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About four percent of the adult population in the United States has a condition called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD can make every day a real challenge because of disruptive symptoms like forgetfulness. This article will discuss what causes forgetfulness and practical strategies to help manage it. 

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is a developmental disorder that is typically identified and diagnosed during childhood. Different regions of the brain are affected by ADHD. 

Some of the main challenges individuals experience include difficulties planning, focusing, and executing tasks. ADHD can be very difficult to live with if a system is not in place to manage symptoms that interfere with accomplishing simple tasks like remembering important items. A person’s career can also be affected if they cannot organize projects, meet deadlines, or sustain their focus. 

Types of ADHD

There are three main behavioral patterns in ADHD:

  • Inattentiveness 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Impulsivity 

Some people have all three groups of symptoms, which is called combined type ADHD. Others have inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. 

Why Do People With ADHD Have Poor Memory?

Forgetfulness is a common complaint in combined type and inattentive ADHD. 

It may take a lot of mental effort to remember simple things, like bathing or turning off the stove. Forgetfulness can also involve issues remembering things from long ago.

Working Memory 

Research shows that many individuals with ADHD have difficulties holding information in their working memory. Working memory is the “active, top-down manipulation of information held in short-term memory.” 

For example, when a person is doing arithmetics, they have to remember the calculations that came prior to the one they are doing now. Students must be able to follow steps in a chemistry lab to complete the assignment. A baker must be able to follow a recipe in order to bake a cake. Those with ADHD may struggle to complete tasks like these.

Aspects of a Working Memory

When the working memory is functioning well, a person can effectively:

  • Replace old or irrelevant information with new information 
  • Hold information in their mind while doing something else
  • Organize information based on time and sequence 

Long-Term Memory

Issues with long-term memory have been found in many individuals diagnosed with ADHD. Poor long-term memory may occur due to deficits in working memory. In other words, new information may not be processed and stored properly in the brain.

Learning Deficits

As researchers in one study asked, “Is there a genuine memory impairment characterized by deficient retention or retrieval processes, or are the observed memory and learning deficits induced at the stage of encoding?” Encoding is the first stage of learning. 

They concluded that problems with long-term memory are likely connected to “the initial learning of new material” rather than later memory processes like retention and retrieval. However, the details of the mechanisms by which ADHD impacts long-term memory are still under investigation. 

What Are Some Ways to Combat Forgetfulness?

ADHD is a life-long condition that requires conscious effort and a combination of management strategies to lead a happy and productive life. Therapy, medication, and self-help tactics can be employed in tandem to limit conflicts or disturbances that stem from forgetfulness.  

Therapy and Medication

Some people use both therapy and medication — like stimulants and non-stimulants — to manage forgetfulness. Others just opt for therapy. 

One type of therapy that is useful for ADHD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps clients alter patterns in thinking and behavior that cause distress. 

Self-Help Tips

Individuals can also implement simple, practical tips in everyday life to remember things. Some examples include:

Create a daily routine. 

Write down a simple step-by-step schedule for the morning, afternoon, and evening to serve as a reminder of when certain tasks should be performed. Post it somewhere it cannot be missed. 

Use technology. 

Put reminders on the phone calendar and set alarms so notifications go off. 

Organize your workspace. 

Having a disorganized workspace can be distracting and chaotic for the brain. Clean and organize anything that could interfere with the day’s work.

Use visual tools. 

Sticky notes can be placed in areas of the home or office that relate to the prompt. Physical calendars or journals may also be useful to organize dates and to-do items all in one place. Mindmaps can also be beneficial when organizing complex ideas for projects.

Enhance memory. 

Utilizing memory games and embracing tasks that require sequential progression can improve memory and reduce the anxiety that may accompany the task with practice. 

Make crucial connections. 

Whether done on paper or mentally, learning to make connections between ideas and pieces of information can aid in learning.

Do a brain dump. 

As a busy parent, worker, or business owner, there may be a lot to remember or accomplish at one time. “Dumping” all these tasks on a piece of paper and then organizing them into categories can help capture anything floating around in the mind that can be distracting. Try this at the end of each week. 

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder that impairs the brain’s executive functions. This can manifest as frequently forgetting dates and tasks. Being unable to remember things can affect many domains of a person’s personal and professional life. This is why it is important to determine which management strategies work best. West Coast Recovery Centers is an outpatient treatment program for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the frustration and shame that ADHD can arouse. Negative experiences involving these emotions can lead to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as substance abuse. We believe ADHD can be treated by taking a comprehensive, client-centered approach. Traditional and holistic therapies and medication management are available. If you or someone you love is struggling to keep their life in order because of ADHD, call us today at (760) 492-6509

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