Every day, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) impacts the lives of millions of children across the country and often continues into adulthood. Some of the hallmark symptoms include struggling to pay attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. Obviously, these are traits that could make it difficult to succeed in a classroom. It’s not surprising, therefore, that kids with ADHD may struggle with low self-esteem. While many treatment and management options are available, sometimes it just helps to know we’re not alone. That’s why we put together this list of famous successful people with ADHD. Let their stories inspire you!
Famous People With ADHD
Long before becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps was a 9-year-old who’d just been diagnosed with ADHD. Swimming gave him an outlet for managing his symptoms, and it seems to have worked out well—he went on to earn 23 gold medals!
Now a mental health advocate, he shared a heartbreaking story in a video for Speak Up for Kids. As a child, he had so much energy that he was “bouncing off the walls.” As a result, one of his teachers told him he’d “never amount to anything.” That must have been devastating to hear at such a young age, but he definitely proved her wrong!
Before taking over Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in 2015, few had heard of Trevor Noah. Handpicked by Stewart as his successor, it didn’t take long for the South African comedian to become a household name. In a recent CBS interview, he shared his methods for managing ADHD.
“Well, I think over the years, what I’ve come to learn, thanks to some great therapists, is my depression is created by a severe level of ADHD,” he said. “If I’m not careful in how I sleep, how I eat, how I manage my routine, I can become overwhelmed and it can feel like the whole world is just too heavy to bear.”
In a 2008 interview with Collider, Justin Timberlake offered some insight into his personal life and said, “I have OCD mixed with ADD. You try living with that.” ADHD doesn’t hold back hardworking famous people like Timberlake though. The singer has enjoyed a highly successful career as both a solo artist and front man for NSYNC.
While the actress hasn’t commented publicly, a post published by the ADHD Foundation shared that Emma Watson was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication to manage the symptoms as a child while filming the Harry Potter films.
In addition to her cinematic accomplishments, Watson has grown into a remarkable woman. In 2014, she graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. She’s also involved in activism and even served as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.
Diagnosed with ADHD at an early age, Adam Levine has enjoyed immeasurable success as the front man for Maroon 5 and as a vocal coach on The Voice. Seeing the confident artist that he is, some may be shocked to discover that, at times, he’s really struggled with his symptoms in his adult life.
In an article written for ADDitude magazine, Levine said, “I had trouble sometimes writing songs and recording in the studio. I couldn’t always focus and complete everything I had to. I remember being in the studio once and having 30 ideas in my head, but I couldn’t document any of them. … ADHD isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t feel different from those without ADHD. Remember that you are not alone. There are others going through the same thing.”
It may not come as a shock to see Jim Carrey on a list of famous people with ADHD considering the kind of high-energy performances that made him famous. You may not know, however, that he lives with both ADHD and depression and that he considers this a gift.
After being diagnosed, he received treatment as a child, but as an adult, he’s found new ways of managing his symptoms. He used his creativity as an outlet, and his particular brand of physical comedy made him famous. He’s also turned to painting and sculpting to bring peace and “color” to his life.
After taking the fashion world by storm in 2009, Cara Delevingne won Model of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2012 and 2014. Then, she made the transition to acting and has appeared in films such as Anna Karenina, Paper Towns, Suicide Squad, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
During an interview on CBS’s This Morning, she revealed that she grew up with ADHD and depression, and struggled to express her emotions. “I was very ashamed of the way I felt. I had a very privileged upbringing, I was very lucky, I went to an amazing school,” she explained. “And then the guilt of feeling that way and not being able to tell anyone because I shouldn’t feel that way and I shouldn’t feel bad. … Time moves on, feelings pass; it does get better.”
Sir Richard Branson
After growing up with dyslexia and ADHD, Sir Richard Branson has become a champion of neurodiversity in his adult life. Long before he was the wealthy, highly successful businessman that he is today, he struggled to get through school. His headmaster even told him he’d either “end up in prison or become a millionaire.”
In 2021, he shared his thoughts on neurodiversity and the need to embrace it. “Many businesses have caught on to the benefits of inclusion, but there are still lots of opportunities for thinking bigger and embracing different ways of thinking,” he said. “The world needs a neurodiverse workforce to help try and solve some of the big problems of our time.”
While we first came to know Solange Knowles as Beyoncé’s younger sister, the Soul Train Award winner has made a name for herself in the industry. Over the years, she received two ADHD diagnoses, but she didn’t believe it the first time because she felt the symptoms were common among people in Hollywood.
In an interview with News 24, she explained, “I was diagnosed with ADD twice. I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me, and I had a whole theory that ADD was just something they invented to make you pay for medicine, but then the second doctor told me I had it.”
After starring in films such as Step Up, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike, Channing Tatum became a household name. It’s hard to imagine that with his good looks, comedic charm, and dance abilities, he struggled in high school, but he did. Diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, he was treated with medication and never felt like he belonged.
In an interview with the New York Times Style magazine, he shared, “You get lumped in classes with kids with autism and Down syndrome, and you look around and say, ‘OK, so this is where I’m at.’ Or you get put in the typical classes and you say, ‘All right, I’m obviously not like these kids either.’ So you’re kind of nowhere. You’re just different.”
