What’s the Difference Between ADD and Multipotentiality?
Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe.

What’s the Difference Between ADD and Multipotentiality?

Written by Brenda Scott

Topics: Multipotentialite Patterns

“Oh, you’re just ADD!”

How many times have you heard this before?

Lots of people think multipotentiality is the same as or similar to ADD because both multipotentialites and people with ADD have trouble focusing on any one thing for an extended period of time, whether that’s a project, career, or hobby.

But are ADD and multipotentiality the same? Or do they just manifest themselves in similar ways? And how can you tell if you’re a multipotentialite, if you have ADD, or if you’re a multipotentialite with ADD?

To get some answers, I talked to Dr. Ashley Soderlund, a child psychologist with a Ph.D. in developmental psychology, who has a special interest in the way we nurture and thrive.

Cultural versus Clinical Definitions of ADD

Most people seem to think that having ADD means a person has a lot of interests and isn’t able to focus on any one area. But the first thing Dr. Soderlund and I discussed was the difference between culturally created definitions and clinical definitions.

Dr. Soderlund pointed out that if we were to use the whole term – “attention deficit disorder” – instead of just the acronym, our cultural understanding of ADD might change.

She referred to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for the standard clinical definition, stressing that people with ADD and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) have a “deficit in cognitive attention in the brain.”

This difference is “very mechanical” and not merely a reflection on a person’s interests. The brain of a person with ADHD functions differently to the brain of someone without ADHD. It is unable to process information in the same way as a person without the disorder.

There are three main types of ADHD:

  1. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  2. Predominantly inattentive
  3. Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive

Children mostly fall into the third category, while adults typically fall into the second.

Think you’re too old to be diagnosed? A recent study suggests that the rate of ADHD among senior citizens is similar to the rate of ADHD found in children.

Multipotentiality versus ADD

People with multiple interests don’t necessarily have an attention deficit. Most multipotentialites can focus effectively, but they have more than one area of focus, whether that’s professionally, personally, or both.

If you’d like to find out more about the clinical definition of ADHD, there’s an overview, a questionnaire, and links to other helpful resources on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The National Institute of Mental Health website goes into more depth about the different types of ADHD.

Highly Sensitive Personality Types versus ADD

In our discussion, Dr. Soderlund also mentioned that she’s noticed an apparent link between highly sensitive personality types and gifted, creative, and intelligent people. Particularly in her observations of children, she’s noticed that the gifted are sometimes more sensitive, in that they take in more than the average child.

It can often seem as if this kind of child has trouble focusing. A child who notices more can be more easily distracted. However, Dr. Soderlund stressed that the difference between a person who is sensitive in this way and a person with ADD, is the ability or inability of that person to re-focus after the distraction has passed.

Dr. Soderlund explains this in Increasing Attention With Play! “Focused attention, sometimes known as attention regulation, is the ability to shift and focus attention and blocking out extraneous information when needed.”

This skill takes a long time to develop. It’s related to self-regulation, which, she explains in her article, The Most Important Skill to Teach Children, is, “the ability to control something– a behavior, a thought, movement, or a feeling.”

It’s actually a whole set of skills, including “executive function (control in the brain), emotion-regulation (control of feelings) as well as behavioral regulation (control of actions & movement).”

But I Think I’m a Multipod and I Think I Have ADD!

While being a multipotentialite and having ADD is not the same thing, these two ways of being are not mutually exclusive. Some people are both. These people have the exciting range of interests of a multipotentialite plus the challenges that come with having an attention deficit.

The good news is that there are very effective treatments and tools out there that can help such people. The first thing to do is understand that if you have ADD, your brain functions differently to most brains. Once you understand this, you can learn to train your brain to focus.

In addition to medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, there are some very sophisticated but simple-to-use computer programs designed to help those with ADD train their brains in the mechanics of focus.

No More Confusion

I’m very grateful to Dr. Soderlund for taking the time to talk with me about the relationship between multipotentiality and ADD. Our conversation has cleared up any confusion about the difference between multipotentiality and ADD for me, and I hope it has for you too.

If you are interested in finding out more about these topics, I highly recommend her Nurture and Thrive blog, especially if you have children.

Your Turn

Do you have ADD or are you “just” a multipotentialite? Perhaps you’re a multipod with ADD? How will you use this information to improve your focus skills?

brenda-bioDr. Brenda Scott is a fine art photographer, writer, and cellist. Originally trained as a musician and organologist, she has worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum and her Stagville: Black & White exhibit has been displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History and is currently on tour. She enjoys teaching and holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University. View her work at brendascottarts.com or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.


  1. Neil Hughes says:

    This is great, Brenda.

    I love how much effort you put into researching this.

    It’s so useful to understand the fine nuances between ADD/multipotentiality and also being a HSP. And all explained in such a wonderfully non-judgemental way.

    Will definitely be referring people to this post when this question comes up again :)

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hiya, Neil.

      Thank you so much. Apologies for the delayed but sincere response. (I’ve messaged you about this.) I had a great time talking with Dr. Soderlund about this topic. She has great things to say on her blog, too.


  2. Emad says:

    Hmmmm. Thanks for the article, but I am not sure if it explains the difference very well… :(:( perhaps i misunderstood !! could someone explain the difference in a better way? Thanks !!

