About 4.4% of US adults have an ADHD diagnosis. That’s almost 10 million people.
If you have ADHD, chances are you’ve had to deal with memory loss. The good news is that, in most cases, memory loss isn’t permanent. You can manage it with a few simple tips.
Here’s everything you need to know about ADHD memory loss so you can get the facts and start getting the help you need.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 6.1 million children. The condition often persists into adulthood.
ADHD affects a person’s ability to:
- Pay attention
- Focus on one task
- Remember details
- Control impulsive behavior
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not caused by bad parenting or a lack of exercise. It is a biological condition caused by genetics.
Types of ADHD
There are three types of ADHD: inattentive, impulsive/hyperactive, and combined. Memory loss is common in inattentive type ADHD and combined type ADHD. Let’s explore these categories in more detail so you can better understand how they affect your life.
Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity characterize impulsive type ADHD. People with this type are often fidgety, act without thinking, and have difficulty waiting their turn or listening to others. Symptoms may improve as children reach adolescence.
It’s the least common form of ADHD and is more likely to occur in males than in females.
A lack of focus and difficulty paying attention are signs of inattentive ADHD. People with this form of ADHD have trouble staying organized, completing tasks, and remembering information. Routine activities may easily bore them, such as reading or listening to lectures.
Inattentive type ADHD is more common in girls and older children, but it can persist into adulthood.
This is the most common form of ADHD. It occurs when a person has both impulsive/hyperactive and inattentive ADHD symptoms. It’s often diagnosed later than other subtypes.
Those with combined type ADHD may have trouble sitting still, talk excessively, and struggle to focus on tasks.
ADHD Memory Loss
As ADHD develops, it can cause problems with short- and long-term memory. When people with ADHD are distracted, they have trouble absorbing information and remembering it.
The short-term memory loss associated with ADHD may cause a person to lose track of time or miss appointments. It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to forget why they entered a room or what part of a project they were working on.
Memory loss is a common symptom of ADHD, but it’s not always caused by the condition. Other causes include stress, lack of sleep, and physical illness.
Memory Loss Symptoms
You may be experiencing memory loss if you ask a question and then immediately forget the answer. You may also have trouble remembering dates and events. Here are other signs that your memory may be declining.
Trouble Finding the Right Words
If you have ADHD, you may have trouble finding the right words. You might use a word that is too abstract or too concrete for the situation. Alternatively, your mind may go blank when trying to think of a particular word because you’re concentrating on something else.
Struggling to Remember Names and Faces
For many people diagnosed with ADHD, the inability to remember names and faces is one of the most frustrating symptoms. You may feel like you’re being rude by not remembering someone’s name, but it’s usually not your fault. It’s hard for those with ADHD to focus long enough to commit a name to memory.
Always Losing Things
People with ADHD may lose things more often than others, but it’s not because they’re careless. Their brain isn’t like a filing cabinet where you can neatly organize memories and find them later on when needed. It’s more like a big bowl of spaghetti where everything is tangled up together and it’s hard to find what you’re looking for
Poor Time Management
You might find yourself taking longer to complete familiar tasks. This can include anything from work projects to the most basic daily tasks like brushing your teeth.
The reason for this is that people with ADHD have difficulty with multitasking, organization, and prioritization, all of which affect time management.
How to Know if Your Memory Loss Comes From ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD usually become apparent in childhood. If your memory loss is a recent problem, something else could be causing it.
Age may be a factor. Your brain becomes less efficient as you age. Because your neurons have a harder time transmitting messages, remembering things becomes more challenging.
Dementia usually begins after age 65, and symptoms worsen slowly.
If an illness caused your memory loss, you’re likely to have other symptoms. Brain-related issues can cause migraines and blurred vision. You’ll experience problems like this in addition to short-term memory loss.
If you’re experiencing these issues, see a doctor as soon as possible.
You can be sure ADHD is the reason for your memory loss if you’re often distracted. You may have trouble concentrating on a task or engaging in conversation. Your attention span might be shorter than usual, as well.
You might also forget things that normally come easily to you, like where you put your phone.
ADHD and Working Memory
Working memory holds information in your mind for short periods. Everyone’s working memory has limits. When it’s overloaded with information, it can’t process new information, and things become confusing.
This is why people with ADHD have trouble with working memory. Because they process so much information from their environment, their working memory is constantly overburdened. As a result, their short-term memory isn’t as strong.
How to Improve Working Memory
You can use the chunking method to help make your working memory a little better. Organize information into smaller groups of data that are easier to remember.