In all of his years as a pro-NBA player, Michael Jordan gained a reputation for his calm, collected demeanor. There were times when his team, the Chicago Bulls, was down and he needed to be laser-focused to pull off the win. Some may be surprised, therefore, to learn that he was living with ADHD.
Diagnosed later in life, Jordan had already gained fame when he realized he was struggling to pay attention both on and off the court. He found that following a disciplined lifestyle, setting goals, and getting regular exercise were effective ways to manage his symptoms and be successful.
As a member of one of the most famous families in America, Paris Hilton has always been in the spotlight. Then, her scripted reality show The Simple Life cemented her own claim to fame. In a Larry King interview, she revealed, “[I have] attention deficit disorder so it’s hard to pay attention to things.” In fact, she began taking medication for ADHD at 12 years old.
She faced the first of two infamous arrests when she was pulled over on suspicion of DUI in 2006. Among other things, she was sentenced to three years probation but was pulled over again just a month later for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Subsequently, she spent 23 days in prison and said managing her ADHD symptoms was the toughest during her incarceration.
From the outside, it might seem like famous people with ADHD have everything, but even highly successful people face challenges. In 2016, Justin Bieber opened up to GQ about being diagnosed with ADHD and his struggles to manage the symptoms. “I’m not getting restful sleep, so during the day I need Adderall,” he admitted. “I’ve been on it for about a year now, but I think I’m about to get off of it because I feel like it’s giving me anxiety.”
Among football fans, Terry Bradshaw is a legend. As a four-time Super Bowl champion, it’s not surprising that he was inducted into the National Football League’s Hall of Fame. After retiring from the sport, he went on to become a popular sports analyst and commentator. It wasn’t always easy, though.
In his book Keep It Simple, Bradshaw revealed that he’s struggled to manage his ADHD for years. He also admitted that he has faced clinical depression over the course of his life and career. Incredibly, he found a way to take on these challenges and continue to thrive.
We know Simone Biles for her unbelievable athletic abilities. Not only is she the most decorated American gymnast in history, but it’s easy to argue that she’s the greatest American gymnast of all time. She’s won world championships and taken home Olympic medals. In 2022, she became the youngest person to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
After hackers leaked her confidential medical records and raised questions about her use of prescription drugs, Biles responded by tweeting, “Having ADHD and taking medicine for it is nothing to be ashamed of [and] nothing that I’m afraid to let people know.”
The Fast and Furious franchise is beloved among moviegoers and car enthusiasts around the world. One major reason for that is Michelle Rodriguez’s character, Letty Ortiz. The actress would like to do even more in the industry but struggles to manage her ADHD symptoms.
While speaking to Cosmopolitan in 2013, Rodriguez admitted, “I want to write and direct but it’s not easy with ADHD. I have a hard time focusing when I’m alone. … I’m a scatterbrain, but I’m nervous of taking medication. I don’t really want to depend on anything to control my brain.” Many people with ADHD can relate to these complex, conflicted feelings.
Over the years, Howie Mandel has been very open about living with OCD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. In fact, he goes into great detail about his lifelong challenges in his memoir, Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me! He’s also shared the difficulty of having passed on the conditions to one of his children. While he’s faced an uphill battle at times, he’s found great success as a comedian, actor, and game show host!
Anyone who’s watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has likely noticed Ty Pennington’s high level of energy. It may not be surprising, therefore, to learn that Pennington was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. Today, he manages his symptoms with medication.
It’s clear that his mom, Yvonne Pennington, is a fan and loves her son for who he is. In fact, she says his ADHD traits are what helped him become a household name. Her advice to parents? Help your kids focus on what they can do instead of dwelling on what they can’t do.
Think about what you know about Ryan Gosling. He’s a hugely successful actor known for his good looks, charm, and swoon-worthy performance in The Notebook. It might therefore surprise some to learn that, as a child, he had trouble reading and didn’t have any friends until he was in high school. Gosling was also diagnosed with ADHD.
Worried about her son, his mother chose to homeschool him for a year. Not long after, he was bitten by the acting bug. In 2006, after getting nominated for an Oscar, he shared, “It meant a lot to me because it meant a lot to the people that I love. Especially my mother … she’s been fighting [for me] since I was born.”
Known as one of Britain’s most famous celebrity chefs (and champion for better school lunches), Jamie Oliver was diagnosed with ADHD during his childhood. One of the reasons why he’s so passionate about good food is that he relied on a healthy diet to manage his ADHD and learning difficulties.
While astronaut Scott Kelly wasn’t officially diagnosed with ADHD as a child (it was an uncommon diagnosis when he was growing up), he has said, “If I was a kid today, I would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.” During an interview with the Santa Barbara Independent, Kelly explained that, year after year, he’d promise himself that he’d pay more attention in class and do his homework, but it was always impossible.
Everything changed, though, when he read The Right Stuff, a book about astronauts. “I just decided right then and there that this is what I’m going to do,” he said. Knowing he’d found what he wanted to do in life gave him the motivation to find ways to manage his symptoms and channel his energy. It worked—his groundbreaking research on the International Space Station has changed the world.
