Millennials. All they do is Instagram their avocado toast, overpay for coffee, and attend fake music festivals. And people with ADHD? They’ve got IQs on par with Bill Nye.

This right here is how rumors get started. While we can’t exactly clear up the millennial bit (they have helped the avocado toast trend thrive, no shade), we can set the record straight about ADHD and IQ.

The truth is, there’s no correlation between ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and intelligence or IQ level — meaning the condition doesn’t make someone any more or any less intelligent than someone without.

Since stereotypes like this can lead to serious consequences, such as delayed treatment, misdiagnosis, and more, we put together this guide to help you get the facts right.

Remind me, what’s “IQ”?

The term IQ, short for intelligence quotient, was coined by psychologist William Stern in 1912. It’s a method of measuring intelligence and intellectual potential by using a set of standardized tests to determine a score (your IQ) that ranks an individual among other people in their age group.

While useful in many ways, IQ testing isn’t a perfect system. Research has shown that test results can often be misused and misunderstood. It’s also not clear whether perceived intelligence actually translates to success.

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ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests via:

  • inattention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsiveness

Many people with ADHD will exhibit symptoms that allow them to hyperfocus on something they like or are interested in. This can translate to someone doing well on a project or excelling at a certain subject.

And while that’s great, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person has a high IQ.

In fact, a 2011 study found that ADHD and IQ are actually two totally different animals.

The same report also determined that while IQ level can run in families, just as ADHD is also linked to genetics, having a family member with a bangin’ IQ doesn’t guarantee that a family member with ADHD will have the same IQ level.

Another study even found that ADHD affects people of all IQ levels the same way.

If ADHD doesn’t affect intelligence, what does? Like many matters in life, it’s complicated.

Since there are too many ways to define and measure intelligence, it’s tricky to nail down a simple answer.

So far, studies haven’t been able to definitively pinpoint any specific genes that play key roles in levels of intelligence. It’s likely that several genes are at play in this department.

Although we don’t know which specific genes are the super sharp ones, we do know that intelligence is one of the most heritable traits. So, your brainy parents may be to thank for that hefty IQ of yours.

On the other side of the coin lives the unfair assumption that people with ADHD have lower IQs. This too is fake news.

Yes, depending on the severity of symptoms, ADHD can affect abilities to concentrate at school or work. But this has nothing to do with actual intelligence.

What’s the big deal? So what if people assume you’re a Mensa in training? It can’t hurt to be thought of as a genius, right? Well, hold on to your honorary degree for just a second.

Letting these untrue associations thrive may lead someone with ADHD to decide to skip seeking treatment. Even if you have high-functioning ADHD, or the ability to operate at a high level with an ADHD diagnosis, you could still benefit from a treatment plan.

Additionally, assuming someone with ADHD has a low IQ can prevent that person from living up to their potential. It could even influence their teachers and parents to overlook their potential, too. Not cool.

ADHD symptoms can pop up early — even as early as 3 to 6 years old. And in 2016, it was estimated that about 9 percent of children ages 2 to 17 have ADHD.

Parents can begin treatment for their children early on, which is why it’s important not to get caught up in the IQ-ADHD stereotype.

It’s also important to note that ADHD can be mistaken for other conditions, like bipolar disorder or autism. Seeing a doctor early on can distinguish these conditions sooner and get the right treatment plan in place.

A person with ADHD most commonly experiences:

  • restlessness (they can get hella bored)
  • trouble with focus, like following directions or completing tasks
  • forgetfulness
  • poor time management
  • a hard time sitting still

They may also act impulsively and talk excessively, as well as be impatient, like interrupting conversations.

None of these are linked to IQ. Tell a friend.


  • There’s no correlation between IQ and ADHD.
  • So far, studies aren’t sure what affects intelligence aside from genetics.
  • Perpetuating stereotypes is dangerous. It can lead people with ADHD or parents of children with ADHD to assume they don’t need to look into life-improving treatment options.
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