Memory Issues: Has anyone else been... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Memory Issues


Has anyone else been experiencing memory issues? I've been forgetting about appointments, assignments, conversations, etc. For example, I have no recollection of ever bringing up blank paper to my work room and yet here is a stack of blank paper. It's a bit scary. I'm about to turn 20, I don't believe I should be having memory issues like this even as someone with ADHD.

36 Replies

Hi. I definitely get how that would be scary! Certainly memory problems are a hallmark of ADHD, but there are many other possible causes, including insufficient sleep (less than 7-8 hours a day can absolutely impact memory), Vitamin B deficiency, and depression, among others. It’s also possible that stress and lack of structure during these crazy COVID times may be exacerbating your ADHD symptoms (certainly true for me). If your memory seems worse than usual, it’s important to speak with your doctor so they can rule out any medical issue and help you pinpoint the underlying reason. Good luck!

Thank you so much for your comment and suggestions. I always appreciate the idea of possible causes! I will be bringing up my concern with my therapist and getting her opinion! Unfortunately and ironically, I forgot to mention the memory issues to my nurse practitioner but they talk to each other and I can always email my NP. Someone close to me recently passed away and my memory has certainly declined since then, so I completely agree with you that stress can amplify symptoms.

The stress can definitely affect your memory. I have anxiety and ever since I’ve had it my memory has declined.

Anxiety and depression can absolutely impact memory even in people who don't have ADHD, so having either or both of those is not great. Fortunately, as I said in my comment to you below, there are people in the scientific community who are studying this. And, to you and anyone else who reads this comment, please feel free to message me if you would like. I am absolutely not an expert by any means, but I do have some knowledge about all this and love to answer questions about science or just talk about science or ADHD or anything else. I am here for you all.

I'm so sorry for your loss. That certainly could explain the memory issue, especially if it coincides with the timing. I can totally relate to forgetting to mention things during doctor's appointments. I usually keep notes of things I want to discuss with my therapist and psychiatrist, and then I'll forget to even look at the list. I love that you're planning to become a doctor--the human brain IS fascinating. Best wishes with your studies!

Thank you, my friend. It really was awful timing but luckily it wasn't unexpected. And yeah you'd think I would write things down but I fall into the trap of "oh I'll remember" which is funny that I would trust myself to remember to bring up my memory issues lol. Thank you very much! I'm just in love with it and am really excited to keep learning about it and how it interacts with the rest of our bodies!

I used to rely on my memory, too. Then I had kids. 😂

I feel you -- I usually have really strong working memory for an ADHDer but when I'm overwhelmed or something stressful is happening in my life, it goes pretty much out the window. It can be really jarring. This also happens in the time around my period when estrogen crashes -- not sure if that's something you deal with, but it has a huge impact on how my ADHD and working memory show up. It's disorienting and stressful and even causes me to feel depressed. What makes it worse in those times is that I still perceive myself as someone with good-normal memory, but then find myself "suddenly" with huge holes of things I can't remember. And the more I pay attention to it, the worse it seems to get (confirmation bias probably).

I agree with the other commenter that if you're worried or if it persists, it's worth talking to a healthcare provider about, but rest assured that what you're describing resonates as pretty normal. And I had a neuropsychologist tell me I couldn't have ADHD bc my working memory is too strong.

I am working to become either a neurologist or neuropathologist and hope to never, ever deny a patient's concerns due to one thing like strong working memory. I am so sorry that happened to you. I hope to bring awareness to ADHD as I go through my journey in medicine because of things like what happened to you.

As I commented above, I am experiencing an abnormal amount of stress and depression due to someone close to me passing away during the first week of school and my memory has declined since then so I am 99% sure that is what's causing the memory issues. It makes me feel stupid, like I can't go on to medical school because what if these issues don't go away. On one hand I'm glad I'm not alone in what I'm experiencing, and on the other I am sorry that you are also experiencing this. I also have amplified symptoms during my period, although for me I believe it's due to my iron deficiency anemia which I have to be super careful about during that week. The human body is just so fascinating in how it all works together to either help you live or cause you problems lol. I'm mostly interested in studying how things can go wrong, however I do appreciate when they go right!

Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm sorry for your loss -- I would bet that that is what's hitting your memory so hard right now. In my case, when I decided to go no contact with my family of origin a few years ago, I couldn't keep a thought in my head. I was undiagnosed then and convinced I was losing my mind. It was really scary.

The thing is there will always be cycles where it's harder and easier. It sucks that you're going through a tough patch now. Externalizing systems so that you don't have to feel so rocked by dips in memory or attention is hugely helpful, though it takes time. In that way, it will get better. Hang in there! We need more sympathetic and thoughtful doctors who understand the ADHD experience. Excited for your journey :)

Thank you, I agree with you that it's probably causing the memory issues. I'm sorry that you had to go through that; stress on top of the fear of losing memories is not a great combination especially if you're undiagnosed. I cannot imagine what that was like and I'm so sorry you had such a rough time. I hope things are better now, my friend.

By externalizing symptoms do you mean like writing things down? Sorry, I've heard of this concept before but ironically I can't remember what it is!

Thank you, I hope to be a source of compassion for patients who may not receive it otherwise. I'm big into education and hope to support my patients and educate them about their conditions, next steps and answer any and all questions they may have. I know some people just get the diagnosis and aren't really told anything about their condition or what to do next which is just awful. I hope to fully educate my patients (if they have the capacity to understand because some neuro patients might not) on their conditions. Sorry, long paragraph but it's something I'm passionate about and truly believe in.

Yup! That is classic ADHD. I’ve experienced that all of my life... even in childhood. It’s not that you don’t remember, it’s more so that you do so many different things all at once sometimes you do things without thinking or have conversations without thinking directly about it. This happens a lot less when I am on my ADHD stimulant.

Yes! Sometimes I'll be talking to someone, they'll say something and I'll immediately forget what they just said. Like "I promise I'm listening but can you repeat what you said cause I totally forgot". I have had a lot on my mind with 2 tests, declaring my major and keeping up with my social life and all my other classes. I am on a methylphenidate which I personally don't count as a stimulant because they really just kind of... extend the time that the stimulus lasts. Sorry, neurobiology major, don't mind me geeking out about this lol. I'm so glad you've found something that works for you! I'm also glad I'm not alone, but I'm sorry that you know the feeling as well.

Yes it likely the ADHD. It can happen your attention is drawn away from what you were doing with the paper and then not remember. I was trying to listen on my husband’s intense conversation with our son, when I had both my electronic cords in hand. When I went searching for them, thinking back I couldn’t even remember having them in my hands. I had put them in a place I’ve never before put them. When I saw my husband reach for them after a long search, I remembered myself place them there but still could not remember picking them up and taking them there. My brain was distracted away from the cords. Even if my life depended on it I couldn’t always depend on my mind remembering. I call it my mouse trap brain. No matter what I do my brain won’t let me lose and remember things when I want it to. I had trouble learning to read, do math etc. because of it. Same thing happens when I’m following a recipe and the ingredients look the same color, if I get distracted I won’t remember what I put in it. I have to pull everything out at once and at least put hard to tell ingredients back in the cabinet right after I put it in or I forget if I’ve added it to other ingredients or not. Also if there are to many steps I can’t remember them all and have to write them down. My mind become a sive with things fall out the holes.

I also have issues when I get hyper focused, I can’t always hear that someone is talking to me. Often I can’t remember that my husband left the house. I don’t know where he went. (Having cellphones now adays helps so much), but I feel so embarrassed. It takes multiple times to get my attention. I’m not ignoring on purpose. It’s a part of my losing time too. I can be working on something and have no idea how long time has passed. I can become late because of this too.

If I have something scheduled and then something changes, usually something falls through the cracks if it’s not written down and if don’t do regular check it. I set alarms often that helps.

I have all those same issues. I completely forgot about an appointment I had last week even though I had gotten text reminders about it because I didn't write it down. Like how ADHD is about "selective attention" (sort of), it feels like we also have "selective memory". We don't consciously select what we focus on or remember. It's so fascinating to me and I hope to be able to do research on it at some point! I am sorry that you experience this too, but I'm glad that you've found things that help you! Those solutions can mean the world even though they seem like simple fixes.

