55 – Ikigai and ADHD with Dr. Ariadne Ferro

Can ikigai help with ADHD?

ADHD is a condition characterized by attention dysregulation, causing individuals to struggle with concentration and impulsivity. This is why having an ikigai is essential for those with this 'disorder.' Knowing that they can still function effectively and find purpose within their community can provide them with a sense of meaning in life.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick talks with Dr. Ariadne Maria Ferro Bajuelo about the beneficial effects of ikigai on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Finding ikigai

“Because of all the changes I've made in my life, I finally moved into a moment where I thought, I just want stability, I don't want drama. I just want to enjoy my family and do my thing. But I realized that the work I was doing wasn't the work I enjoyed doing and didn't believe in it. I didn't want to continue doing it. And I just felt pretty lost.

And someone I met on LinkedIn, I think the purpose was for her to tell me about your course. I started researching, what's this ikigai? I saw it as an opportunity to learn to ground myself, to just stop for a moment and think: Where am I going to go next? What's going to happen? But first, I need that grounding.” - Ariadne Ferro

Dr. Ariadne Ferro

Ariadne Ferro Ikigai Tribe

Dr. Ariadne Maria Ferro Bahuelo is an adjunct professor at IE University in Spain. She has experience teaching at numerous universities in the United States and Spain. Her previous research examines languages in contact, particularly Spanglish as it is spoken by Cuban U.S. Americans in South Florida, USA.

She is also the executive director of APUNE (Association of North American University Programs in Spain), an intercultural and inclusion facilitator, and an Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Qualified Administrator.

Moreover, Ariadne is a certified ADHD coach, a board-certified ADHD educator who coaches clients through her consultancy, The Zunzun, and a member of the Ikigai Tribe coaches.


THE ZUNZÚN - Coaching, training, and consultancy for ADHD, interculturality, and inclusion

Podcast Highlights

Being diagnosed with ADHD

Growing up, Ariadne frequently received comments about her supposed lack of self-control, due to her having trouble sitting still, hence the nickname “motormouth.” It was during her college years that she was diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

She didn’t pay too much attention to it until she became a parent and her son was diagnosed with the same disorder. This gave her the motivation to delve deeper into the study of ADHD.


A clear understanding of ADHD

ADHD is a type of neurodivergence, a delay in the development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It is a behavioural condition commonly associated with challenges including having trouble concentrating and being impulsive.

According to Ariadne, some experts in the field don’t approve of the term attention deficit, because it’s not really a deficit of attention. Rather, it is a dysregulation of attention.

“ADHD is a lot more, it’s not just about attention deficit or hyperactivity. If I'm passionate about something, I could get lost in this rabbit hole of attention where nothing else exists around me, but that absolutely motivates me. So it's not a deficit of attention. It's a dysregulation of attention.” - Ariadne Ferro

Dysregulation of Attention

Relocating to Spain

Having the desire for new challenges, Ariadne decided to make the move to Spain. This transition allowed her to explore and learn new things. Being in a different country away from her family made her realise the importance of connection and identified three types of it.

  • Connection with one’s community - what you offer to your community and form associations.
  • Connection with one’s family - how you maintain your relationship with your family.
  • Connection with oneself - how you establish a stronger relationship with yourself through self-acceptance.
These types of connection can be likened to what Gordon Mathews referred to as the three levels of ikigai: personal, interpersonal, and community, all of which can be experienced in the concept of ibasho (a place where one feels a sense of belonging).

“I'd say ibasho is these three levels of ikigai, especially the interpersonal and community. So if we look at ibasho, the elements of ibasho can be threefold: a comfortable space, reliable social relationships, and a positive belief in the near future.” - Nicholas Kemp

Three levels of ikigai

Struggles of people with ADHD

In Japan, they have the term anshin which translates to relief, something that people diagnosed with ADHD struggle with. For most of them, it is difficult to live in the moment because they’re in search of the next dopamine-producing activity, hence the trouble of finding relief.

Knowledge about ikigai

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the lives of many, including Ariadne.

This caused her to reevaluate a lot of things in her life. As luck would have it, she was introduced to the concept of ikigai which helped her to ground herself and reflect on what really matters.

“I started researching, looking into things. What's this ikigai? And it really resonated with me, this idea. I saw it as an opportunity to ground myself if that makes any sense – an opportunity to ground myself and just stop for a moment and think, where am I going to go next? What's going to happen? But first, I need that grounding.” - Ariadne Ferro

Opportunity to ground myself

Having a daily routine of dopamine-releasing activities

As Ken Mogi expressed, there are plenty of possible sources of ikigai. The one that Ariadne relates to the most is that It can be this daily routine of dopamine-releasing activities. Because people with ADHD are all about looking for that dopamine rush.


Possessing a specific role

Having a specific role that can be beneficial to people with ADHD, because it gives them a sense of meaning that they are contributing something to the community, which is a way of dopamine release for them as well.

“It will be really helpful to find something you care about that allows you to express yourself authentically.” - Nicholas Kemp
Something you care about

Practical applications of ikigai to treat ADHD

Ariadne noted that incorporating ikigai into her coaching has shown a lot of positive effects on her clients. Thus, she applies Ken Mogi’s Five pillars of ikigai in her sessions.

  • Starting small - the smallest step that you can take that’s going to be meaningful.

  • Releasing yourself - accepting your diagnosis and learning to live with it.

  • Harmony and sustainability - the things that you can do that are sustainable and can be in harmony with yourself.

  • The joy of the little things - doing something daily that makes you feel good.

  • Being in the here and now - doing something that can help you refocus.


Although there are no studies to prove it yet, ikigai may be advantageous to people dealing with ADHD. Knowing that you can still contribute to your community despite living with “disorder” can give meaning and significance to your life.