How Do You Memorize Things with ADHD? (Explained!)
ADHD is a common childhood disorder that can prevail into adulthood and cause problems with memory.
Adults and children with ADHD often experience learning disabilities and have trouble remembering and retaining the information they learn. You can use visuals, create links, and contextualize associations in the information you learn to improve your memory skills.
There are many ways to aid your memory, promote your learning abilities, and improve your working memory if you have ADHD.
In this article, we will discuss the common challenges faced by people with ADHD and the methods they can employ to improve memory.
Can people with ADHD memorize things?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as attention-deficit disorder (ADD) but more commonly known as ADHD, is a problem that can lead to losing two kinds of memory: working and long-term.
People with ADHD can use different techniques to promote memory. These include creating vivid pictures of the information that needs to be memorized and utilizing memorization strategies.
The cognitive condition is usually diagnosed during childhood, which makes people with ADHD process and experience information differently than neurotypical people.
The prevalence rate is 5-6% in children, and the persistence rate of symptoms into adulthood is as high as 50-80%.
In contrast, neurodivergent people have brains that function differently, i.e., they experience cognitive problems like ADHD, dyslexia, or Tourette’s syndrome.
If you have the condition, you may experience forgetfulness more often and find it difficult to execute tasks requiring short-term memory.
But how can you tell if it’s ADHD-related memory problems or something else?
Memory loss feels the same whether it’s a symptom of ADHD or something else. However, certain clues can help you or those around you determine whether your forgetfulness is ADHD or something else.
Doctors also often ask the same questions to diagnose the problem.
The first question is to see when the problem started. ADHD symptoms start showing up in childhood. If your memory loss is a new problem, it is most likely that the cause can be something else.
Analyzing what you forget and experiencing other symptoms like headaches and blurred vision can also help you see whether your cognitive problem is ADHD or something else. Nonetheless, it’s very important to get it diagnosed by a medical practitioner.
The level of memory loss also depends on the type of ADHD a person might have. It’s the most common neurodevelopmental disorder with three different types that can impact your memory. They include:
Predominantly inattentive presentation
People with this type of ADHD struggle with attention and concentration. This can lead to overlooking details or difficulty in following through on tasks.
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation
This presentation of ADHD makes a person have excess energy – you’ll feel more excited and impulsive or might experience trouble sitting still. Common problems include impatience, interrupting conversations or lessons, fidgeting, etc.
People who showcase aspects of the above types/presentations are said to have a combined presentation.
You may also like: How Does Memory Work in Psychology? (Answered!)
What challenges do people with ADHD have with their working memory?
Working memory is active, top-down manipulation of information held in short-term memory. It includes interconnected functions that guide behavior while dual processing, updating, and temporal/sequential manipulation of internally held information.
Working memory helps you turn the information you learn into action, for instance, remembering guidelines long enough to finish a task.
People with ADHD and a weak working memory find it hard to follow instructions, keep track of conversations, or complete tasks that require multiple steps.
Research shows that working memory difficulties are significant in children with ADHD. It can also contribute to behavioral symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
Furthermore, working memory includes three anatomically and functionally distinct components:
Phonological short-term memory
This function is responsible for rehearsing and temporarily storing language-based, auditory/verbal information, i.e., the information you hear.
This part is also called the working component of the working memory and triggers responses to information stored in short-term memory.
Visuospatial short-term memory
This function in the working memory provides temporary storage of spatial/visual information that cannot be coded verbally.
The challenges that people might face due to a deficit in working memory originate from problems in these three components.
Moreover, people with a poor working memory may face challenges like:
- Difficulty in understanding complex instructions and keeping up with them.
- Struggling to keep track of multiple tasks and forgetting a bunch of them, for instance, your child may struggle to keep track of their homework and misplace the relevant material just because their brain couldn’t hold too much information.
- A lack of working memory can cause a person to become antagonistic or unmotivated, leading to emotional bursts and behavioral problems.
- Working memory problems can lead to learning disabilities as they can prevent you from storing short-term memories that help acquire new long-term memories.
- Working memory also affects academic subjects such as reading and math.
What challenges do people with ADHD have with their long-term memory?
Problems with long-term memory are also associated with ADHD. Long-term memory problems stem from working memory. Challenges may include storing the information in a disorganized way, leading to less effective processing and preventing entry into long-term memory.
