?

Above all, people with ADHD need to have hope.  I often say, “I don’t treat disabilities, I help people unwrap their gifts.”  A realistically positive attitude provides the motivation to do all the hard work someone with ADHD must do to strengthen their brakes and excel.

Q: About attitude, how much of an effect does attitude and mental perspective have?

Attitude makes all the difference in the world.  Dr. Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at U. of Pennsylvania, author of numerous scholarly articles as well as popular books, and leader of the positive psychology movement, has proven beyond doubt that positive attitudes—like optimism, grit, a growth mindset, and a never-say-die approach spell the difference not only between success and failure but also between happiness and frustration.

Dr. Seligman’s associate, Dr. Angela Duckworth, has done the definitive work on grit, while Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford has spent her entire career proving the astonishing value of a growth mindset, a mindset that says I can learn the skills I need to do whatever I want to do, versus the fixed mindset that says, I am limited in what I can achieve by my I.Q., social standing, looks, and other fixed qualities I cannot control.  And finally, my own work over the past 30 years, has shown that above all, finding a realistically positive attitude makes all the difference in the world.

How to do it?  The magic ingredient is connection, connection with a mentor, parent, grandparent, teacher, tutor, doctor, coach—anyone!—who believes in you and is there for you, over the years, challenging you, coaching you, urging you on, no matter what.  People who get that, those are the people who achieve their dreams, and more.

Q: Do you believe mental conditioning, such as the type competitive athletes go through, could help someone with ADHD?

By all means. Visualization and the other techniques sports psychologists have developed can help people of all ages who have ADHD.  It is all a matter of using your mind to help you, rather than allowing the negative voices in your mind tie you up in knots.  This is not to say the negative voices can’t be helpful.  If you never worry, that’s dangerous.  We call it denial.  But what you DO with your worry is key.  You need to turn it into constructive action.  You do this best by worrying with someone, with an expert or an associate who’s on your side.  Never worry alone!!!

Q: Is it possible for someone with ADHD to unintentionally prevent themselves from improving or thriving, aside from the symptoms of ADHD directly?

Yes, indeed!  By marrying the wrong person or taking on the wrong job, for example.  Those are two of the leading ways in which people with ADHD—and people in general, for that matter—prevent themselves from thriving.

Q: Do you believe positive thinking can positively influence one’s ability to cope with ADHD?

Not only do I believe it, it is a proven fact.  Seligman’s work is definitive.  Seligman is nothing if not a careful scientist, and his work on learned optimism and his book by the same title, proves the case.  Optimism improves not only results but also levels of satisfaction.

Q: My personal favorite book of yours is Worry. How much of a problem can worrying be for people with ADHD and what’s your most important recommendation for someone who suffers from this issue?

Worry by Dr. Edward Hallowell Worrying can be a big problem for people with ADHD for two reasons.  First, disorganization can cause many problems worth worrying about!  Second, and more insidious, worry itself is riveting.  It provides focus, which people with ADHD are always looking for.  Contentment is too bland.  You don’t say, “He was riveted in contentment,” but you do say, “He was riveted in worry.”

People with ADHD are thus drawn to worry, painful as it is, as a means of finding focus.  —  The best way to deal with it is to get treatment.  Get a coach, a therapist, get exercise and sleep, learn to meditate, eat the right food.  All of these are tonics for the brain and will reduce anxiety.  Sometimes medication helps as well.  —  Finally, follow my cardinal rule: Never worry alone.

Q: What’s the most important advice you give someone with ADHD who wants to improve and overcome, but seems stuck regardless of what they have already tried?

Don’t give up!  But don’t try the same failed remedy over and over again.  Get a second opinion.  See a new doctor, read a new book, try a new technique.  It can be difficult to unwrap the gifts embedded in ADHD and can take time, but persist.  The rewards can be great.

Q: A new study suggests that ADHD may enhance creativity. What’s your take on this possibility?

ADHD doesn’t enhance creativity, but people with ADHD tend to be more creative than the average person.  The trick is to turn all those ideas into something useful.

Q: What are your thoughts about the gift vs curse debate?

Russ Barkley and I settled that debate when we spoke together at CHADD last year.  We both agreed that ADHD can be a curse or a gift, depending upon how a person deals with it.

Q: What’s the most frequent question adults with ADHD ask you?

How I have managed my own ADHD.  Marry the right person, find the right job.

Q: What’s the most frequent question parents of children with ADHD ask you?

Is there any hope for my child.  And the answer is a resounding YES.  With the right help, that child is a champion in the making.

Q: What’s the funniest question you’ve ever been asked?

If Ritalin makes your penis fall off.


Q: Do you have any new books or projects coming soon?

I just completed a book for the Harvard Business School Press called:



Thank you very much for your time Dr. Hallowell. I know my readers will appreciate your answers, as I do. – Readers, please feel free to comment about the interview and let us know which was your favorite question and answer!

*In light of recent events, Joan and I would like to send out our thoughts and prayers to the victims and the families affected by the tragic shooting in Colorado.


Stay tuned, my next post will be a NEW FREE eBook “Good Enough – Stop Seeking Perfection and Approval”.

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