    • Emilie says:

      What part are you having trouble understanding, Emad? The main difference seems to be that ADD is a focus problem, whereas multipotentiality is having a plurality of interests. When we’re engaging with those interests, we are usually able to be fully present and focused.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Emad.

      Looks like Emilie answered you already, but I just wanted to chime in as well. For even more details on differences, do check out the links in the blog post. They give more details from the DSM-5.

      Also, the two are not mutually exclusive. Some multipotentialites, in addition to having lots of interests, do have an attention deficit as well. I was not able to find a study on this, but my guess is that this group of folks are rare examples.

      I’ve met many multipods who actually seem to have a surplus of (rather than a deficit of) attention for projects that interest them. I’ve seen them focus for 12 or more hours straight. (I think my record is about 26 hours, and then I got sleepy and had to stop after 28.) I’m not sure how frequently this combination occurs – of the very long attention span plus multipotentiality. Perhaps this is an area for someone’s doctoral work in the future. Anyone else have observations on this?

      Thanks, Emilie, for your great answer.

      Hope it’s all cleared up, Emad.


      • Shaila says:


        One misconception about ADHD is that it’s only a lack of focus. There are many times I can’t focus on boring tasks or even some that interest me. However, we ADHDers also get what is called hyperfocus, which is what you’re describing above. With ADHD, I can get wrapped up in an interesting project and work for 12+ hours straight. Then, I barely sleep because that topic is the only thing stuck in my head and I go right back to it the next day. A lot of times I have trouble finishing those projects, because I get bored easily though. ADHD is like always chasing the next rush. When you find it, it can take hold in an almost superhuman way or focusing that most people rarely experience. The problem is that it prevents me from seeing other sometimes more important responsibilities. So, ADHD isn’t always a lack of focus; it’s commonly a misdirection of focus.

        • Keith says:

          Oh. when I am interested in something you can’t get me to stop. When I am not, you can’t get me to start. Working a job has always been a challenge and I have had 100’s of jobs even while I have been dozens of bands. I have to make money so until I get music to pay off, I have to find ways to motivate myself. At this time ,I am working for an adult company as a web developer so at least it’s not boring.


          • Brenda Scott says:

            You live a very interesting life, Keith. Even with just the bands, I bet you have stories to tell. Do you write about your experiences?

            – Brenda

          • Keith says:

            Well, I do have great stories and I love to write both music and tech, poetry and fiction. I do have a series of funny family stories (A la David Sedaris) that I need to put in book form. My last name is Kehrer and the stories are called “Clan of the Kehrer Bear” about my birth family. I also have some in works for my kids and our family called “Shaking the nuts from the family tree”. I have never thought about writing about my musical life though.


          • Brenda Scott says:

            Hi again, Keith.

            I remember your saying you’d written about your family a la David Sedaris, and I hope you will write about your musical life, too. Love the titles you’ve chosen as well. Do please keep us all posted.

            – Brenda

        • Brenda Scott says:

          Thanks, Shaila.

          This is quite an interesting facet of ADHD that seems counterintuitive given the word “deficit” as part of its name. You put it extremely well by saying it is often “a misdirection of focus.” Thanks for this.


          • Keith says:

            Yeah Brenda,

            The good thing about writing (and film scoring) is that you need the blush of youth to pursue it so i may wait a little while longer. My last band wants to re-ignite and I am starting to DJ the Electronic Dance Tunes I am producing.


      • Leslie says:

        Hi Brenda and Emilie,

        I have recently found Emilies Ted Talk on multipotentialite’s.
        After seeing the talk and finding this thread i was looking through the comments. I have to say im intruiged by these experiences and makes me want to help in some way to get this information out into the world, into the big multi billion dollar corporations down to the local corner stores as Emilie and yourself are doing. This realisation for me has been life changing. Its given me a purpose.

        I personally resonated with your reply to Emad On December 23rd 2015 you spoke about having a surplus rather than deficit in attention…

        I have been diagnosed with Insomnia, ADHD, OCD, PTSD and AAD. What i have found that this combination lead me to have even greater surpluses in attention that you described.

        I believe my records aproximately 5 days on one single task to complete the job/objective i started out to do. But most are usually about 48hrs, ill stop to eat, drink and use the bathroom but thats it. This may have been partiality due to my OCD and need to do things in a certain way also to perfection/ or personal satisfaction before moving to the next step.
        Its not uncommon for me to start something and not sleep till its completed.

        So i have struggled for the last few years not understanding or feeling lost as i felt guilty i couldnt stay focused on a career choice for more than 3yrs. The research you ladies are doing is phenomenal and from the bottom of my heart thankyou. I know now its not just me. Im not alone in this world and i can see a world of opportunity ahead of me.

  3. Becca says:

    yet again – what a helpful and interesting piece. Thanks

    I struggle with the description ‘attention’. Would ‘focus’ or ‘concentration’ fit too? I’m having terrific problems as my office has just gone open plan and I sit in close proximity to 5/10 people depending on what you consider ‘close’ to be. I just can’t hold a thought or concentrate with all these people around me, even when it’s quite. I find earphones help, but it has to be classical or foreign language – something without words I can identify.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Becca.

      I think the words “focus” or “concentration” work as well, but I wanted to emphasize the “A” for “attention” in ADD.