Long-term memory refers to memories that have been stored through working memory.
Research has shown that long-term memory problems are a frequently reported symptom of adult ADHD. Adults tend to perform poorly on long-term memory tests.
This limitation is also a result of learning disabilities caused by ADHD and not necessarily from the impact of ADHD on your brain.
Here are a few things to note:
- Memory deficits in ADHD reflect a learning deficit induced at the stage of learning and encoding information. Encoding is when your brain associates context with experiences.
- ADHD that impacts long-term memory may showcase overlapping symptoms of ADHD and a type of dementia called mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
- There aren’t any recollections or memories because your working memory didn’t process them.
- Distractions prevent you from taking in information, making it harder to improve memory recall.
- Hyperactivity and impulsivity may also cause people, especially children, to get easily excited and not sit still for a long time, making it harder to focus.
How to memorize things with ADHD
Children and adults with ADHD face challenges when maximizing their memory. However, there are some common techniques that can help with memorizing things.
These techniques focus on improving the functional components of the working memory, which in turn also helps to improve long-term memory.
Focusing on the executive functioning of the working memory helps in retaining, processing and organizing information.
Let’s examine these techniques.
Using visual cues
Working memory is the active maintenance of visual information to help process tasks, which includes the part responsible for information maintenance and focuses on the central executive system. This directly affects the attention process.
Colors, images, actions, and details in the visuals can enhance memory. They cause a stronger and faster reaction than words and help people use emotional reactions to influence information retention.
Visual memory is encoded in the brain’s medial temporal lobe, the same place used for emotion processing. Thus, visuals help an ADHD brain to remember things better.
Students with ADHD can be encouraged to use images of things they already know and learn new things by drawing connections to those images and the new concepts they learn.
Since both short-term and long-term memory store information in chunks, it’s encouraged to use visuals as they help to pair the concepts.
Moreover, visuals are processed faster in the brain compared to text. This ultimately improves comprehension and leads to better memory.
Utilizing mnemonic devices
Mnemonics are memory tools that can help you easily register and learn information. They help learn large chunks of information at once and remember information in a sequence.
This is especially important to not just learn about words and facts but also help people with ADHD to remember things in their correct order. For instance, they can help remember the colors of the rainbow, the names of the planets in order, or the alphabet.
Some mnemonics types include music mnemonics, rhyme mnemonics, acrostics/acronyms, etc.
You may also like: How Do You Train Your Memory Like a Memory Champion?
Employing a task manager
People with ADHD tend not to do well with long and complicated tasks. In that case, a task manager helps to streamline information and execute tasks without feeling overwhelmed.
This also helps to train your memory to focus on tasks and make it easier to reiterate them so you dont forget.
You stay focused by taking notes on the important stuff for certain tasks and making to-do lists. The task manager then helps to keep track of these tasks.
Our Personal Productivity course is also a great resource that helps you create an effective to-do list and boosts your productivity.
Getting enough sleep
ADHD is associated with cortical-striatal dysfunction that can lead to procedural memory abnormalities. In this case, sleep plays a critical role in processing memories.
Thus, altered sleep patterns or inconsistent sleep can lead to skill-learning impairments.
Lack of sleep also increases the load on attentional resources for people with ADHD, reducing their ability to memorize things.
Mind maps are easy to make and help people with ADHD grasp different concepts by visually depicting the relationships between key points.
You can start by writing down different ideas and then using visuals to devise connections between ideas that may be related to each other.
Using geomatics shaped around the ideas and color coding can also enhance memory.
Dry text can be hard to learn. To make things more interesting, you can use analogies to make the information more meaningful and relevant to your life.
Since adults with ADHD have difficulty remembering things in long-term memory, this technique is highly effective.
Crafting diverse stories and aligning them with the content you’re studying can make the material distinct and facilitate quicker storage in your brain.
Takeaway: Utilize effective techniques to enhance memory with ADHD
ADHD is a cognitive problem that can cause a lack of memorization. If used correctly, techniques like mnemonic devices and mind mapping can promote memorization for both working and long-term memory.
Before you learn something, it has to be passed through working memory and filtered into the prefrontal cortex. These techniques can help to retain information for longer in the working memory.
If you need help maximizing your memory, Iris’s Maximizing Memory course is a great option for people with ADHD. It’s an ideal course that helps you improve your focus, eliminate distractions, and improve working and long-term memory.