Up to 10 million American adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—also commonly referred to as ADD—so it’s no surprise that some of America’s most acclaimed athletes, actors, and musicians make up part of that mix. Left untreated, the disorder is characterized by poor concentration and disorganization, and can lead to emotional and social problems.
About 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to experience these symptoms well into adulthood. And some people with the disorder don’t receive an official diagnosis until middle age.
See which celebs have suffered with an ADHD diagnosis since childhood, and which have learned to manage their disorder as adults.
The 28-year-old retired Olympic swimming sensation is famous for his incredible focus in the pool, so it’s hard to believe he has struggled with ADHD since childhood. His teachers complained about his inability to sit still until, in fifth grade, the Phelps’ family physician formally diagnosed him with ADHD. At age 9, Phelps went on Ritalin; his mother, Debbie, later recalled in the New York Times that it seemed to help his hyperactivity. After two years on medication, however, Phelps said he felt stigmatized (each day at lunchtime he had to visit the school nurse to get his medicine) and asked to be taken off the drug. After consulting with his doctor, Debbie agreed to let him be med free.
The soulful songstress says she’s always been full of energy, and claims that sometimes her sporadic speech and effervescence led people to believe she was on drugs. The real culprit? ADHD.
Knowles, whose older sister is Beyoncé, said she was diagnosed with the disorder twice before she believed it. “I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me,” she has said. “I guess I was in denial.”
The energetic and upbeat former host of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition said he was “uncontrollable” as a child unless he had a crayon and piece of paper in hand. Pennington, 49, earned poor marks throughout high school and college, until he was diagnosed with ADHD as an undergrad.
The Deal or No Deal host is calm and collected during his super-hyped game show, but ADHD made him impulsive and unfocused well into adulthood, when he finally got a formal diagnosis.
The political pundit and consultant is widely credited with helping Bill Clinton win the 1992 presidential election, but he wasn’t always so focused. In fact, Carville, 69, initially flunked out of college.
Playing pint-size Peter on the original Brady Bunch television series, Knight, 56, had a hard time learning his lines. Finally, in 1997, he was diagnosed with ADHD. He sought treatment to help manage his condition and served as a spokesperson for the National Consumer League’s AD/HD campaign.
She helped lead her team to gold as the captain of the U.S. women’s ice hockey team at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan—and she credits her ADHD with helping her get that far. Granato, 42, claims that constantly feeling restless contributed to her drive on ice.