      Best of luck with the new open plan. You might also try nature or other sounds. I find classical music too distracting for me sometimes, as I get drawn into it rather than the work I’m doing. The nature sounds seem to really help me focus. I know there are apps as well as recordings for this. My favorite on iOS was http://rtstudio.net/NatureSoundsLite.html and I have tried various options on the Android platform. My current favorite sounds for working are those of the Bodleian Library: http://rtstudio.net/NatureSoundsLite.html

      Best of luck with it all.


  4. Subratha Bagchi says:

    This is amazing and such informative article. Great job done. Me being an average man, didn’t realize that I am also an multipotentialite till I started following you. And actually it all makes sense, most of us keep underestimating our self and get so scared with distractions in and around that we forget to focus on one thing or set priorities to streamline and execute things.

    Now it all make sense why. Great job done team.

  5. Andie says:

    I’m both! Got diagnosed with ADHD when I was 27, and only figured out the multipotentialite bit recently. The hard part is having all those interests and then getting easily distracted by all the shiny. I’m really glad I’m diagnosed and medicated, and aware of both ADHD and multipodness — I don’t think I’d be able to get anything done otherwise.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Andie.

      Congratulations on the diagnosis and successful medication. I can’t know from “the inside,” but I suspect your position gives you exciting possibilities for making connections among subjects with the agility of your mind as it is. This is not to say that there are not frustrations, struggles, and aggravations, because I have witnessed these firsthand. Nevertheless, I think once you’ve harnessed the focus (like you have) and discovered your multipotentiality, as you have, you have the possibility for an additional spark of intuition and finding the interconnectivity of subjects. What is your experience?

      Thank you for chiming in here.
      – Brenda

    • Olivia says:

      Same here :) I was diagnosed with ADHD at 20 and medication completely changed my life. I felt guilty for my passion for multiple interests because I was unable to distinguish it from the lack of impulse control that made me interrupt conversations, binge uncontrollably on Netflix and junk food, and lose my temper way too easily. A part of me thought maybe it was just an excuse to let myself be distracted (I’m severe attention deficit and was diagnosed because of issues with university work). Now I know better – there’s the part of me that can’t focus on anything at all because of the condition, and there’s the part of me that chooses not to focus on any one thing in particular because I refuse to stick to a narrow path. But now, even if I’m off the beaten track, I know I’m moving forward instead of going round in circles. Or sitting under a tree to watch Netflix.

  6. Lea cox says:

    Well I lost my first response so this a short version.
    I am a skeptic of DSM use of drugs for ADHD . As a scientist researcher on brain we are still not in agreement.
    One thing I know from experience is that sugar in all its names corn syrup fructose sucrose etc is so predominant in all food and affects the brain functions.
    I would suggest a revision of our food and diet for any child or adult before using drugs.
    Check individual brain to understand behavior
    A symphony in the brain by Jim Robbins will open minds and change lives..
    Used in Europe and Canada on a larger scale still not widely known in US.
    We can all be multi potential if our minds are open and we be aware of our inner life .
    We can help our children by renewing our school system. Plenty example to learn from.
    The culture revolution

    Best wishes to all

    • Lea cox says:

      I may add the book refers to Neuro biofeedback and has been proven to work.
      Humans are multidimensional beings so it is not unusual to have multiple interest . We all have that potential but not all of us choose to use it or are able to partly due to education and cultural habits.

      • Brenda Scott says:

        More great comments, Lea cox. Really great point about not everyone choosing to explore multiple interests or potentials.

        I’ll try to check out the book. Thanks for the reference.

        – Brenda

    • Nikki says:

      Absolutely Lea! The food we eat and our individual reactions to these foods affect our body and mind in different ways, Diet Wise by Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby goes into great detail about this. Written after decades of treating his own patients with a range of diagnoses from ADHD to Schizophrenia and more. Very interesting and informative read, with guidelines to find your own hidden food sensitivities.

      • Brenda Scott says:

        Thanks for this additional reference, Nikki. I agree completely that the food we eat affects us perhaps more than most people realize.

        – Brenda

      • Lea cox says:

        Thanks will check the book Nikki. We are what we eat is not fiction. My aversion to drugs is that they are needed for some cases not all.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Really great points and suggestions, Lea cox.

      I agree completely that diet can affect people greatly – and not just those with ADHD. I also think that exercise is another factor. Other areas that I personally find useful are yoga and meditation.

      In terms of medication, I am not an MD myself (just a DPhil), and cannot write definitively on this subject. Personally I am always skeptical and looking for options in addition to or instead of medications for myself. But I would always advise other people to consult one or more MDs to be safe. (My usual disclaimer is, “I’m not that kind of doctor.”)

      As far as schools go, I am in agreement. I think most teachers do their absolute best, but the system seems flawed.

      Thank you for your comments.

      – Brenda

  7. Amalia Haas says:

    Dr. Roxanne Sukol of the blog Your Health Is On Your Plate is a fabulous resource in this regard.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Thank you so much for the additional resource, Amalia Haas. I’ll have a look. It sounds really interesting and helpful.
      – Brenda

  8. Terry says:

    I think there is a real difference between the two. Of some of the many things I do I am also a Special Olympic head coach for several sports. ADD is very common amongst the athletes I coach. And just like there is confusion with people’s perception of what the stereotypical disabled individual is like I would venture to say the same applies to multipotentialites.

