Britney Has ADHD

britneyspearscropped Britney Has ADHD

Britney Spears has ADHD (picture from Wikipedia.org)

It has just been reported that Britney Spears has ADHD. The Grammy winning pop star, who holds Guinness World Records, and has her own Star on the Walk of Fame has now shared that she has ADHD.

Britney has taken on the role of a judge on the singing reality show “The X Factor”, and she is now currently filming for the show. During the filming of auditions, Britney reportedly needed to take breaks, and the explanation was that she has ADHD, and that she had to take breaks during the long filming sessions.

The reports also go on to explain that Britney was diagnosed with ADHD when she was young, and used to take medication for it. Her doctors apparently have now forbidden her from taking ADHD medication for reasons related to other mental health concerns. Here is a link to one of the news reports about this story.

Now that Britney has come forward and shared her diagnosis of ADHD, she joins other celebrities like: Howie Mandel, Ty Pennington, Adam Levine, Michael Phelps, Karina Smirnoff and many others.

I personally view this as a brave and helpful admission. Millions of kids and teens get diagnosed with ADHD, and they feel that they are disordered, and they wonder if they will have a positive future because of their “Disorder”. Having celebrities come forward to share their diagnosis helps kids to realize that they can be successful even though they have ADHD.

While I view Britney’s disclosure as a positive, I have come across some comments on social media sites (which I don’t want to support with a link right now…) who say that Britney is “blaming” her behavior on ADHD, and how awful is that. They are suggesting that she is acting like a diva, and using ADHD as an excuse.

Before responding to this, I’d like to share that I have no direct knowledge on Britney’s diagnosis or medical care – I only know what I’ve read online. And saying that – here’s my response: Britney apparently disclosed to her employer (Simon Cowell) before signing on for the show that she has ADHD, cannot take medication for it, and needs to take breaks at times because of it. Simon apparently agreed to this before hiring Britney. Britney can’t take medication for ADHD, and instead she is using strategies to help herself to function well. And let’s remember – although an ‘audition show’ makes it seem like 1 hour for each city (i.e. the LA auditions only seem to take 1 hour), in fact, they are filming for very long days… (and of course there is much more involved – make up, lighting, direction, breaks, etc.) They just edit it to seem short for us – the viewers.

In my understanding of the situation, Britney is acknowledging her challenges, putting strategies and supports in place, and working to function in the best way that she can. I think that is a great model for others to learn from and to emulate. I would not try to tear her down for being a diva and blaming it on ADHD.

The reality is that ADHD medication is helpful for Adult ADHD, and it is not the whole solution. There is some research that shows that most of the time, ADHD medications do not fully treat the symptoms of adult ADHD. So, it is very important to use strategies and to develop skills to improve functioning with ADHD. This is even more important if someone is unable to take medication.

Why can’t Britney take medication for ADHD?

There aren’t any reports that I’ve read which explain this in more detail. One news report said that she can’t take medication for ADHD because of mental health issues. While I don’t know what these are for Britney, it is possible that she has had one of these challenges: intolerable side effects from ADHD medication; mood instability from ADHD medications (i.e. depression or induction of hypomania or mania), sleep disruption, significant decreased appetite, etc. In other words, I’m guessing. I’m sure she has expert and capable doctors.

The take away I encourage you to get from this is: Britney is a talented star, who has ADHD, is using strategies to manage it because she can’t take medication (on doctor’s orders). That’s a great example for all of us.

What impact do you think this admission will have for you, or your kids with ADHD, or the people you work with (if you’re a professional working with people with ADHD)?

Please share your thoughts or comments below.

Best,

Dr. Kenny

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing that news and putting it in a way that us in the world of ADHD can relate to especially showing the positive actions that Spears is taking to manage her symptoms while still being productive. I’m definitely an advocate of taking advantage of the tools you have whether they be pills, skills, or work accomodations.

  2. I am finding more and more that ADHD is a quality of a lot of successful people. It’s almost a “edge” on one hand to have ADHD because it pushes people to be “more”. My son, who is 14 years old, is extremely gifted and has drive to be a Division 1 and NFL football player. The hard work he puts into it makes me believe he could achieve this goal. Getting him there through the teenage years will be the challenge!!

  3. This is an awesome example of managing ADHD symptoms with other strategies which is reportedly equally important as medications. Thanks so much for sharing this as it helps tremendously to beat stigma about this fascinating brain functioning! I also would like to remind those who criticize Britney for being open about her condition is that Britney is who she is also due to her ADHD as we all know that people with ADHD are highly creative and talented than most people! I appreciate your interest in advocating for people with ADHD.

