Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can create deficiencies in short-term, long-term, and working memory. However, memory training may help improve ADHD-related memory difficulties.

ADHD is a neurocognitive condition. Symptoms can include trouble maintaining attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Some people with ADHD may experience difficulties with working memory and verbal long-term memory. However, they may be able to improve memory-related problems with memory training and other treatments to manage ADHD symptoms.

This article looks at the effects of ADHD on different memory types. It will also discuss management options, when to speak with a doctor, and tips for improving memory in people with ADHD.

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ADHD may negatively affect people’s memory. However, research suggests these potential effects differ for working and long-term memory.

Working and short-term memory

A 2020 study suggests children with ADHD can have impairments in working memory. Working memory is a type of memory that retains small packages of information in an easily accessible form.

People rely on working memory to manage and achieve tasks throughout the day. It retrieves information from short-term memory, which holds information for a limited time.

The study also suggests that ADHD may have links to some problems with visuospatial short-term memory. This type of memory provides temporary storage for spatial and visual information.

However, it notes no link between these visuospatial short-term memory problems and ADHD symptom severity.

Long-term memory

According to a 2017 review, memory problems are common in people with ADHD.

It suggests that adults with ADHD perform consistently worse than control participants on verbal long-term memory tests. However, these memory deficits do not affect visual long-term memory.

The same paper suggests that, in people with ADHD, there is no reduction in the capacity to recall verbal long-term memories. Rather, the problem is the creation of such long-term memories.

In other words, those with ADHD may experience difficulty storing information in long-term memory when that information comes from speech.

One way someone may be able to improve ADHD-related memory issues is by managing the ADHD itself.

A 2021 review article details some options available to manage cognitive function and other symptoms of ADHD. They include:

Treatment and management options will usually depend on the memory difficulties a person is experiencing and whether ADHD or another condition is the cause.

People experiencing ADHD-related memory difficulties may also be able to improve their working memory with certain types of training.

How to improve memory with ADHD

Working memory training uses memory exercises and positive feedback to improve people’s working memories. Individuals can undergo this training digitally.

According to a 2021 review, there is evidence that this training can improve working memory and other executive functions in those with ADHD.

However, these positive effects can vary significantly from person to person. While some people might make substantial gains in working memory which last over time, others could notice little effect.

In particular, the review suggests that working memory training may be most effective in younger people and in those with greater motivation to improve their memory.

Individuals experiencing memory problems may choose to seek a doctor’s advice. A doctor may be able to suggest tips for improving and managing memory problems relating to ADHD symptoms.

A doctor will also be able to help a person learn if their memory issues are related to ADHD rather than another condition or cause. As a 2020 case report suggests, similar symptoms may also occur in other conditions, such as dementia.

Further symptoms of ADHD can include:

  • difficulties concentrating or maintaining attention
  • periods of hyperactivity
  • procrastination
  • frequent changes in mood
  • difficulties with planning, organization, and time management

If a child has such symptoms, as well as memory difficulties, parents should consider discussing this with a doctor.

Here are some frequently asked questions about difficulties with memory relating to ADHD.

Can ADHD mimic dementia?

According to a 2020 study, late-onset ADHD can sometimes mimic dementia, for instance, by causing inattention and forgetfulness. In some cases, this can lead to a misdiagnosis.

A person can speak with their doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis if they have concerns about these symptoms.

Does ADHD cause brain fog?

Brain fog, also known as sluggish cognitive tempo, can be a symptom of ADHD.

A 2022 article also suggests that people with ADHD may attribute their feelings of brain fog to their ADHD.

ADHD symptoms include difficulty maintaining attention and hyperactivity. However, there is evidence that the condition may also cause problems with memory.

When it comes to short-term and working memory, ADHD can negatively affect people’s memorization of visual and verbal information. The condition may also affect long-term verbal memory, inhibiting the ability to create and store such memories.

Various management options are available for ADHD, which could improve these difficulties with memory. A doctor may also suggest working memory training to improve difficulties with memory.