    My experience with ADD individuals is that their distractions keep them from zeroing in on the task at hand. Where what I experience as a multipotentialite is that the focus is intense in an attempt to understand and accomplish. I just don’t have the desire to relegate myself to a single task or discipline because there is so much to learn and experience and life is too short.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      What an interesting life you lead, Terry. Which sports? You must learn a lot about people through your coaching. I always love coaching, but I do not do it at such a high level.

      Very well put about the differences between the two.

      Thanks for your comments.

      – Brenda

      • Terry says:

        Hi, Brenda.

        I’ve coached many sports including basketball, volleyball, soccer, swimming, baseball, bowling, and swimming.

        With Special Olympics, I have been coaching several basketball teams for the last thirteen years, swimming for the last three years, and bowling for the last four years. Coaching Special Olympic athletes have made me want to study sports at a very different level. It makes me think of multiple ways to break down techniques and body movements to the most fundamental aspects. This approach is how I can help an athlete figure out how to compensate for whatever their disability might be.

        I do all my coaching as a volunteer, yet I do it with the same passion and focus as I do all my other endeavors – architectural, interior, and landscape design, graphic and web design, photography and video, and…well you get the point, ADD and being a multipotentialite are very different.

        Thank you for the reply.

        • Brenda Scott says:

          Lots of great variety in your sports, Terry. Ball sports and I have never been friends. (I should have had you as a coach.) :) I’ve only ever coached fencing. I love your comments on how it makes you think of ways to break things down. I found that having taught cello for years helped me break things down in fencing as well.

          Sounds like you’ve got so many interesting areas of work, too. Thanks for your comments here.


  9. Roberta says:

    thank you Brenda! So inspiring! And of course, thank you Emilie!!

  10. Keith says:

    Interestingly enough, I have kind of been feeling like I at least two people. I definitely have the ADD diagnosis (and not ADHD) and there is an element widely shifting moods, but having a son with Asbergers, I have been reading and researching and begun the realize that the tree doesn’t fall very far from the apple. I have a set of strange and shifting sensitivities. I will often want people to leave me alone completely. Parties are really uncomfortable and I will just ignore people and hang out in my own world. I have been to court ordered anger management 3 times and looking back, all the times I have lashed out have been when people encroach on my personal space and order me around at the same time.

    I am scheduling a session with a mental health (I almost said metal health which sounds more appealing) for the near future because all the tests I have taken and everything I have read lead me to believe that I am correct. It kind of explains a lot of things. Maybe my song “She lives in her own little world” is about me.

    ADD is not a myth but it seems like it is a catch all for people who don’t seem to fit people’s paradigms, like me.


    • lea cox says:


      Asbergers disorder is inherited. I think now we have specific therapies in areas the patient needs help, so it is individually designed with you in mind. Better see a specialist as a neurologist who may know more about the disorder and its triggers.
      Best to you and your son.

      • Keith says:

        Thanks Lea,

        I think my son and I have learned coping mechanisms. He was lucky that there were teachers that caught on to his problems early on. I just had to muddle through and feel weird and like a failure most days. His sensory overload is mostly textures, mine has always been sound. Big surprise there. A bathroom fan can drive me out my mind. He has always had trouble with physical things like sports, but I never did. I was very successful at stuff like tracks (got my alone time) and hockey and football because I never cared whether I was hurting anyone. I have up and until recently been very aggressive on stage but crowds that I am in are the really big problem. I just want to push them away.

        I am getting new insurance at work so I have to navigate those waters again where I find someone I can trust with my brain. Not an easy thing for me.


        • Lea cox says:

          Keith interesting about sounds since I have a similar problem, another is when I listen to a song where repetition of same words occur in the end. Some of this triggers are attributed to high IQ or gifted children.
          Best time I had was living on a farm quiet and pollution free. I am planning to go back. I do not fare well in a city, cannot go to concert, too loud and need my quiet alone time.
          My theory is the brain changes over time and traumatic experiences may affect a person enough to become a liability as a trigger.
          I have hopes that neurofeedback can help. The book I mentioned earlier opened an entire new world for me.

          Have a great new year.
          L c

          • Keith says:

            It is different for everyone. Being outdoors or in a rural setting drives me crazy. I grew up in NYC and near the water so the ocean or any kind of running,babbling water calms me and I always miss the buzz of the city. I have been known to fall asleep to heavy metal. I guess pulsing, pounding sounds of rock and roll and dance music tap into my tribal, shaman self. I haven’t done neuro but have done tapping. Tapping got me to control my anger.


        • Brenda Scott says:

          Hi, Keith.

          Teachers can make a huge difference. I’m glad your son had ones who helped.

          As for your choice – and use – of sports, I love the idea of using track for alone time and hockey and football because you weren’t worried about the aggressive aspects of the sports (and what a clever way to get out any built up aggression or tension from the rest of your day). And your use of this to get through stage crowds is great, too. Stage crowds are not my favorite, but luckily I’ve rarely had to deal with that sort of thing.

          Anyway, all I can say is that I’m a fan. Best of luck with everything.


          • Keith says:

            It can work well at times. I seem to like winning at all costs. I got kicked off of football for using my hockey moves as a running back. I broke a few bones on rival players and would head butt people. They just got in my way. I was a little baffled because I thought that was what the sport was about. I guess not. I stuck with running and hockey after that and I would jump in mosh pits and stage dive with my guitar. The crowds seemed to like it. Punk and thrash metal were favs because I didn’t need to behave much.

            I have toned it down but still have that swagger on stage even at 58. Djing is becoming fun now.