  4. I personally don’t believe a word of it for the following reasons:

    1) Britney Spears reportedly abused Adderall during her meltdown. ADHD patients rarely if ever abuse their meds because they simply don’t work for them as for “normal” people. At the right dose, ADHD meds calm them down. At a higher dose, they simply give palpitations and other unpleasant side-effects, but not the “high” experienced by non-ADHD people. Additionally, Britney Spears behaved at the time like a “normal” person who takes ADHD medication recreationally.

    2) Britney Spears clearly suffers from an array of ailments, including depression, which are sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD. Yes, ADHD patients can also be depressed, but she simply does not appear to be ADHD.

    3) In the last years Britney Spears has been trying to revamp her image and would not like to be seen as a drug user or former drug user. Many celebrities have used the (non-existent) ADHD excuse to justify their actions or failings to date.

    Last, but not least, I do not believe that Britney Spears is a role model for ADHD patients, even if she has ADHD. Her excuse would suggest she is not managing her ADHD at all. I also seem to recall a judge once accusing her of not being responsible with her life, not getting an education, and not trying to improve herself. I prefer an ADHD role model who triumphed against all odds to become a great person that others can look up to: a person who got an education and did something with it. An anonymous friend, for example, who has both ADHD and dyslexia and who became a prominent rocket scientist. And no, this person does not hide the two conditions. Now, THAT’S a real role model!

    • Wow, who knew we could just ask her doctor, Jane, to clarify for us that none of it is true. You’ve got a lot of nerve deciding that you are the authority on whether she’s depressed, whether she used Adderall recreationally (which BTW, your statements are clearly wrong) etc. You are welcome to your opinion of whether you like her and choose to use her as a role model but the rest is just based off of your obvious dislike of her as a person and certainly no first-hand knowledge of her ADHD experiences. BTW, I am no where near a Brittany fan so this is not for her benefit. It’s for the benefit of all the readers who want to let you you are acting like a know-it-all.

  5. Hi Dr. Handelman! Thank you very much for posting this article. I don’t know exactly how much Britney can be a role model, since she’s been such a poster child for total meltdown (along with Lindsay Lohan). But I can imagine that she hopes to change that image by being on the exposure she’ll get on The X Factor, and I hope it helps her.

    If I recall, Britney’s big meltdown was diagnosed as a major manic episode. I’m a therapist who treats Adult ADHD clients, and who has ADHD-PI myself. What I understand is that having Bipolar Disorder along with ADHD would make it extremely inadvisable to take stimulant medications as they might trigger a manic episode. Isn’t that true?
    BTW, I really agree with your compassionate and understanding view of Britney is doing. People don’t realize the length and intensity of the work that goes into one of these one-hour shows. Of course Britney paid ridiculously well for it, but she still needs to take care of herself, like I do and like anyone else with ADHD.

  6. Several things. First. Mental Health is complicated. Managing Learning Disabilities is complicated, and often both require trial and error approaches to managing with them. Many people aren’t suffering from one issue only-many have two or three overlapping and concurrent ‘issues’. If someone is prescribed medication-what ‘works’ for them, even with the same condition, may be completely detrimental to another person.
    It is a constant JOURNEY to find out what helps, to manage your self, your environment, your work and your relationships in a well-functioning way. Every day is different too. Even with the right treatment: medication, strategies; health professionals, healthy lifestyle choices, supportive family and community it sometimes isn’t enough. I hope Ms. Spears is finding healing and balance as best as she can. She might ‘fall down’ again…like anyone else who is complicated. Keep moving forward.

  7. All divisions of opinion about Britney aside, publicity about ADHD is in our favor. We can’t choose who discloses but with the thoughtful, measured piece by Dr Handelman we continue to drive home self care, self advocacy, and working with trained and qualified professionals.

    Thank you Dr H for this message.
    Maureen Nolan

  8. Thank you all for your comments.
    I appreciate Jane’s thoughts, and Michelle’s response – and I just want to caution that I am fine with people disagreeing with opinions, but I am not comfortable with attacking the person who has that opinion.
    I realized that there could be some controversy around this article, and that I was writing about this issue in the way that I would want it viewed it if it were me or a friend or a family member (and Britney is none of those to me), and that not everyone would see it that way.
    In any case, I appreciate the comments, discussion, and let’s just remember that let’s not take any of this personally (and I will edit or not allow comments which are too strongly worded against others…)
    Thanks,
    Dr. Kenny

  9. This is the first time I’ve thought of Britney in a positive way.

    Comparing her famous meltdown (which was years ago!) to her now is like looking at two different people. I also struggle without medication for my symptoms, so I think it is great she is finding other ways to cope….which of course is in order to PREVENT meltdown mode. She is obviously mentally well enough that she was even asked to do the show, and accepted.

