You seem to like Sherlock just as much as I do. I really treasure Sherlock’s character as a person with ADHD that is treated as more than a cheap comic relief or a hyper 12-year-old, so I wrote a thing on why I think Sherlock has ADD (or could legitimately be interpreted as having it)… I thought you might be interested…
Sherlock has ADD
I think of this as cannon, for both ACD and BBC Sherlock. I base this off of my own experiences as a repeatedly-tested, constantly self-assessing college student with severe ADD, mild dyslexia, and a high IQ (I say this not because I’m proud or whatever. It sure as hell doesn’t show in my grades or my day-to-day life. I’m merely trying to give a fair idea of where I’m coming from when I make these observations.) Here are my reasons for thinking like this:
1.) Drug Use
Sherlock is addicted to nicotine and cocaine in the books, and I think in the show as well. Both chemicals have been known to calm the effects of ADD, to help settle the riot of input of bad days. Not only that, but people wth ADD are more likely to become addicted to substances if they use them, so Sherlock’s addictions are completely unsurprising, particularly if he refuses to formally be diagnosed so he can get adderall or some other legitimate drug (link). Even if he has medicine, ten years of taking that stuff makes me damn near an expert, and the pills don’t cut it some days.
This comes two fold, the first part being that having ADD sometimes means being unable to hide inappropriate emotions, and are just in general more outwardly emotional. Sherlock shooting the gun at the wall isn’t crazy; it’s just that he would have to first think of what would happen if he shot the gun, and then figure out if th outcome is generally good or bad, all before his trigger finger could move if he was going to stop himself from shooting. The impulsiveness that comes with ADD means that he will opt for the immediate satisfaction of unloading the gun into the wall over the longer-term payoff of not having to deal with a disappointed Mrs. Hudson (link) That’s why it’s difficult for people with ADD to get really passionate and involved in something that does not have immediate feedback or gratification (hence why I freaking love tumblr, the holy grail of instant gratification).
The second part is more concrete and more serious: ADD often goes hand in hand with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder (link). Sometimes, schizophrenia sneaks in there as well. Sherlock is a bit of a textbook manic-depressive, although his mood swings aren’t quite right for that in the show. They definitely are in the books, though.
3.) His level of awareness
I group time perception in with this one. Let’s start with the things he notices: every little detail of things that he thinks are important. This is called hyperfocusing, and it’s what I’m doing right now. I’m working on this post, so I have no clue what happened to my roommate or how long she’s been gone (I really did just look up and discover that she’d left), I have no clue what time it is, I think I’ve needed to to pee for about an hour but I’ve only just noticed and getting up is not an option… His attention bounces around inside the confines of his interest, so in extreme cases, where his awareness is almost tunnel-vision like, he notices EVERYTHING about that one thing, and nothing about anything else (link). That’s how he can loose all awareness of time when he’s thinking about something, and can “focus” on one thing for extended periods of time- it’s not that his mind is focused on one thing, it’s that he is buzzing around the minutiae of it.
Now for the things he doesn’t notice. Things like Lestrade’s first name, or when he’s hurting someone’s feelings. When you’re making models/thinking about something solely in your mind, names are unimportant (at least for me, and I would think a lot of ADD people), so he doesn’t bother to learn them. In Sherlock’s mind, Lestrade’s first name is not his identity. His identity is semi-authority-male-gray-hair-body-wash-scent-mid-range-voice-irritable-police-accent-kind-eyes-problems-with-wife-likes-Molly, but all rolled up in one sense. Name is irrelevant. I don’t know if that’s the way other peoples’ minds work, but it took me until halfway through The Chamber of Secrets to learn Hermione’s name. He also doesn’t notice very much when he hurts other peoples’ feelings. This is such a common trait of ADD that it’s literally part of the test: understanding social nuance and reactions. (link) At the same time, when it is advantageous and interesting, people with ADD can posses large amounts of empathy, which Sherlock happily uses to manipulate people
Now for what he forgets. If you thought it was awful when Sherlock left John at the crime scene in the first episode of the BBC series, then you clearly don’t have ADD. An article I was reading summed it up perfectly by saying approximately, “I was reading the news the other day, and there was a story about a woman who accidentally left her baby, in a car seat, on top of her car and drove off. Normal people think ‘what a horrible mother.’ We think ‘thank God it wasn’t me.’”
4.) his ability to make connections
One of the perks of having ADD is that it’s easier to make connections between two seemingly unrelated things. Sherlock does this whenever he seems to pluck two facts out of the air and throw them together into one fully synthesized thought. Like, in “Scandal in Belgravia”, when Sherlock figures out the safe code is Irene’s measurements. On the surface, a safe code and teasing Sherlock about not knowing where to look on a naked woman are pretty unconnected, but he picked them up as two consistently important facts, and synthesized them into an answer (more evidence for this is the fact that I figured out what the safe combo was meant to be just as fast as the character did, even though I don’t usually get things that fast).
5.) He constantly seeks stimulus
An under-stimulated mind with ADD can have just as much trouble focusing as an over-stimulated mind. There are situations (large crowds, too many people talking at once, even reading a richly written book) that are so stimulating that they are physically painful for people with ADD. However, situations that lack stimulus can leave a person feeling detached and unfocused. Sherlock plays the violin to increase stimulus to help himself think. Another thing that he does to increase stimulus (in the TV series) is tent his hands like he’s praying. The input of highly sensitive finger pads pushing against one another provides a great amount of external stimulus in a non-distracting way. He also puts the collar of his coat up. I’m sure this is for aesthetic reasons, but putting a collar up increases airflow around the sensitive neck, adding stimulus. Other people with ADD will blast music, jump up and down on a bed, knead clay or sculpey, doodle, or compulsively suck their lip, bite their nails, or pull on their hair. Each person is different. I personally like to work while wearing a hoodie with the hood up, sitting on the floor with my back against the wall and my knees to my chest.
So, yeah. I’m really pretty positive that Sherlock Holmes has ADD. Like, really really sure.
I ::do:: love Sherlock, and you make some valid points, but I’ve never really thought of Sherlock Holmes as ADHD. Sherlock can do a lot of things I can’t, like read for HOURS and balance. Like seriously, how does he do this:
and the subsequent climbing after this gif ends without falling? ACD’s Sherlock is pretty damn coordinated, too.
I realize that not everyone’s ADHD is the same and that not all of my symptoms are universal.
But to be honest, until a medical professional (like, say, John’s therapist) diagnoses Sherlock with ADD or ADHD, I’ll probably just think of him as someone with fascinating personality quirks (and excellent cheekbones).
Maybe if we’re really good, Moftiss will give us a third season before I graduate college…