Yes I can definitely do things like this. Not some much when I was younger. I didn’t know I had ADHD and was more of the over compensating type. Always pushing my memory and multitasking skills and not accepting failure. It was very stressful and caused years of anxiety. Since my official ADHD breakdown 2 years ago, I’ve had awful “memory lapses”. For me it was a combination of sleep deprivation (I had a baby), stress, health issues and not being able to exercise my coping mechanism. I had all kinds of different coping mechanisms that I suddenly couldn’t exercise because EVERYTHING was on baby’s time and baby’s needs and baby’s wants and baby’s crying.... it actually felt like torture unfortunately. Now that I’m medicated and getting back on track my “memory” is getting better. I say “memory” like this because I realized it’s not just a “memory”problem. I started to do many things on autopilot. Going through the actions but my mind was elsewhere on more important things. I could do this dishes while planning my next baby sleep strategy. After the strategy was all ironed out, I would realize the dishes were all done and the laundry was folded but didn’t remember doing it. I only remembered the planning I was doing in my head. Because for me, doing dishes and folding laundry was such a common occurrence, I could do it without needing to think about it. Normally my multitasking would have been much stronger and I could do many things at liner and remember them all in extreme detail, but with the exhaustion and being overwhelmed my processing ability and function were diminished. I started to do a lot more things on autopilot.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing but if it’s bothering you I would suggest some stress relief, good sleep hygiene and some CBT to help you stay more “dialed in”. Other than that I’d say it’s pretty normal for ADHD.

Hope this helps.

Thank you for your suggestions. I've tried CBT before but I really just got nauseous lol (I am super sensitive when it comes to things that can make you nauseous). Everything else seems to help though, I just need to remember to actually do those things.

Autopilot absolutely affects memory, at least from what I have found. We aren't focusing directly on what we're doing, we're focusing on other thoughts in our brain while going through the motions. I think that's what happened with my stack of papers because I was bringing them up while about to take an exam.

Congratulations on having your baby! I do not have kids but as a neurobiology major I objectively understand that babies can absolutely impact sleep and therefore impact a variety of things that would negatively correlate with dealing with ADHD. I am sorry that you had to go through that. I applaud you, you deserve a medal my friend. I hope you are doing better!

Hahahaha! I don’t feel like the metal is mine yet! Having a baby was the absolute worst thing that’s ever happened to me. However, I was undiagnosed and unmedicated. Technically, having my son lead to my diagnosis and for that I couldn’t be more grateful! Now that I’m diagnosed and medicated things have definitely changed! If I would have known then, what we know now, it 100% would have been a much different experience! So my experience, I’m sure, isn’t what others would experience. Knowledge is power and if you have ADHD you can plan accordingly for the change. So anyone reading this, you’re on an ADHD site so you’re already miles ahead of where I was when I had my son and I’m sure you’ll be just fine!

But my son will be an only child 😂

I am sorry you have had a bad experience, my friend. I'm glad you are doing better, though!

All the time. I have a hard time remembering things in the short term, also. I lose things all the time, even with my 'have a set place for everything' routine. If I'm doing something and get distracted, I might entirely forget what I was doing. From what I know, this is just normal ADHD behavior. Planners and online apps for remembering things are how my mother functions, and I'm almost 100% sure she has ADHD also. Don't worry, you're not alone in this.

Thank you so much. I'm glad I'm not alone, but like the others I am sorry that you know the feeling. Working memory can be impacted by ADHD, although I'm not exactly sure why. I'll get back to you next semester when I take my behavioral (or cognitive) neuroscience class lol.

You must love your courses! They already sound so interesting to me. Keep me updated if you get any theories on working memory! I wonder about ADHD working memory and hormones! That my working theory though I have zero understanding of the whys or how’s. All I have is personal observation and experience. ADHD symptoms are notoriously exasperated in women during certain times of the month. Working memory is effective even in non ADHD women during premenopause and menopause. My mother, who we now realize has ADHD had such a diminished compacity during perimonopause that she was assessed for dementia! Personally, I’ve always struggled during certain times of the month. While I was pregnant, I felt the best I even had in my life! Postpartum, was impossible. I also breastfed. FOR 2 YEARS!!! Breastfeeding puts a women’s body in a sort of menopause with hormones. I’m positive it added to my destruction but didn’t realize until I got my cycle back at about 22 months postpartum. Then my life started to “swing like a pendulum”.

