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Why Michael Scott From 'The Office' Is My Perfect ADHD Representation

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Once I read, “If you don’t know a Michael Scott, you are the Michael Scott.” I wanted to ignore it, but then I realized I actually don’t know any Michael Scotts around me. Scared, I texted all of my friends asking them and the answer was unanimous – I was the Michael Scott from “The Office” out of my friend group.

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While this isn’t horrible, it definitely didn’t make me happy because Michael is known to get into some “shenanigans” due to his chatty, impulsive, and almost childlike nature. It didn’t make me feel great that the one character that everyone made fun of because of how out-of-touch they were with the world is the one character that made me say, “Oh, I feel seen.”

 As I grew I learned about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and how most of the traits that can cause me trouble in life stem from that one disorder. From my forgetfulness to my issues with object permanence, all the way to the fact that I don’t know how to shut my mouth… all points lead to ADHD.

Knowing I was living with this condition and how heavily I related to Michael Scott, I then realized that he is basically the poster-perfect image of ADHD. Every trait that I could think of, he exemplifies, which felt like a double-edged sword because those same traits tend to be the source of tension for what feels like 90% of the plot. The same traits that make the other characters roll their eyes, want to ignore him, or even hate him, are the traits that are known to come with ADHD whether it’s inattentive or hyperactive type. 

A few key examples:

1. Michael’s tangential thinking

In the episode “The Search,” Michael goes missing and no one quite knows where to find him. Traditional and sequential thinking doesn’t help the team when it comes to figuring out exactly where he went or how he’s moving. It took another (seemingly) ADHD character, Holly Flax, to figure out his more lateral thinking methods, which were based completely on tangential moves and dare I say, a little forgetfulness. He’d see a sign-up sheet or sign and that immediately because the next thing he focused on versus maintaining the same goal throughout the plot (which was to get back to Dunder Mifflin).

2. Michael’s hyperfixations

“When I discovered YouTube, I didn’t work for five days,” is a literal quote that Michael says. It’s very easy for him to interact with one thing and make it his whole personality for a stretch of time in the same way I make baking my entire personality once every five years. Another great example was when he came back from Jamaica (the tan all over, Jan all over line will forever be one of my favorite lines from this show) and he came with steel drums, and wouldn’t let that bit go for almost the entire episode. I think we can also count his creation of “Threat Level Midnight,” a self-produced movie that he and all the rest of the cast starred in as a hyperfixation as well.

3. Michael’s sensitivity to rejection (rejection-sensitive dysphoria)

Michael is a very sensitive person, and with that comes a heightened sensitivity to rejection. For example, the entirety of the “Sweeney Todd” episode, he’s fixated on how he wasn’t contacted to be in the show and it basically rips him apart. Also, when Holly was dating someone else, he literally destroyed the sentimental toy that her boyfriend had gotten her. That sounds like RSD to me.

At first, seeing your condition unintentionally (and unofficially) be the butt of the jokes hurt, but that’s before I really started paying attention to Michael’s connections with other people. I saw how loved he was regardless of his eccentricity at times, and how he still managed to find love, friends, and success.

I think so often it’s easy to feel like ADHD can hold you back, but quite frankly, Michael Scott is (in my opinion) one of the most positive, well-rounded representations of ADHD out there. He shows it can be as much a blessing and a superpower as it can be a curse. The glass isn’t half full or half empty, it just is, and if he’s able to “have it all,” with all of those traits, why can’t I? 


Lead image courtesy of The Office’s YouTube channel

Originally published: June 17, 2022
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