    To me, anyone who falls from grace and breaks down like she did, and manages to climb out and make themselves over- better and stronger than before- is a role model to me and an excellent example of someone making changes in their life to better their health and wellbeing. Tabloids seem to be getting bored with her, so she must be doing something right! ;)

    And to Jane, it is incorrect that ADHD people ‘can’t’ abuse their medications or get high. We are not a different species. If ADHDers all reacted to medications the same way, the medications themselves would be used as diagnotic tools.

    Most choose not to abuse their meds maybe, but there are plenty of ADHDers (and non-ADHDers) who turn to their medicine cabinet when they haven’t got any other way to get high.
    The article says she was diagnosed when she was young and was (presumably successfully) treated with medication. So this isn’t some new pitty party excuse she’s trying to use to gain sympathy. What benefit does it give her to claim she has ADHD? A lot of people are going to believe, as you seem, that she’s just jumping on the ‘ADHD bandwagon’.

    Having any other mental health issue makes dealing with ADHD even more difficult, especially if you can’t use medication. People always think you’re making excuses when you mention ADHD because it doesnt explain the depression, the anxiety that so often accompanies it. Even though my depression and anxiety are managed right now (they come and go) my ADHD is always there. It is simply part of who I am, and coping with that (especially without meds) can be a big chore, requiring frequent mental breaks, patience and organization, so kudos for Britney for realizing this.

    • I love what Jamie said and it’s all so true. Thanks so much for showing the courage to speak out and validate the experience of people with ADHD. It’s just a way of being in this world. There’s nothing abnormal about it as long as u Master how to handle the ADHD effectively and you might even be able to achieve and reach great heights where other can’t even imagine. Best regards..

  10. I think certain industries have higher rates of ADHD than average and I think the entertainment industry is at top of the list. I think the acting profession for many is a form of self-medication so it is not a big leap that the same people self-medicate in various ways. Acting is a rush due to the vision for a role, the embodiment of a character, variabilities of the job, research, learning new skills, rapport and connections, travel, promotion, praise, fame, money etc. Not that working in entertainment is a bowl full of cherries, for all, all the time, but it can provide an escape from the repetitive and mundane. One’s spirit can soar… In many cases the arts appeal to the random or divergent processor type of brain style. Long before coaching was popular, the artist’s agent and manager functioned as a managerial coach compensating for gaps. Stardom hides gaps, especially weakness in executive function that is often taken for granted and expected to work. The challenge of twice-exceptionality (giftedness coupled with challenge) is often a factor.

    While the science community estimates that people with ADHD are 5% of the population, I think that figure is grossly low and that rates of ADHD are higher for all and significantly higher in entertainment. The stars who have ‘come out’ publically are the tippy tippy top of the iceberg. I appreciate their willingness to be vulnerable in the public eye. From headliner to person clapping from the curb, may we work with ourselves and find better ways to get along… Onward!

  11. I was also understanding that stimulant medication would not get an ADHD person “high” even in large doses because the ADHD brain is “backwards”. Also, I have heard of a ADHD adult who had a doctor that would not prescribe a stimulant (controlled substance) because of a history of addictions. Please comment.

    • Christy, Stimulants boost the amount of neurotransmitters so that they essentially ‘turn up the volume’ on brain signals. This argument of the adhd brain being ‘backwards’ doesn’t hold a lot of credence. Some doctors are concerned about prescribing stimulants to someone with a history of substance abuse, but the newer medicines are so much safer (even with respect to addiction) that it really shouldn’t be an issue.

  12. Thanks for this article. My daughter have ADHD as well and she’s frightened that she never will get an career or succeed when she grows older. She’s also a hardcore Britney fan so I’ll show her that everything is possible still if one has ADHD.

    John

  13. If I recall, Britney’s big meltdown was diagnosed as a major manic episode. I’m a therapist who treats Adult ADHD clients, and who has ADHD-PI myself. What I understand is that having Bipolar Disorder along with ADHD would make it extremely inadvisable to take stimulant medications as they might trigger a manic episode. I

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