            I just like crowds when I and facing them. ;)


          • Brenda Scott says:

            Hi again, Keith.

            What about rugby? Have you played that? I think you’d be scary good at it. I think it is just a matter of finding the activities where your gifts are key, like you already do it seems. For instance, I’d think winning at all costs would be a useful point of view/attitude/mindset for some jobs or missions. That takes real guts and commitment, and not everyone can do that.

            I’m sure the crowds love you with the stage diving and all. One typically doesn’t do this at cello recitals, so I’ve never had the chance myself. :) (But it sounds like fun.)

            You sound like a modern day gladiator/musician/many things. (I write that with admiration.)

            Have you ever tried jousting? That always sounded like fun to me, but a bad idea for someone of my (short) stature.

            – Brenda

          • Keith says:

            Well I would have to play it a lot. I played it once and got my ass handed to me. There are more rules in Rugby than any other sport, but it is very intense.

            I was in a power trio singing and playing guitar and I was all wireless so I could play and sing and have people hold me up.

            No jousting. I am a city boy and have never ridden a horse/ I have been a minstrel at Renaissance Fairs.

            Ah you are a Cellist eh? Have your heard of the Two Cellos.They do crazy versions of heavy metal songs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uT3SBzmDxGk Amazing and fun.

            Well though I have a great opera voice, I would probably never do that. I have great classical piano chops but it’s jazz I love.

            My company is actually called Kamakaze Music so more of a Samurai Warrior than Gladiator.Go to my web site and I explain. http://kamakazemusic.net

  11. zHelen Steyr says:

    Having worked with students who are affected with learning challenges, I found Dr. Scott’s definitions very clear and helpful. Thanks.

  12. mesheli says:

    I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 10. My mom refused drug therapy due to the high risk of me becoming sterile. On my own ive learned to stay focused for longer periods of time. I have several degrees because i always seem to find something else that i want to learn about. I meditate 2 to 3 times a day, it helps focus me.
    Now at age 45 i think the doctors miss diagnosed me and i am very happy my mom said no to drug therapy. Now i just think i was a multipotential back then

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Thanks for your insights, Mesheli.

      In talking with Dr. Soderlund, I was struck by her comments about testing for ADHD. She discussed taking students out of a classroom environment with its many distractions for testing, in order to get a more accurate assessment. Over time I think testing is getting better, but my understanding is that the human brain is so complex, that we learn more and more as the body of knowledge increases and our technological capabilities grow.

      I’m glad your mom was right. Over and over I find my mom knew best, and this makes me happy to have such a wonderful mother. She was one of the first with whom I discussed studying multiple areas in college. She said it was the way of the future and encouraged me.

      – Brenda

  13. flo says:

    Gifted people always are highly sensitive. (They’re is literature on this) And it seems gifted are most always multipotentialite.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      This is an interesting observation, flo.

      I agree that most gifted people I’ve met are multipotentialites, but I’ve found some explore multiple areas more than others do. I always enjoy hearing about people’s numerous interests.

      – Brenda

  14. Alison Laird Craig says:

    Hi Keith,

    It sounds like you may be an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) which Dr.Soderlund speaks about in this interview with Brenda. I recommend checking out my friend Ane Axford’s sites to learn more about this trait and, of course, Elaine Aron’s ground breaking book on the subject, The Highly Sensitive Person. Ane is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist whose specializes in working with those with the genetic trait of sensory processing sensitivity and has also been pivotal in shedding understanding on this misunderstood way of being. Check her out at http://www.sensitiveleadership.com/about/ and http://aneaxford.com/this-is-me/
    Discovering that I am HSP through Ane and a multipod through Emilie has changed my world and I do believe that there is often an overlap between the two. If you, too, are HSP, the fact that you may process sensory stimulation more deeply and intensely may contribute to your desire for solitude (very common with HSPs) and your sensitivity to having your boundaries penetrated.

    I have not read much about this, but I have heard that there may also be a connection between sensory processing sensitivity and Asbergers. That may also be interesting for you to look into.

    Ane just posted about this new book about to be published which looks like a good resource- The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide for Finding Your Place in the World

    I hope this is helpful!


    • Keith says:

      Sensitive in my own skin but not sensitive to other people most days. If you even saw the TV show, Parenthood, I am sort of like the character Max most days seeming self absorbed, but having surprising moments of kindness. Yes my son is more like that, not liking foods due to texture and not wearing jeans for the same reason. Mine of more sound and light. I would work in the dark if everyone would let me. I really don’t like sun light. I spent a whole year in NYC not being in the daylight. Vampiric I was. I will have to check out the book. I have always felt like a blended psycho.

      so basically emotional and sensitive but only withing myself .like I said, kids, animals and artists are the only people I really like. Especially Killer Whale puppies. ;)


    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Alison.
      Thank you so much for all of this great information about your friend Ane Axford’s work. I think this will be of interest to many of us.

      – Brenda

  15. Brenda Scott says:

    Hi again, Keith.

    I have been meaning to email you.

    Thank you so much for jumping in here. With all of your talents and all you do, I would think it would be hard not to feel like more than one person, at least in terms of the roles you play, your skills, and your career activities.

    Have you done personality tests? I’ve been playing with these lately in relation to another post I’ve been writing. The tests are fascinating. I, too, must have my own space and time and do not like it when I am ordered around. And how interesting to get to see how you are passing traits on to your son. I bet he is absolutely brilliant and extremely talented in addition to his Asbergers, or perhaps as part of it. The human mind is powerful, mysterious, and awe-inspiring.

