ADHD and Memory: Effects, Tips, Treatment & More (2023)

ADHD and Memory: Effects, Tips, Treatment & More (1)Share on Pinterest

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a cognitive condition that is usually diagnosed during childhood. The American Psychiatric Association estimates that 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD.

People with ADHD experience and process information differently than people who are neurotypical. If you have the condition, you may feel that forgetfulness tends to occur more often, and you may find tasks that require using short-term memory more challenging. ADHD can also impact the way that your long-term memory functions.

Researchers are still working to understand the exact impact of ADHD on memory for children and adults. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can cause adults and children to have difficulty focusing.

People with ADHD may appear to be inattentive at times and forget important things more often. This is defined as inattentive type ADHD. They may also interrupt or express disruptive behavior more often. This is known as hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD.

The most common version of ADHD is a combination of these symptoms, known as combined hyperactive-impulsive/inattentive type.

(Video) Why I Can't Remember Things -- How ADHD Affects Working Memory

ADHD is not autism

ADHD is not the same as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is a separate condition according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).

It is possible to have both conditions, but each has a distinct set of diagnostic criteria. Associated behaviors may also manifest themselves differently even among individuals with one or both conditions.

Each of these types of ADHD results from a biological cause related to brain activity. The frontal lobe of the brain, which steers your impulse control, attentiveness, and memory, seems to develop more slowly if you have ADHD.

ADHD and working memory

Working memory is the small amount of information that your mind holds as you’re working to complete a task.

Think of it as the part of your brain that holds a phone number while you’re dialing it. Working memory holds a little bit of data at a time while you work on completing something, “copying” the data from one place and “pasting” it in another place before forgetting whatever it was.

One 2020 study showed that ADHD impacts working memory in the majority of children who have it. A 2013 research review supported the idea that this impact continues into adulthood.

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Working memory is strongly associated with intelligence and learning ability, so people with ADHD may be unfairly assessed in terms of what they are capable of learning. Without a strong working memory, it becomes important to develop coping skills and alternative learning strategies that rely less on that function of the brain.

ADHD may also impact the way that children’s brains perceive time itself. Time perception is linked to working memory. This may also explain part of why people with ADHD experience more challenges getting to places on time.

A small 2007 study looked at time perception in 40 children with ADHD and 40 children without ADHD. Children with ADHD had more difficulty perceiving the difference between a short, medium, and long duration of time.

ADHD and long-term memory

What’s less understood is ADHD’s effect on long-term memory and memory loss.

A 2013 research review looked at medical literature that studied adults with ADHD. The authors concluded that ADHD tends to limit long-term memory abilities more often. But that research review also suggested that this limitation results from learning disabilities caused by ADHD, not necessarily from the impact of ADHD on your brain.

In other words, the research review suggested that kids with ADHD tend to experience challenges developing the same long-term memory skills as kids without ADHD, which can then carry over into adulthood without additional coping or compensation mechanisms.

The relationship between ADHD and memory loss is another area of uncertainty in the ADHD research literature.

(Video) How to Treat ADHD [Without Medication]

A 2017 research review showed that researchers are not clear on whether having ADHD as an adult puts you at a higher risk for developing dementia or other cognitive disorders relating to memory earlier in life.

ADHD and dementia appear to impact the brain in similar ways, making this a complicated question with many variables. The 2017 research review above discussed the overlapping symptoms of ADHD and a type of dementia called mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Due to the difficulty in distinguishing the exact cause of MCI and ADHD symptoms like forgetfulness occurring more often or experiencing difficulty focusing for extended periods, the line between ADHD and dementia symptoms in adulthood can often be unclear.

Some ADHD-related behaviors can be modified with lifestyle adjustments that can help you better adjust to the rhythms of work and home life.

