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Can ADHD Impact Your Memory?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect people differently. Some people only experience attention problems, while others go through symptoms of hyperactivity. Many people experience a combination of both. However, there are some other lesser-known symptoms that may be common. For instance, ADHD is linked to anxiety that causes teeth grinding, even at night. However, one of the more common issues that people with ADHD often have to deal with is memory issues. 

There’s usually nothing wrong with long term or short term memory. Children with ADHD can often remember words, numbers, instructions that they are able to pay attention to just as much as their peers. The problem often comes when they have to use and manipulate these memories by applying the information to tasks. This may be related to something called working memory

ADHD and Intelligence

Children and adults with ADHD typically don’t have I.Q. problems. Though they have some cognitive symptoms, they usually have average or above-average intelligence. They often enjoy learning at their own pace and resent school because it compels them to complete tasks they struggle to find motivation for. For that reason, ADHD often causes smart children to struggle with bad grades. Though they often don’t have intelligence issues, they do have issues with cognition. Staying focused, maintaining motivation through tasks, and resisting impulses can all be a challenge. An important part of cognitive functioning is working memory. 

What is Working Memory?

Working memory is the short term memory that helps you to complete tasks. It’s like a short term storage space that holds facts, thoughts, and ideas that you need to recall immediately. Working memory often helps you complete what is often referred to as an “internal plan.” For instance, if you’re writing a paper and you have some sources open in different tabs, your working memory will help you remember what information is in each tab, the information you just read a moment ago, and how you decided you want to word the paragraph you’re currently working on. Most people experience a working memory lapse whenever they enter a room and forget what they came for. 

Children and adults with ADHD often experience more working memory issues than the average person, which can impair their ability to complete tasks, especially in work or school. 

Can Working Memory Be Improved?

Working memory is malleable, and anyone can improve theirs, even people with ADHD. There are exercises that can help develop and improve working memory. Matching games are common exercises that heavily rely on working memory. Simple card games like Uno and Go Fish can also help children develop working memory. Reading, especially active reading while taking notes, can help improve working memory. For adults that are looking for more sophisticated challenges, there are apps like Lumosity that are said to challenge cognitive functions like working memory.

ADHD is more than just an issue of working memory. It can also affect your ability to stay motivated and focused. Untreated ADHD can get worse and lead to social isolation, suffering school, or work performance.

Sources

Alloway, T. P. (2016, June 27). What Is the Link Between ADHD and Working Memory? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/keep-it-in-mind/201606/what-is-the-link-between-adhd-and-working-memory

Burmester, A. (2017, June 5). Working Memory: How You Keep Things "In Mind" Over the Short Term. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/working-memory-how-you-keep-things-ldquo-in-mind-rdquo-over-the-short-term/

Dingfelder, S. F. (2005, September). A workout for working memory. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/sep05/workout

National Institute of Mental Health. (2019, September). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml

Luminosity. (2018, November 21). Lumosity Brain Training: Learn About Our Research. Retrieved from https://www.lumosity.com/en/science/

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