Does ADHD Affect Memory? An In-depth Exploration | Iris Reading
Does ADHD Affect Memory? An In-depth Exploration

Does ADHD Affect Memory? An In-depth Exploration

Does ADHD Affect Memory? An In-depth Exploration

Have you ever entered a room and forgotten what you were looking for—your keys, phone, or wallet? How forgetful can we get before diagnosing it as an ADHD symptom?

It is a fact that many individuals with ADHD encounter challenges with their memory function. If you have the condition, forgetfulness tends to happen more frequently, and short-term memory-required jobs become more complex. 

But why is this information so important? 

If you want to improve your academic performance, or you are a worker who wants to increase productivity or a worried parent who wants to comprehend the cognitive difficulties of their child, understanding how ADHD impacts memory may hold the key to a better future. 

In this article, we’ll look at an In-depth Exploration of ADHD. 

Do people with ADHD have a bad memory?

People with ADHD don’t necessarily have “bad” memories; their memories tend to be more erratic. Think of it like a fickle cat that sometimes curls up on your lap and scampers off in pursuit of a shiny toy.

Memory loss is unlikely to be caused by ADHD if someone with ADHD begins experiencing it in adulthood. However, if memory loss starts immediately, it could be attributed to ADHD.

It’s crucial to understand that if someone has ADHD when they are young, it doesn’t go away as they age. Instead, it changes into something else, especially as you get older and become better at controlling the symptoms.

ADHD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that falls somewhere between normal aging-related memory loss and more serious memory problems like dementia. At this stage, people can still operate independently despite certain challenges.

Here are some cognitive impairments linked to MCI:

  • Impaired ability to recall visual memories
  • Long-term memory recall
  • Postponed recognition

While some studies suggest a connection between MCI and ADHD, other research indicates that there is no connection at all. 

The disconnect may have occurred because the cognitive tests used to diagnose MCI may have overlooked the difficulties adults with ADHD have with executive functioning.

Memory loss is present in adults with ADHD and MCI, but it affects different brain parts differently. MCI affects the hippocampus, whereas ADHD affects the frontal lobe cortex.

Dementia and ADHD

Researchers looked into how ADHD connects to dementia because MCI can be a precursor for dementia.

In their search for a relationship, they discovered one between ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia.

However, ADHD may display identical cognitive symptoms rather than being a risk factor for dementia.

How does ADHD affect memory?

Let’s explore how Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects memory in more detail, revealing the complex interplay between the two:

Selective attention

Unpredictable attention is one of the hallmarks of ADHD. It’s as if the brain has a sneaky little imp that likes to focus attention on the wrong things when it shouldn’t. 

So the imp might be preoccupied with fixating on the buzzing fly by the window while you’re attempting to remember where you left your wallet. 

It may be difficult to encode and retrieve information efficiently due to this selective attention.

Forgetfulness and distractions

The ADHD brain is like a busy market, continuously barraged by distractions and sensory stimuli. Important facts may be easily swept into the background noise in this tornado of stimuli. 

Therefore, even though a person with ADHD may be sincerely interested in what you are saying, they may miss important details if the hum of the air conditioner or the pattern on the wall diverts their attention.

Time perception challenges

In individuals with ADHD, time perception might be somewhat warped. They frequently lose track of the minutes and hours, making it difficult to remember when specific events occurred. 

It may be difficult for them to construct a coherent timeline due to this temporal irregularity, which may damage their autobiographical memory.


The paradox of ADHD is hyperfocus, a state in which people are completely engrossed in a task or activity. Their memory might become practically photographic during these times. 

They can recall minute details, recollect discussions word for word, and delve deeply into a topic. 

When the hyperfocus subsides, individuals may find it difficult to recall what they had for breakfast that morning.

Emotional memory 

People with ADHD may remember more vividly emotional experiences than neutral ones. This enhanced emotional memory can leave happy and unpleasant situations with powerful, enduring effects.

ADHD entails a complex link with memory. Consider it a mental rollercoaster ride with ups and downs, thrilling bursts of hyperfocus, and sporadic dives into forgetfulness and distraction.

Would you like to learn more about how our memory works? Check out: An Overview of How the Human Memory Works.

Which type of memory is impacted by ADHD?

ADHD has a notable impact on various types of memory, but the following two specific categories stand out:

Working memory and ADHD

The little bit of information that your mind retains while you’re trying to finish a task is known as working memory. 

Imagine it as the area of your brain that memorizes a phone number as you dial it. 

As you focus on finishing anything, working memory stores bits of information at a time, “copying” the information from one place and “pasting” it into another before you forget what it was.

You can liken it to your mental sticky note—where you temporarily store information for immediate use. 

For people with ADHD, this mental sticky note frequently acts like a mischievous gremlin, making amnesia happen in an instant. 

They can jot things down on the note. It’s only that those notes tend to vanish too soon. This may make it challenging to be organized, follow detailed directions, and complete activities quickly. 

Most children with ADHD have difficulties with their working memory, according to a study conducted by Trusted Source in 2020. A 2013 literature assessment supported the assertion that this effect persists into maturity.

Due to the close correlation between working memory, intellect, and learning capacity, people with ADHD may receive an unfavorable evaluation of their learning potential. 

It becomes critical to create coping mechanisms and alternate learning techniques that rely less on a robust working memory when this function is compromised.

ADHD may potentially affect the way children’s brains perceive time itself. Working memory and time perception go hand in hand. This may also help to explain why it can be harder for persons with ADHD to arrive at destinations on time.