  • Try to avoid certain ingredients in your diet. FD&C Red No. 40 (a food coloring ingredient) and sodium benzoate have been linked to increased hyperactive behaviors in children. Further research is needed to confirm this.
  • Try avoiding allergy triggers that can affect brain function. If you suspect that allergen exposure makes ADHD symptoms worse, consider getting an allergy test to help avoid triggers.
  • Look into ADHD management tools. Try an app or calendar that tracks dates and times for events, a key-dropping bin, or a charging station where devices can be stored. These can help reduce the stress you might feel trying to remember everything you need to.
  • Consider cutting out caffeine. Try replacing caffeinated beverages with an herbal brew that uses calming ingredients. Ginseng and chamomile tea may be a good swap for starting your mornings off focused and refreshed. Some research suggests that drinking tea can improve your memory.
  • Take a look at herbal supplements. These types of supplements may help you reduce the stress you may experience from ADHD behaviors.

These tips aren’t a replacement for an action plan for treatment that you make with a doctor or ADHD specialist, but they can help with behaviors or memory issues that you find interfere with your daily activities.

How can I treat the causes of ADHD-related memory issues?

(Video) Why People With ADHD Struggle to remember Things

Medication to manage ADHD-related behaviors may also work to improve your working memory. These medications aim to improve your focus and make daily tasks feel less intimidating.


Stimulant medication is widely prescribed to treat ADHD.

A small 2012 study showed that stimulant medication may help strengthen the connectivity in your frontal cortex with other parts of your brain, helping with working memory.

Methylphenidate (Daytrana) and Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) are two drugs that have been studied for their effect on working memory, according to the same small 2012 study above.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another form of treatment for ADHD.

CBT aims to change your thought patterns to help you manage your emotions and behaviors. CBT may be able to improve behaviors related to your time perception and working memory, such as helping you be on time for events.

CBT may also help with goal-setting, planning, and execution of tasks. These are all related to your working memory.

The takeaway

(Video) 6 things I DID NOT know were ADHD RELATED! Full video on the channel! #shorts #adhd #mentalhealth

At times, people with ADHD experience challenges remembering certain things because they experience and process information differently.

If the person who is experiencing challenges with memory loss is a child, the symptom may improve as their brain continues its natural development. This symptom of ADHD may also be modified or improved with a successful treatment or management plan developed with a medical professional.


How can I improve my memory with ADHD? ›

“You Would Forget Your Head…”
  1. Get emotional. Positive emotions set the stage for new learning. ...
  2. Get creative. Novelty helps a child with ADHD remember information. ...
  3. Use sensory cues. Studies show that the scent of peppermint enhances alertness and facilitates learning. ...
  4. Create mnemonics. ...
  5. Get moving.
Jan 29, 2020

What ADHD medication helps with memory? ›

Methylphenidate (Daytrana) and Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) are two drugs that have been studied for their effect on working memory, according to the same small 2012 study above.

What are the best coping skills for ADHD? ›

But a few simple approaches can at least make it easier to do the work.
  • Declutter your home and office. Give yourself an appealing work environment and keep important items easily accessible.
  • Reduce distractions. ...
  • Jot down ideas as they come to you.
Feb 5, 2021

Why do people with ADHD struggle to remember things? ›

People with ADHD often don't do well on tests of long-term memory. But scientists believe that has to do with how they process information. When you have ADHD, distractions may prevent you from taking in information, or your brain may store it in a disorganized way.

How can I strengthen my ADHD brain? ›

ADHD brain exercises
  1. sudoku.
  2. crosswords.
  3. jigsaw puzzles.
  4. playing cards.
  5. drawing Zentangles.
  6. building with Legos.
Oct 5, 2021

Does Adderall help with memory? ›

If you have a stressful situation, this chemical will increase blood sugar levels and blood pressure to prepare you for the situation. Higher levels of norepinephrine can also cause you to feel euphoric, help increase attention and focus, and improve your memory.

What is the best stimulant for memory? ›

Prescription smart drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, have the strongest and most significant effects on memory and attention. Synthetic nootropic supplements like Noopept and piracetam are widely available, but research on their effectiveness in healthy adults is lacking.