Anyway.... all kinda in the past. I feel like my hormones are getting back into the swing of things and with the diagnosis and medication I see constant improvement.

Have fun in school! Sounds super interesting.

Hormones are a huge factor in behavior and memory, but I don't know why they impact memory. I know I get super clumsy and forgetful as many people do, but I just don't know why. Unfortunately for me, the Endocrine system is just the absolute worst to learn about (in my opinion lol). Everything sounds the same and basically does the same things but they're all different in slightly different ways and it's so obnoxious!!! But in cases like this I'm happy to learn about hormone pathways lol.

I will absolutely try to keep you updated on the working memory stuff... If I remember!


Yeah I know that memory issues are very common with ADHD. I’m like that with a lot of things like names and forgetting to put things away or notice they’re right in front of me. It’s like I have to work extra hard to remember a thing is there otherwise it’s almost like it’s existence has been erased.

I've been learning in my psychology class about the idea of object permanence. I find this "out of sight out of mind" idea to be so fascinating in those of us with ADHD. The idea is normally thought of in reference to infants, but to them it's like the object is legitimately gone. For us, we know that the object is still there somewhere but we just cannot find it in the physical world or our memory which makes it seem like it doesn't exist. Sorry, I don't mean to compare us to infants, I just find this to be the "adult" version of the object permanence idea. I'm sorry you also go through these symptoms but am comforted that I'm not alone.

OMG I love this reference. This saying “out of sight, out of mind” is an extremely common phrase in my family. Along with other phrases that indicate we ALLLLLL had ADHD and didn’t even know till I was diagnosed a few months ago. It was quiet a family ah ha moment. I am very out of sight out of mind. Especially with friends! I change jobs and move a lot and the second I’m working or living elsewhere, even the closest friend is just gone to me! I still think of them fondly and miss them in the fleeting thought but I don’t text. I don’t call. I don’t email. I may even ignore their call if I’m not in the mood to socialize until they give up. Genuinely, I love them! RIP all the friends I’ve ghosted through the years!

This is so me! After high school I just didn't keep in contact with any of my friends and just kinda fell off the map but they all keep in contact with each other and I feel kinda bad about it. I love them but I just keep forgetting to text them and stuff. Out of sight out of mind is totally a thing and now I'm going to ask my psych teacher about it next class lol. Or just send him a random email with this question because I have been known to do that. We'll see!

I’ve got the memory issues as well and I’m the same age. It’s awful. I will read a book or watch a movie and not remember what it even was about.

It can be very distressing to realize we don't remember something that we just experienced. I am sorry that you are having these symptoms and I hope that your distress can be alleviated in some way. Perhaps knowing that you are not alone in this is comforting. As I've commented, I'm a neurobiology major and would love to do some research into why we have these memory issues and possibly come up with a solution so we don't have to go through this symptom. I hope that may bring you comfort as well, but also know that I am not the only one thinking about this in the scientific community. I hope that helps, my friend. You are not alone in feeling this way.

Yes it can be. I have GAD so my anxiety is pretty constant. I am in college too. Studying psychology which has been interesting. Neurobiology seems very interesting too.

Thank you my friend.

I have GAD as well. Hello fellow psych/neuro person! I'm basically studying the biology behind psychology lol so I'm glad to see someone else from my field on here. I think it .com has articles on this stuff. This is frontal lobe brain stuff.

It sure is! The frontal lobe is primarily responsible for executive functioning. As ADHDers we typically have underdeveloped frontal lobes, as ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, so we have issues with planning, prioritizing and inhibition. The thing I find most interesting about the memory issues is that the frontal lobe isn't responsible for memories. Ironically, I can't remember what part of the brain IS responsible for memory, but I can name some of the parts that aren't lol.

omg, memory really sucks, I'm 54 and I can see how memory is a big issue with adhd

It is just the most interesting thing to me. As I said in earlier comments I really hope to be able to do research into why we as ADHDers tend to have poor working memories. I'm sorry you're also experiencing memory issues, my friend. But you are not alone!

U can have other things going on . S.A.D. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Causes a lot of forgetfulness & depression. It dose me also with ADD.

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