Updated 19 November 2019

You’d never guess these famous people have ADHD

From singing sensation to mathematical genius – these ADHD sufferers have beaten their ‘normal’ competitors, gaining global recognition for their achievements.

SADAG reports that more than one million South African adults between the ages of 20 and 50 are affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

According to the South African Journal of Psychiatry, there has been increased interest in ADHD in recent years, clinically, scientifically and publicly.

While being the most common psychiatric disorder among children, it has been estimated that 60% to 70% of symptoms carry on into adulthood, with a prevalence of between 2.5% and 4.3%.

1. Albert Einstein - theoretical physicist

He was the most influential physicist of the 20th century and developed the theory of relativity.Albert Einstein was a typical case of ADHD. He was known to be forgetful, often seemed unaware of his surroundings and was happy with his dishevelled look. He basically lived by his own rules.His brain was removed after he died and kept aside to be studied instead of placed back in his body before he was cremated.

2. Sir Richard Branson - business mogul

Sir Richard Branson is an English business mogul. He started his own space exploration company and owns his own island, and his reach is truly enormous. He is able to innovate, achieve and succeed in just about everything he does.

3. John F. Kennedy - 35th president of the United States

He served in both the US House of Representatives and US Senate before becoming the 35th US president – with ADHD. He was popular in the media, more than most pop singers and movie stars. He faced many foreign challenges and managed to secure achievements such as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.

4. Will Smith - actor/producer/rapper

This "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has achieved a lot – from creating one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, acting and rapping, despite his ADHD. Newsweek called him the most powerful actor in Hollywood. He is a fan of chess and video games.

6. Jim Carrey - actor/comedian/producer

Jim Carrey has been the funny man gracing our screens for over two decades. He clearly has a serious case of ADHD and he can’t stop his hyperactive behaviour. He has starred in some of the greatest comedies of all time. ADHD works well for him!

7. Zooey Deschanel - model, actress, singer, songwriter

The New Girl actress briefly mentioned in a blog post that she suffers from ADHD. Additude Magazine previously reported on stars diagnosed with HDHD, but don’t openly speak about it. Zooey happened to be on the list.  

6. Adam Levine singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur and actor 

Lead singer of the pop rock band, Maroon 5, in an interview with ADDitute Magazine, expressed that he has been battling with the disorder for most of his life. He also revealed how, as an adult, he struggles while writing lyrics and in recording studios. He consulted a doctor about the problem, who then told him that his childhood condition continued into adulthood.

7. Michael Jordan - the greatest basketball player of all time

He became the greatest basketball player of all time and went on to be a successful entrepreneur and owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He is always looking for his next move – a common characteristic of this condition. He even owns a private jet with the "Air Jordan" logo on the tail.

8. Justin Timberlake - singer/actor/producer/businessman

JT dominated the Billboard charts for years and went on to win nine Grammy awards. In an interview with he revealed that he has "ADD mixed with OCD". He has since become an actor and businessman.

9. Solange Knowles  singer, songwriter, performance artist and actress

The Bring It On: All or Nothing actress told News24 that she was diagnosed with ADD, not once, but twice because she didn't believe the first doctor. Queen Bey's sister says that people often think she's high because of her “sporadic speech patterns and high energy levels”.

10. Lisa Ling American award-winning journalist, television host and author

Lisa Ling discovered her ADHD status while working with kids and parents on her docuseries, Our America with Lisa Ling. After 30 years, doctors informed Ling that she has ADHD. Believe it or not, the award-winning journalist attributes her successful journalism career to her ADHD. 

11. Michael Phelps - the most decorated Olympian of all time

Michael Phelps is one of the greatest athletic icons in the world.  Phelps also holds the all-time record for Olympic medals and credits much of this success to his ADHD. He started the Michael Phelps Foundation which focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles.

12. Walt Disney - the inspiration behind Disneyland

Walt Disney was known for his unsophisticated drawings which became recognizable worldwide. Even 50 years after his death, some of his earliest cartoons are still shown on television. He initially was the voice of his famous character "Mickey Mouse" – quite an achievement for someone with ADHD.

While many public figures don't openly admit to having ADHD, a large number have in fact managed to rise to the top of their craft while struggling with the disorder.

Image by: Getty


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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