Which drug is used to improve memory? ›

Treats cognitive symptoms (memory and thinking)
Name (Generic/Brand)Indicated For
Rivastigmine Exelon®Mild to moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's
Memantine Namenda®Moderate to severe dementia due to Alzheimer's
Memantine + Donepezil Namzaric®Moderate to severe dementia due to Alzheimer's
2 more rows

How do I stop forgetting things? ›

  1. Be physically active every day. Physical activity raises blood flow to the whole body, including the brain. ...
  2. Stay mentally active. ...
  3. Spend time with others. ...
  4. Stay organized. ...
  5. Sleep well. ...
  6. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  7. Manage chronic health problems.

What calms ADHD people down? ›

Adults with ADHD

find ways to help you relax, such as listening to music or learning breathing exercises for stress. if you have a job, speak to your employer about your condition, and discuss anything they can do to help you work better.

What is the most effective intervention for ADHD? ›

Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used ADHD medications. Between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these fast-acting medications.

Does ADHD cause extreme forgetfulness? ›

Memory problems such as forgetfulness and poor working memory are linked to ADHD. People with ADHD may have difficulty encoding and processing information in their working memory, which may lead to problems with long-term memory.

How bad is ADHD forgetfulness? ›

It's human to forget things occasionally, but for someone with ADHD, forgetfulness tends to occur more often. This can include routinely forgetting where you've put something or what important dates you need to keep. Sometimes forgetfulness can be bothersome but not to the point of causing serious disruptions.

Does ADHD get worse with age? ›

Can Your ADHD Get Worse as You Age? ADHD is a developmental disorder that's typically diagnosed during childhood. While the symptoms of ADHD may change with age, this condition often persists into adulthood. Rather than intensifying with age, ADHD tends to improve, especially with ongoing treatment and management.

What vitamins help with brain ADHD? ›

Moreover, studies provide evidence that those with ADHD have altered dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) function.
  • Zinc. ...
  • Magnesium. ...
  • Vitamin D. ...
  • Vitamin B. ...
  • Essential Fatty Acid (EPA) ...
  • Melatonin. ...
  • Ginkgo Biloba. ...
  • Ginseng.

How can I increase my dopamine naturally for ADHD? ›

You can also do the following to increase your dopamine levels:
  1. Try something new.
  2. Make a list of small tasks and complete them.
  3. Listen to music you enjoy.
  4. Exercise regularly.
  5. Try meditation or yoga.

How can I increase dopamine levels naturally for ADHD? ›

Getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music, meditating, and spending time in the sun can all boost dopamine levels. Overall, a balanced diet and lifestyle can go a long way in increasing your body's natural production of dopamine and helping your brain function at its best.

What are the alternatives to Adderall? ›

Several alternatives to Adderall show promise in reducing ADHD symptoms, including some nonstimulant ADHD meds like Strattera (atomoxetine), Intuniv (Guanfacine) and Kapvay (clonidine).

At what age should you stop taking Adderall? ›

Medications that are FDA-approved specifically for ADHD in adults are the stimulants Adderall XR, Concerta, Focalin XR, Vyvanse, and the nonstimulant Strattera. The approved maximum age for use of these medications varies from fifty-five to sixty-five.

Is it OK to take Adderall everyday? ›

Long-term use of Adderall could lead to addiction, heart problems, slowed growth in children, or mental health issues.

What vitamin helps memory and focus? ›

Vitamin B1 or thiamin is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for brain function, memory, and focus. It works by helping the body to convert carbohydrates into energy, which is necessary for neurological function. Foods high in vitamin B1 include meat, nuts, fish, chicken, and whole grains.

Is there anything that really helps memory? ›

Proven ways to protect memory include following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in check. Living a mentally active life is important, too. Just as muscles grow stronger with use, mental exercise helps keep mental skills and memory in tone.

What is the 3 word memory test? ›

A third test, known as the Mini-Cog, takes 2 to 4 minutes to administer and involves asking patients to recall three words after drawing a picture of a clock. If a patient shows no difficulties recalling the words, it is inferred that he or she does not have dementia.