In a 2007 research report, time perception was examined in 40 kids with ADHD and 40 kids without ADHD.  The report stated that it was more difficult for children with ADHD to distinguish between short, medium, and long periods.

Long-term memory and ADHD

Our long-term memory is where we keep information. This encompasses knowledge of past experiences from childhood, academic data, and even bike-riding skills. 

Verbal long-term memory performance is almost like a treasure chest in the world of ADHD. 

The memories of riches can occasionally leave permanent, powerful impressions of particular occasions, especially those with emotional significance. 

But this treasure trove might also be a trick for the ADHD brain. Constructing a compelling timeline of historical events might be difficult because time perception can become warped. 

A somewhat inconsistent autobiographical memory might be caused by recollections that seem closer or farther away than they are.

A 2013 review of the literature examined studies on adult ADHD. According to the authors, ADHD frequently hinders long-term memory function

However, the exact evaluation of the literature also made the case that this restriction is the outcome of learning impairments brought on by ADHD rather than its effects on the brain.

In other words, the literature assessment revealed that children with ADHD frequently struggle to acquire the same long-term memory abilities as children without ADHD. 

This barrier can persist into adulthood without additional coping or compensatory strategies.

Read also: 14 Smart & Fast Memorization Techniques (That Even A Child Can Master) 

Effective tips to remember things with ADHD

You can change some ADHD-related memory issues by making lifestyle changes that will enable you to adjust to work and home life rhythms more easily.

Cut out certain foods

Try to cut out certain foods from your diet. Children’s hyperactive behaviors have been connected to sodium benzoate and FD&C Red No. 40, two ingredients in food coloring. To confirm this, more investigation is required.

Stay away from allergy triggers

Try to stay away from allergy triggers that may impair cognitive function. Consider getting an allergy test to assist you in avoiding triggers if you believe allergen exposure worsens ADHD symptoms.

Look into ADHD management tools

Look into tools for managing ADHD. Try using a key drop box, a charging station to store gadgets, or an app or calendar that keeps track of events, dates, and times. These lessen the pressure you may experience when attempting to remember everything.

Quit caffeine

Take into account quitting caffeine. Consider switching to an herbal brew with relaxing components instead of caffeinated drinks. You can consider ginseng and chamomile tea for a more focused and rejuvenated morning start. Research suggests drinking tea may help with memory.

Use herbal supplements

Consider using herbal supplements. You might feel less stressed due to your possible ADHD activities if you take these supplements.

Environment-related changes

Establish a clean, ordered environment. Using visual clues like color coding, labels, and storage systems to make finding and recalling key goods simpler.

Structured routines

Create a daily schedule and follow it. People with ADHD may recall assignments and appointments better when they are consistent.

Memory strategies

Learn memory-boosting strategies such as chunking (splitting knowledge into smaller, more digestible parts) and mnemonic devices. These methods can help people recall knowledge more effectively.

Time management 

Use calendars, timers, alarms, and other time management tools to assist in planning your day and remind you of deadlines and crucial activities.

You may also like: How Do You Train Your Memory Like a Memory Champion? 

How to treat the causes of ADHD memory issues

Memory problems associated with ADHD can be difficult, but addressing the root causes and treating the symptoms can dramatically enhance memory function. 

Here are some methods for treating the memory problems caused by ADHD:

Medication management

To learn about your medication options for treating ADHD symptoms, speak with a healthcare professional. Methylphenidate and other stimulant medications can help with focus and attention disorders, which can help with memory problems. 

Additionally, you can take into account non-stimulant drugs like atomoxetine.

But you should always consult with your physician. 

Behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavioral parent training (BPT) are two behavioral therapies that can help manage the symptoms of ADHD and memory problems. Individuals can learn strategies from therapists to improve their planning, organization, and memory.

ADHD coaching 

Consider working with an ADHD coach who specializes in assisting people in coming up with coping mechanisms for their symptoms, such as memory issues. They can offer tailored support and direction.

Lifestyle adjustments

Changing to a healthy lifestyle improves mental disorders. This entails regular exercise, eating a balanced diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, and adhering to a regular sleep pattern.

Additionally, exercise can improve mental health issues and help with symptoms of ADHD.

Meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness practices can increase focus, lessen impulsivity, and improve memory. These techniques support people in maintaining present-moment awareness and successfully handling distractions.

Support systems

Count on the assistance of your friends, family, and coworkers. Inform others of your memory problems and ask for help when necessary.

Seek advice from a professional

Consult a neuropsychologist or an ADHD expert if memory problems persist or adversely impact your everyday life. They can perform evaluations and offer specialized advice.

Takeaway: Harness effective strategies to boost memory with ADHD

Remember this amid the maze of ADHD-related memory difficulties: having ADHD does not predestine you to forgetfulness. 

Simply put, it indicates that you have a special cognitive environment in which recall can involve a merry dance between hyperfocus and distraction.

Understanding and appreciating your unique cognitive style are the keys to realizing your memory potential. 

You can manage memory problems associated with ADHD while utilizing your talents for greater success by practicing a customized combination of tactics, from external assistance like calendars and reminders to mindfulness exercises and scheduled routines.

Don’t navigate these challenges by yourself! Sign up for the Maximizing Memory course, which is designed to assist you in improving your memory. 

With the help of an expert and a friendly community, you will discover how to use the peculiarities of your ADHD brain as an advantage that leads you toward memory mastery.

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