Also, store information in different forms. For example, you can use drawings on a whiteboard and sticky notes to organize your thoughts.
Another technique is called the loci method. This method involves remembering items by placing them in different locations within an imaginary place that you know well, like your home or office building. Research shows that this method can help people learn and remember academic subjects, so try it before your next exam.
Memory Loss Anxiety
Memory loss anxiety is when you’re worried about forgetting something important.
If you have ADHD and you also experience anxiety, that’s part of the reason you have trouble with memory. Anxiety can cause short-term memory loss through heightened levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These chemicals can affect your ability to focus on tasks.
How to Treat ADHD
Your doctor will be able to provide the best course of treatment. Some common ways that people manage their ADHD include exercise and sleep.
When you exercise, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin. This can help keep you focused and alert and may even lift your mood.
Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes outdoors. Exercising outside has been shown to ease symptoms of ADHD better than gym activity.
Besides exercise, getting enough sleep can also help.
People with ADHD have trouble sleeping because they have so many late-night thoughts. This can make your symptoms worse. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night, even if it means going to bed earlier than normal.
Does ADHD Medication Help With Memory?
If your memory problems stem from distraction, then the medication should help you feel less distracted. Prescription drugs can also help improve your attention span.
And if your anxiety is causing ADHD symptoms, talk to a doctor about whether medication might be a good option for you. Medicines that affect feeling, like antidepressants, may help reduce anxiety levels. A decrease in anxiety can improve brain function in people with ADHD.
Does ADHD-Related Memory Loss Increase as People Age?
ADHD memory loss doesn’t get worse with age. As you get older, you’ll likely learn ways to cope with your moments of forgetfulness.
Tips for Dealing With Forgetfulness
If someone says something important to remember later, repeat what they told you out loud to yourself so that your brain has an easier time remembering it. Repeating things out loud is an associative memory tactic that helps you to remember something by relating it to the sound of your voice.
Here are some other ways to help your memory improve.
Write Sticky Notes
Write down the date something is due on a sticky note. Attach it to your calendar with the corresponding task underneath it. This will help ensure nothing slips through the cracks when it comes time for tasks like filing taxes or organizing birthday presents.
Remember to use different colors. Color coding is a great way to keep your thoughts organized. You can have a unique color for each project or client.
Stick them everywhere! Put sticky notes on your computer monitor, fridge, and phone, so you’ll see them whenever you glance at these things throughout the day. That way, they’re always in front of your face reminding you of tasks that need doing.
Keep a Bullet Journal
A bullet journal (sometimes called a bujo) is like an old-fashioned planner except that it’s much more flexible. You can use your bullet journal to track anything from daily tasks and goals all the way up to major life events.
For many people with ADHD, traditional planners and to-do lists don’t work. In that case, the bullet journal can be a powerful organizational aid.
You’ll start off with a blank page and then draw a line down the center. On one side, write everything you need to do for today. On the other side, write anything that needs to be done in the future.
Each day, you’ll fill in some of these tasks with checkboxes or stars to show whether you completed them.
This is the most basic way to create a bullet journal. However, a bujo is entirely customizable. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.
All that’s suggested is for you to have current goals and future goals somewhere on the page.
Develop a Routine
Try to do the same thing at the same time every day. For example, eat breakfast at 8 am each morning or leave work at 6 pm every day. Make sure that your routines are realistic for your lifestyle.
What this will do is give you a sense of order in your life. You’ll develop habits you won’t have to think about. Having a routine can eliminate the need to focus so hard, which is a tremendous relief for people with ADHD.
Life Hacks for Boosting Your Memory
There are supplements that may improve your memory and focus. Brain boosting pills are an example.
The herbal supplement ashwagandha is also thought to enhance memory and focus. Astaxanthin can protect against cognitive decline and anxiety.
L-theanine helps inhibit anxiety by calming your nervous system while increasing alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed state.
When to See Your Doctor
When your ADHD is not responding to your current treatment, see your doctor.
If you notice that your memory problems are getting worse, it’s also time to see a doctor. As mentioned, ADHD doesn’t get worse over time.
Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD. A professional can help you sort out whether your memory problems are because of ADHD or another condition.
Improve Your Memory
There are many ways to manage ADHD memory loss. The most important thing is to create a daily routine that includes rituals for both work and play.
Remember to write down important tasks and appointments, even if it’s just a quick note. This will help you keep track of the things that need to get done.
Above all, be patient with yourself. It’s normal to forget some things, but it’s important not to give up.
If you’d like to test your memory, read a few more of our health articles and see how many tips you can remember.