While filming an episode of Our America With Lisa Ling about ADHD, the award-winning journalist recognized her own symptoms and traits. After years of wondering, she finally received a diagnosis onscreen at 40 years old. “My head is kind of spinning,” she said in the episode. “But I feel a little bit of relief because, for so long, I’ve been fighting it and I’ve been so frustrated with this inability to focus.”
“As I was watching these kids and their parents talk about [their ADHD], I felt like it’s not really fair of me to just watch this happen,” Ling shared in a Distraction Podcast episode. “Because this is something that I always suspected of myself, I felt compelled to finally, after 30-some years, get tested, and so I worked with one of the doctors that we profiled in our episode, and he went through the battery of tests and confirmed that I had ADHD.”
Dancing With the Stars pro Karina Smirnoff experienced the symptoms of ADHD her whole life but wasn’t able to get a diagnosis until well into adulthood. While it must have been hard all of those years, the professional dancer has been fortunate enough to find an effective treatment for her impulsivity and inattention. The results have been life-changing, and she advocates for other adults with symptoms to seek diagnosis if they’re struggling.
There’s no denying it: Audra McDonald is a powerhouse. The Broadway star currently holds the most performance Tony awards of any actress, and she credits her unmedicated ADHD for her success. During her acceptance speech for her sixth Tony award, she tearfully said, “I want to thank my mom and dad up in heaven for disobeying the doctor’s orders and not medicating their hyperactive daughter and finding out what she’s into instead,”
For seven-time Grammy winner will.i.am, music has been a central part of his ADHD therapy. “One thing I learned about ADHD is that it’s hard to keep your attention, and you can’t sit still and you’re always moving and thinking about a whole bunch of things,” he said. “But those traits work well for me in studios and in meetings about creative ideas.”
In a HelloGiggles blog, Zooey Deschanel opened up about how she channels her energy. She wrote, “Are you an unmedicated adult with Attention Deficit Disorder who also LOVES to do crafts? I AM!” While some may have wondered if this was a serious statement, the famously quirky actress alluded to her ADHD in a different article and said, “I love being busy and I love having a lot of content and I sort of prefer to have constant stimulation.”
Shane Victorino has a long, difficult history with ADHD. By the time he was 8 years old, he’d already made 10 trips to the ER before he was finally diagnosed with ADHD. Today, the Major League Baseball star manages his symptoms with medication and counseling.
The Spice Girls became a global phenomenon in the 1990s, with Mel B, aka Scary Spice, being known for her especially high-energy performances. Since then, the singer has built a career on her own while managing ADHD. In a 2019 interview with Positivity Podcast, she said, “[Working] out for me is for my mind, because I do have ADHD, dyslexia … I mean, the list goes on and on. I find working out helps me meditate, it helps me get rid of a bit of my anxiety and it helps me focus on me just for that 45 minutes or for that 1 hour.”
While conducting research for his highly acclaimed film Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan learned he has ADHD. In an interview with Salon, the director explained, “I stayed up until like, four in the morning, just reading everything I could find about it, just crying, just realizing that, ‘Oh, my God, I think I have ADHD.’ So this movie is the reason why I got diagnosed. This movie, obviously, when you look at it now, was made by someone with ADHD.”
While many find ways to cope with ADHD, some admit that it’s still a struggle. For famous musician SZA, living with ADHD is “embarrassing.” In an interview with Cosmopolitan, she confessed, “I didn’t want to have ADHD. I wanted to be a normal person. And I think that craving and the editing of myself hindered me, so I just stopped editing. And that was all. The embarrassment of being me still stands and exists all the time, every moment, but it’s also learning the acceptance part and also being down to see where me takes me is the part that set me free.”
It’s amazing that she’s so open and honest not only about the challenges of having ADHD itself, but also how it impacts her ability to navigate fame. In an article for i-D magazine, she shared, “It’s a little embarrassing especially when I’m nervous, my mind is running a mile a minute. My ADHD speaks for me before I can speak for me. If I’m in public and people walk up to me—because I’ve never been famous before—I’ve probably lost something by the time everyone has left me. I’m easily disorientated. But I’m getting a hold on that.”
When Nirvana emerged in the 1990s, Dave Grohl was perched behind the drums, but he eventually emerged as the front man for Foo Fighters. He’s well loved by fans for his musical talents, philanthropic efforts, and just seeming like a cool guy. Who could have known this famous musician was diagnosed with ADHD as a child? In an interview with Rolling Stone, he explained, “It was abysmal from first grade. And they said the same thing my entire life. ‘Dave has potential, if only he could sit down and focus and stop trying to entertain the [expletive] class.’”
In a July 2020 YouTube video titled In Defense of Our Teachers, Grohl said, “I hate to break it to you, but I was a terrible student. It was no fault of the Fairfax public school system, mind you; it did the best it could. I was just stubbornly disengaged, impeded by a raging case of ADD, and an insatiable desire to play music. Far from being a model student, I did my best to maintain focus but eventually left school halfway through 11th grade to become a professional touring musician—not advised. I left behind countless missed opportunities.”