Strictly’s John Whaite opens up about relief of ADHD diagnosis: ‘Shame and guilt can be replaced’

John Whaite

John Whaite, who won The Great British Bake Off before storming Strictly’s dancefloor in its first all-male pairing, has shared his relief at receiving a diagnosis for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

At this point in his career, Whaite is known for breaking boundaries. From winning the baking show in 2012, to becoming part of Strictly Come Dancing‘s historic first all-male couple, alongside Johannes Radebe in 2021, he’s no stranger to saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done.

Whether he’s standing up to homophobic trolls who objected to his and Radebes’s successful dancing partnership, or opening up about being cruelly outed to his mother by a school teacher, Whaite’s admirably open attitude to difficult topics has offered fans of all ages solace and comfort.

John Whaite and Johannes Radebe are joining the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour.
John Whaite and Johannes Radebe on Strictly Come Dancing. (BBC)

Now, Whaite has spoken about receiving an official diagnosis of ADHD.

In a lengthy caption posted on 3 July to his 300,000-plus Instagram followers, he described the unexpected relief that came with receiving a diagnosis after struggling to understand his behaviour over the past decade.

“Am I posting this for a dopamine rush, or to inform?” he wrote. “Well, it turns out, a little bit of both. Because I have ADHD, which explains a lot.

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“I’ve known my behaviour over the past decade (and my thinking for the past 30-odd years) has not been ‘normal’,” he continued.

“I’ve often questioned whether I have some personality disorder, deep-rooted psychological trauma, or just a brain that isn’t quite wired right. I’ve been impulsive and borderline addicted (to sex, porn, shopping, food, drink, drugs), and have made some very questionable decisions. But these weren’t decisions, they were compulsions, because of the neurological functioning inside my head.”

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Whaite was quick to assure friends and fans – many of whom have flooded the post’s comments with messages of support – that “it’s not all bad,” as the diagnosis has allowed him to flip his own narrative.

“I truly believe it’s my ADHD that has allowed me to become so obsessed and focused on things I like, that I work hard at them until I’m burnt out. While burn-out isn’t great, the skills I’ve garnered and career paths I’ve taken along the way, have been a huge part of my strength and success.

“And I’m grateful for those chances and opportunities.

“But I’m even more grateful for the knowledge that I have ADHD, because instantly the shame and guilt can be replaced with conversation – destruction becomes construction.”

Whaite’s sentiment was similar to that of former Great British Bake Off host, Sue Perkins, who earlier this year shared her own ADHD diagnosis, and added that now, “everything made sense”.

Whaite went on to explain why, after initially being hesitant to do so, he made the decision to share the news.

“I know from speaking openly about depression, alcohol use, bulimia, that people can seek comfort from the experiences of others. I know I certainly have. So, I may be looking for a dopamine rush here. I may be doing my duty as someone in the public eye to share my lived experience. Either way, make of this what you will.”

Broadcaster Riyadh Khalaf offered a message of support in the comments, writing: “Thank you for being a shining light and an inspiration. You worded this so perfectly and it resonates hard. Big love my, neurospicy sis.”

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Fellow Great British Bake Off winner, Candice Brown, who snatched the title in 2016, added: “As much as my ADHD can be completely debilitating for me and causes me daily stress and panic, it’s also my superpower.”

Another friend wrote: “So proud of you, always have been, always will be.”

In a separate Instagram story, Whaite explained how exhausting it had been to access medication for his ADHD, citing five separate questionnaires and three assessments, some of which involved his mother and partner.

In a follow-up, he added that he attended the Oxford ADHD and Autism Centre for this process.

Whaite admitted that he wished he’d known about his diagnosis sooner, before he’d written his memoir, Dancing on Eggshells.

“Now when you read it,” he told his fans, “I think you’ll understand it even better.”

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