    I wish you all the best with your mental (or metal – love that) health folks. The personality tests are proving quite insightful for me as well, if you’ve not done any of those already (but I suspect you have).

    Agreed on your assessment of the cultural use of the term ADD. Perhaps we should start a list here of what everyone has been called for being a multipotentialite by non-multipotentialites who lack understanding of our natures. Let’s see, my own list might be: strange, scattered, ADD, brilliant (yay – one positive one) . . . Anyone else?

    As always, Keith, it is a pleasure to hear from you. More from me soon.

    – Brenda

    • Keith says:

      I have done quite of few of those tests and they just left me more confused. I was lucky knowing what I wanted to do early on. My son is still on a search like a lot of 20 somethings. He has a prodigious memory and can quote hundreds of lyrics.

      My dad was a very rigid German who was taught the only work is important so he had a few names for me. I think was more like me than my mom probably thought. He died too young for us to solve our problems and discover things.

      My brother was diagnosed with ADHD but my refused to let him be medicated. She was a little crazy if you ask me. He is living a trailer in the woods at this time.

      Yeah, like Mark says. My wife is sort of the same. most people around me (my daughter included) roll their eyes when I mentioned I am trying something new again.

      Thanks for the connection everyone. I generally stick to myself in the fleshy world, but the internet seems to be a good thing for me in finding friends.


      • Brenda Scott says:

        Hi again, Keith.

        Re: the personality tests. The first time I was made to take one was in high school, and the results just made me angry. I didn’t want to know, I didn’t want to be tested, and I was being a rebellious teenager. However, now I’m glad my teacher made me take the test, because over time, my results have changed a bit.

        In another interview I did last month, I had an “aha!” moment and went back to these tests with a different goal in mind. I won’t go into it here, because I wrote an entire post about this interview and its insights.

        I’m glad you’re finding friends on the internet, and I’m glad we met here.

        – Brenda

        • Keith says:

          I took a battery of those for jobs and what not and failed them all. It seems I don’t the type of morals that would make me a good employee. Aggression and hitting people seems to be a problem. LOL

          Yeah, friends on the inter-webs seems easier. I can ignore people they don’t get mad


      • camillio says:

        Hey Keith,
        I was reading your comments, and this last one just resignated with me… I keep trying to find an explanation of why I am the way I am, and my husband just rolls his eyes at my findings. I thought it was Aspergers, but there was something missing… I recently found out about The Highly Sensitive person trait and really see a lot of similarities.I too am very sensitive to light and sound. I also get very agitated when people won’t let up on me and get very angry. It’s been hell, but I am finding some solace in knowing there is a trait that explains it and it’s not just me. I find myself wanting human contact, only to be annoyed and retreating to be alone. My husband just keeps pointing out how immature I am and can’t handle adult relationships which doesn’t help. I feel what you are going through because I see myself in what you say. Just hope things get better, this site is very helpful too.

        • Keith says:

          Well, i can relate.

          I would rather hang out with kids and animals than adults. Adults have too many hangups and baggage and expectations. Kids just love and play. Tell your hubby to be kinder. Like my wife he was attracted to that creative,sensitive part of you. High emotions come with that. My son is even more sensitive.


    • Keith says:

      One thing have not talked about are relationships and how they are effected by being ADD/Multipod/Asbergers etc…

      I seem to be suffering from RDD Relationship Deficit Disorder. I have been called selfish so many times but for me I don’t feel in control of when I am inspired, when I want to left alone, when I want to play. 10 years seems the magic number. I reach a threshold where I really just want to be alone get really cranky and so passive aggressive. I don’t realize I am doing sometimes, but I just act like an asshole and get my wish but pushing people away. Funny thing. I have a dear friend who I have never met who understands me better than anyone. I fear if we ever met that would disappear.

      I don’t really know what to do but find a way to be alone for good again. My wife has been going out of town to take care of her sick mom in Austin. I am so much more productive when she does that. How awful is that.She said this morning *Christmas morning” that was thinking of moving to Austin. I had nothing to say to that but inside I thinking.”Hm… peace and quiet finally”. and this is after we put down money on a beautiful new apartment.

      Anyway, I don’t mean to be a bummer on Christmas Morning, but these are things that are on my mind and feel like I need to figure out before it’s too late.


      • Brenda Scott says:

        Hi, Keith.
        I think that relationships and being a multipotentialite would be an excellent area for further discussion here.

        I’m so sorry it sounds like you had a rough Christmas. I know my husband and I both need alone time for our projects, and then we enjoy our time together. It is always a balance. It took me many years to find the right person who not only understands my need to pursue my interests but also encourages me.

        I hope you can find that balance, too. As I said – it took me a very long time, and I think I got very lucky, too.

        Hang in there, and I hope the day after Christmas is looking better.

        – Brenda

        • Keith says:

          It got better. Once my grand daughters showed my mood improved.I just have a hard time living with anyone unless I get my space. She supports me, but I think we both have our own issues. Balance is not something I have achieved inside myself so achieving it externally is tough. I also have a hard time doing the same thing or living in the same place for any length of time. I actually have a dream project that eventually involves music, travel and film called the Musical Mystery Tour which would allow me to achieve a change of scenery in a fun way. I will fund it through Patreon and hopefully pick up some sponsorship’s and syndication as it progresses.