What is the 5 word memory test? ›

Administration: The examiner reads a list of 5 words at a rate of one per second, giving the following instructions: “This is a memory test. I am going to read a list of words that you will have to remember now and later on. Listen carefully. When I am through, tell me as many words as you can remember.

Does B12 help with memory? ›

Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to impaired cognition and memory along with a sensation of tingling and numbness, an outcome of poor myelination.

Why do I forget what I read easily? ›

After reading, you may find it almost impossible to retain the information acquired. It may be due to lack of adequate sleep and rest, distractions while reading, poor nutrition, failure to choose the right book, or memory issues such as decay or shallow processing.

What is it called when you forget things easily? ›

Brain trauma, or a brain disease, can lead to a severe form of forgetfulness called amnesia. Typical patients either forget information from their past, are unable to make new memories, or experience both types.

Why do I forget what I just learned? ›

According to the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus's forgetting curve, you will forget 90% of what you learn within one month. This means that there is a gradual decline in the amount of information retained after learning. This is because new information is typically stored in our short-term memory.

What aggravates ADHD? ›

11 Things That Make Adult ADHD Worse
  • Lack of Exercise. 1/11. If your memory is hazy, your ADHD may be to blame. ...
  • Eating Out Often. 2/11. ...
  • Too Much Junk Food. 3/11. ...
  • Skipping Breakfast. 4/11. ...
  • Messy Homes and Offices. 5/11. ...
  • Too Much Stuff. 6/11. ...
  • The Wrong Meds. 7/11. ...
  • Lack of Sleep. 8/11.
Nov 18, 2021

What irritates ADHD? ›

Irritability can be a common experience for children and adults with ADHD. Causes of ADHD-related irritability can include feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, relationship issues, lack of support, lack of sleep, stress, and in some cases, amphetamine-derived medication, such as Adderall.

How do people with ADHD argue? ›

Many ADHD symptoms and traits can affect a person's ability to resolve conflicts. For instance, being unable to manage their emotions well can get in the way of toning down a confrontation. Being easily distracted, talking too fast or interrupting a conversation, and forgetfulness can also cause conflicts.

What does an ADHD shutdown look like? ›

Differences in emotions in people with ADHD can lead to 'shutdowns', where someone is so overwhelmed with emotions that they space out, may find it hard to speak or move and may struggle to articulate what they are feeling until they can process their emotions.

Do people with ADHD overthink things? ›

The ADHD brain also gets easily consumed. This means ADHD and overthinking kind of go hand in hand. The ADHD brain grasps hold of your thoughts and runs away with them, while emotions keep the engine running.

What are 5 treatments for ADHD? ›

There are 5 types of medicine licensed for the treatment of ADHD:
  • methylphenidate.
  • lisdexamfetamine.
  • dexamfetamine.
  • atomoxetine.
  • guanfacine.

What are 3 treatments for ADHD? ›

Based on the best available evidence, effective strategies include treating ADHD with medication, parent-delivered behavior therapy, and teacher-delivered behavior therapy.

What can you take for ADHD that is natural? ›

Natural Remedies & Treatments for ADHD
  • Supplements.
  • Therapy.
  • EEG biofeedback.
  • Calming techniques.
  • Maintaining healthy sleep habits.
  • Paying attention to your diet.
  • Getting enough exercise.
Jul 25, 2022

Do people with ADHD have anger issues? ›

Anger is not on the official list of ADHD symptoms . However, many adults with ADHD struggle with anger, especially impulsive, angry outbursts . Triggers can include frustration, impatience, and even low self-esteem. A number of prevention tips may help adults with ADHD manage anger as a symptom.

Does ADHD cause memory fog? ›

In adults, ADHD often produces problems with memory and attention rather than hyperactivity. "Two to three percent of people in their 60s or older have traits of ADHD that are impairing," says Dr.

Can ADHD medication help with memory? ›

Stimulant medication is widely prescribed to treat ADHD. A small 2012 study showed that stimulant medication may help strengthen the connectivity in your frontal cortex with other parts of your brain, helping with working memory.

What are the 3 main symptoms of ADHD? ›

The 3 categories of symptoms of ADHD include the following:
  • Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
  • Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
  • Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.

Do ADHD people have poor working memory? ›

Studies show that children with ADHD have a significant deficit in working memory compared to their typically developing peers. Learning about what it means to have poor working memory is the key to understanding many of your child's challenges.

What age is ADHD hardest? ›

At what age are symptoms of ADHD the worst? The symptoms of hyperactivity are typically most severe at age 7 to 8, gradually declining thereafter. Peak severity of impulsive behaviour is usually at age 7 or 8. There is no specific age of peak severity for inattentive behaviour.

What is the average lifespan of a person with ADHD? ›

ADHD can reduce life expectancy by as much as 13 years, but its risk is reversible.

How much sleep do ADHD people need? ›

“The typical person will be wide awake at 3 or 4 a.m. and have to get up at 7 to go to work.”Like everyone else, ADHD adults need seven or eight hours of sleep a night to promote health and prevent fatigue during the day, says psychiatrist Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.

Can people with ADHD have a really good memory? ›

Although they do not have problems with long-term memories, people with ADHD may have impaired short-term — or working — memory, research shows. As a result, they may have difficulty remembering assignments or completing tasks that require focus or concentration.

Does ADHD make you very forgetful? ›

It's human to forget things occasionally, but for someone with ADHD, forgetfulness tends to occur more often. This can include routinely forgetting where you've put something or what important dates you need to keep. Sometimes forgetfulness can be bothersome but not to the point of causing serious disruptions.

Does memory training help ADHD? ›

Working memory training is a specific type of cognitive training aimed at improving that particular skill, which is thought to be especially critical for learning. This type of training is commonly utilized for people with ADHD, who frequently struggle with working memory.

How do you get rid of brain fog from ADHD? ›

Cardio exercise , such as running, biking, or swimming, can help dispel ADHD brain fog in the short term, and it can have longer lasting cognitive effects. Exercise may be more effective for children than adults, according to some studies.

Does ADHD cause brain fog? ›

(1) ADHD symptoms can include forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, and brain fog. Brain fog is often associated with ADHD and causes people to feel unfocused and mentally exhausted.

Can ADHD mimic dementia? ›

Some patients with very late-onset ADHD may be misdiagnosed with dementia because their symptoms arise in the pre-elderly or elderly stages of life. Distinguishing between very late-onset ADHD and dementia may be useful in preventing misdiagnosis.

What is ADHD forgetfulness like? ›

Forgetfulness in ADHD

When that's impaired, it can lead to annoying and disruptive symptoms like: Losing things, even things you just had a few minutes earlier. Missing appointments, dates, and other plans. Abandoning a task midway because you forgot you were doing it.

Do puzzles help with ADHD? ›

It sounds simple, but these are great tools for kids with ADHD. Crossword puzzles improve attention for words and sequencing ability. Likewise, picture puzzles, in which your younger child has to look for things that are “wrong” in the picture or look for hard-to-find objects, also improve attention and concentration.

How do you train an ADHD brain to focus? ›

Tips for ADHD focus
  1. Create a thought dump. Distraction can be one of the greatest hurdles when it comes to focusing on a task. ...
  2. Interrupt yourself. ...
  3. Work with someone you trust. ...
  4. Work toward clarity. ...
  5. Give yourself deadlines. ...
  6. Turn off your smartphone. ...
  7. Use organization tools. ...
  8. Write yourself notes (not just reminders!)
Jun 24, 2021

What are good activities for adults with ADHD? ›

These activities can help you learn to ignore distractions and stay focused by building new skills and flooding your system with useful hormones.
  • Give your mind time to wander. ...
  • Schedule regular moderate physical exercise. ...
  • Try a body doubling session. ...
  • Make time for play and creativity. ...
  • Practice attentive listening.
Oct 10, 2022

What is the best drug to improve memory? ›

Cholinesterase inhibitors are the first choice of treatment for memory loss. The doctor may also prescribe the single-dose drug combination Namzeric to treat moderate to severe memory loss.


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