          • Brenda Scott says:

            Hi, Keith.
            I’m so glad that Christmas day got better for you. I really hope you get to do your Musical Mystery Tour (nice title), too. Patreon is great, isn’t it?
            You’ve got lots to look forward to in 2016, and I look forward to hearing about it.


          • Keith says:

            Thanks Brenda.

            Yeah, the MMT is my big dream. Yeah, lots to look forward to new place, building business, working on dreams.

            I will glad share. Maybe to make it easier than digging through multiple posts, you can drop your email. i will participate here but it would fun to talk you off list.


  16. Mark says:

    My wife has ADD so it is easy for me to compare the two. My wife’s interests are limited to three and these interests are fixed and have not changed since she was in high school. I have nineteen interests. Some of these I pursue continually (such as weight training) so as not to loose the gains I made by my past efforts. Others, such as my apple orchard I only can do seasonally. Still other interests, I do as the spirit moves – walking away as they get boring and picking them back up again as a new twist or way of doing them better or a new way of looking at them makes them interesting again – only to have the interest fade to repeat the cycle.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Mark.

      Great examples from real life. And how interesting – an apple orchard. My old landlady had an orchard, but it was very small.

      Thanks for chiming in here.

      – Brenda

  17. Anne says:

    I talked to the leader of an institute for highly sensitive people ones, and she said one difference was whether structure made a difference. Like, when a kid seems to have “ADD” at school, but the symptoms are gone at home if the parents provide a supportive well-structured setting, it is more likely higly sensitive. If the symptoms don’t change much, it’s ADD.

    On the other hand, various forms of trauma (which might be prenatal or seemingly small, like anesthesia or a bike accident, not just the “big stuff”) look a lot like being an HSP – and sometimes also like ADD. Peter Levine says in a youtube video that the kids who have symptoms that are nowadays labeled as ADD look like the ones he did somatic experiencing (a gentle form of trauma release) with 30 years ago (which led to their symptoms disappearing).

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Anne.

      Great observations about diagnosing ADD vs. HSP. Dr. Soderlund mentioned observing and testing kids in different environments in the interview, too.

      Thanks for bringin up the manifestations of trauma in terms of HSP and ADD. I’ll check out Peter Levine’s videos.

      – Brenda

  18. Barry P says:

    Haven’t read through all the comments yet, but wanted to say that I was diagnosed aged 48 and it explained alot. I can’t claim it resolves anytrhing, I’ve just developed ways to do things differently to my peer group when I was in school. I see it as a strength to know because it changes your approach to things. Hyperfocus is a great benefit sometimes.

    • Keith says:

      I have notice that too. Sometimes it is environment that changes things. There was a great article in Time magazine called Nature versus nurture that was talking about how a person with a genetic switch built into their DNA for something, say being a serial killer and it could lie dormant until something switches it on like a bad experience or an abusive parent. Then there are some people just have it switched on from the beginning like Jerry Dalmer. His parents did nothing wrong and there did not seem to be a defining moment in his life. So, being in school and being overstimulated by the environment, teachers and students can cause different behavior than a nurturing, quiet environment at home. I for one, could not concentrate in school, but learned Calculus, Physics and Philosophy in my free time at home and in the library. I was a perfect candidate for home schooling but my mom was too busy to even consider that. So, most of my knowledge comes from being self taught.


    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Barry P.

      I agree – self knowledge in itself is a strength, even if it does not resolve anything. With regard to hyperfocus, I completely agree that it can be very beneficial.

      – Brenda

  19. Nathan Elliot says:

    I have ADD. But Dr. Don Kerson says that ADD is “badly named and poorly defined.” From his book, Unravelling the Knot of Depression, Attention, and Trauma:

    “Under the proper circumstances, attention in children and adults with ADD can be more than adequate. In fact, overfocus can be as much of a problem for people with ADD as can underfocus. Attention Regulation Disorder or Attention Modulation Disorder might be more accurate names. It’s not just paying attention that is at issue, its facility in the shifting of attention, paying attention to the right thing at the right time.”

    Just wanted to throw that into the mix.

  20. Brenda Scott says:

    Really great discussion here. I had not heard of ADD involving excessive focus before your comments. I had only known about it involving a deficit of attention, and I will ask Dr. Soderlund about this after the holiday and get back with you on anything she shares with me.

    I will return to respond to your comments in more detail over the weekend. For those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas! And for those who don’t, Happy Friday!

    – Brenda

  21. Chris says:

    For focus issues I am currently working with this book


    the CD contains exercises to free up narrow focus and it leads to a more relaxed body and mind.

    So far it is working very well.

  22. Joce says:

    I really appreciate this article and the “multipod” community!

    “Multipotentialite” so very much describes me with my gazillion interests and career-hopping. “Highly Sensitive Person” and maybe “Attention Deficit Disorder” sound like me to an extent but honestly less so from adopting a much healthier lifestyle over the past several years (stopping coffee, alcohol, substance use…going vegan…more exercise…more time outdoors…less toxic products…many healing methods).

    Reframing “sensitivity” as a cool, aware, special gift (and as part of my personality type) instead of a shameful obstacle has helped too.

    I have known some people with Aspergers and read about it and it doesn’t seem like me.

    I relate to other labels such as “empath,” “old soul,” “elemental,” etc. (sorry if too New Agey for ya, haha) and those have also helped me appreciate and understand myself :)

    Sometimes I’ve met kids and adults who seem obviously to have ADD with how super distractable they are, how often they interrupt.

    Anyway, labels are helpful but only to an extent. Above all point is to basically be aware of what our needs are and how we come across, accentuate our strengths, either accept or work on our “weaknesses,” lovingly put ourselves in comfy environments we can thrive in, feel confident. And healthy lifestyles help balance things out for sure so very much!

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Thanks for your great input and observations, Joce.

      Your comments about food and exercise and overall lifestyle make perfect sense. I agree that these factors as well as self knowledge and awareness – and acceptance and self-love – help achieve balance.

      – Brenda

  23. Thank you for the article Brenda :)

    This has never been a question for me, since I’m the person who can listen to exactly what I want in the middle of an almost chaotic ambiance, study in a crowded café, read while walking on a crowded street… etc…

    The thing is, when something doesn’t interest me, I have an amazing ability to disconnect. I tend to see it as a great characteristic, not a health issue :)

    And yes, it is very important to make a distinction between energetic and/or bored people and ADD or ADHD… as a teacher, I see a lot of people who just need to be challenged or new interest focus and who’ve been, in my opinion, wrongly diagnosed, just because teaching systems are usually not made for multipotentialites.

    And… Happy full-of-potentials 2016 everybody!!!

    • Brenda Scott says:

      I’m so glad that you are a teacher, Sandra Cristina Ramos.

      Your understanding and great attitude are exactly what I’d want for my own children.

      Perhaps one day I will be able to create a school designed just for multipods, and you are exactly the sort of teacher I’d want working there.

      Happy 2016 to you and everyone here on Puttylike!


  24. Clint Moar says:

    Thanks Emilie and Brenda.

    This topic has been my focus as of late. So much so that my ADD led me to write a post about Multipods, ADD and my solutions.
    Here on my blog http://www.clintmoar.com/multipotentialite-with-add/

    I even found and share what Barbara Sher thinks of the ADD/Scanner relationship.

    Thanks again.


  25. I found this topic/subject to be right on the mark for me. I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult. The criteria seemed to fit and I had always wondered what was “wrong” with me that I could never seem to settle on any one particular career path.

    Some history: Out of college I worked in Silicon Valley in the late 70’s and early 80’s, moved to construction for the next 13 years, to programming in the mid-90’s, and from 2000 on I “settled’ on biomedical informatics. At least that discipline had enough dimensions that it kept me pretty much on the same career path.

    So in 2004 I had that diagnosis. I started to take Adderall regularly and it did seem to help. I had always been a big coffee drinker so this just seemed like coffee on steroids. However last year I had a big crisis at work where everything seemed to fall apart. Talk about feeling like a total imposter! I had a complete meltdown, something I had not had since I was in high school. After I got a horrible review at work I decided I had to really get coaching for my ADD.

    Luckily I went to see a neuropsychologist who wanted to give me a complete neurocognitive assessment before working with me. When she gave me the results she told me that, clinically speaking, I did not have ADD. Rather I was very bright and had multiple aptitudes. This meant that I didn’t have anything wrong, I just needed some help in figuring out how to harness and filter all those things I’d like to do.

    This was a huge relief for me since it removed the stigma I had placed on myself for most of my adult life. There wasn’t anything wrong with me, I just could never be fully engaged by any one thing. Then I came across Emilie’s TED talk and it was a revelation that not only was I okay, I was not alone.

    Since then I’ve come across something called T-shaped persons (see http://tsummit.org/ for some interesting information). This describes a person who has a particular strength (the upright part of the T) and connects with many other interests or disciplines (the crossbar at the top of the T). I think of myself as more crossbar than upright, but everyone is different.



  26. Keith says:

    Hey Paul,

    I think for artists (and I think Emilie has mentioned it), it is helpful to have an Umbrella or Brand for what you do.

    For example, You could a be a musician, writer, film maker who loves Sci Fi. That would bring the all together.

    Or for me. I write blogs about gun control (I live and work near San Bernadino where those 14 people were killed) and I have some songs coming out expressing my opinions on that.

    Look at how U2 expressed their spiritual and their political side with big choruses. It would almost seamless the way the two joined and expanded out to film and good works.
    T-shaped person

  27. Meghna says:

    Hi All,

    I must say these exchange of experiences have been very informative. There is already so much that i have learnt from the answers above. I feel i get engrossed only in something that makes my soul happy. DIY is something i really enjoy, rest of my interests as an individual do not keep me engaged for long. Even writing offlate is seeming to interest me i think. Rest whatever i have done all my life was more like a career progress or journey which made me feel a part of the rat race despite being in a Creative field. I am a Creative Consultant ineTV & Films. Been like a Project Head & set up shows but somehow my multitasking skills are so string that i pulled through successfully. Now since a year have reduced my pace drastically & become a freelancer. The problem i face is that i keep feeling the urge to switch while am doing something. So lack of attention, focus, concentration or someone rightly said maybe misdirection of focus happens..maybe.. but yes tanks to Emile’s Ted Talk that i realised i am very much a Multipod. I want to now travel, probably get paid to do that :)), break free from the usual, do social work, share my knowledge with others & live it up.

    A recent realisation, hence need support & help from all of you to stick to my guns & find a means to earn money through my multi-potentialities.

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