Is it ADHD or normal forgetfulness?

The Difference Between ADHD Forgetfulness and Slipping Details

Being forgetful in daily activities is one of the signs of ADHD. What’s the connection between forgetfulness and this neurodivergent disorder? Furthermore, how can you deal with it? 

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Is it ADHD or Normal Forgetfulness?

Working Memory is an executive brain function that enables us to remember details in the short term, but long enough for us to accomplish tasks. While they seem to be similar, please don’t confuse working memory with short-term memory. The two are related, true, but they have differences. For one, short-term memory has very low-capacity and can be stored for only a very short amount of time. 

Working memory, on the other hand, holds a small amount of information, manipulates, and applies them so that we can use them to perform several tasks essential in our daily lives. Working memory enables us to complete cognitive tasks involving our reasoning skills, attention retention, and problem-solving abilities. Our working memory can also incorporate information from our long-term memory, so that we can do things.

Everybody can experience memory problems. Regardless if you have ADHD or not, there's a good tendency that you might forget things, get easily distracted in doing certain tasks, or have difficulty remembering important dates. But for those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, these instances can be pretty evident and may result in much more significant problems and challenges 😭.

everybody can be forgetful

When people with ADHD have memory issues, they tend to lose track of what they are required to do and might end up procrastinating their way through the deadline 📅or doing the tasks disorganized. Many adults with ADHD also have to pay more than usual because of their forgetfulness. These instances might be experienced daily, affecting our mental health as well.

The Difference of Having a Forgetful ADHD Brain

Working memory deficits can be rampant in some people with ADHD. Being forgetful is one of the ADHD symptoms stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) 📕. With the many symptoms of ADHD, a person can find it challenging to perform well in his daily life. Forgetfulness might result in failing to remember an appointment, being late for work or meetings, or not paying bills on time 💲

When neurotypical people forget things, chances are, their lives can still go on as usual. They can still be productive and continue with their tasks for the day. They can still perform well and recall other things easily without sweat. However, for some people with ADHD, this is not always the case. Not everyone can swiftly remember something they forgot, and they'll likely think of it repeatedly to remember it. This can result in feeling bad about themselves or becoming anxious or stressed. They can also have trouble focusing on other tasks because their minds are still stuck on what they must remember 😵‍.

but for people with ADHD, forgetfulness can be very intense and frequent

When some people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder forget essential details and agendas, they might have more significant problems. It can affect a person's job, career, or business. If you have a client meeting and forget about it, it might be detrimental to your work. You can lose an important contract or deal because of this 🧑‍💼. It can also affect your relationships with other people. If you forget your partner's birthday, you are in trouble, even if you don't intend to forget their special day.

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ADHD Forgetfulness that We Experience

There are lots of struggles that can be related to forgetfulness. When our ADHD brains are working at their peak, we can be good at focus and concentration. However, when we are faced with difficult situations or when our ADHD brain is overwhelmed, things might go south.

because forgetfulness can be experienced by everybody, it's not always easy to understand when it's caused by ADHD

Here are some instances when being forgetful can be infuriating:

Missing to Set Alarm and Waking Up Late

It was already ten in the morning 🕙 when I woke up from sleep. It has been a rough week, and I've been stressed with lots of things lately. I have not gotten a decent sleep in days, and I know I need one badly. I slept late last night, worrying about too many things while browsing through the Tiktok feed on my phone. When I finally put down my phone and decided to rest, it was already three in the morning, and I had to wake up at eight.

But since I have been thinking a lot, I missed setting my alarm ⏰. Of all the days, I had to wake up late on the day when I had an important meeting with a VIP client. I can't afford to be late, and I know that this will not look good on my part. I jumped out of bed and rushed to the shower. While getting ready, I berated myself for being forgetful and not setting my alarm. This is not the first time this has happened, and I know it won't be the last.

Entering a Room and Forgetting Why

One of the adult ADHD experiences I frequently have is my memory problems with short-lived information. While writing an article, I felt the urge to stand up and get something in the other room. As I was walking on my way, I noticed a few pieces of trash on the floor. I decided to pick them up and went to the kitchen to throw them in the bin. When I was about to leave the kitchen, I stopped for a second, and I had already forgotten what I should be doing ❔!

I returned to my workstation and decided to write again, but my focus was wandering elsewhere. So I tried to remember why I was going to the other room. But no matter how hard I rack my brain, I can't remember it. I traced back my path while I was going there, in the hope that I could remember what I had to do.

Forgetting to Reply to an Important Document

Many adults with ADHD are often loaded with too many responsibilities, so our to-do list can get longer as the day goes by 📝. During work, my brain gets so much stimulation that I often focus on tasks unrelated to my work description. This can often be detrimental to my work, as sometimes I miss replying to an essential document because I was too focused on another, unrelated task.

As I was doing other helpful reports for my boss, I was tasked to set our team meeting in the coming week. I sent out an email to everyone on the team and set the time and date of the meeting 📧. But as I was doing that, I completely forgot about the reports for my boss! When he asked me about it, I was embarrassed that I had forgotten to do it and had to apologize. My self-esteem was greatly affected by my mistake because I forgot things I had to do.

Missing the Deadline in Paying the Bills

Being responsible adults, we must take care of ourselves and our finances. Even though other symptoms of ADHD prohibit us from being so, like our struggle with impulse control, we still have to take care of our utilities, budget, and other financial responsibilities 💰. While I was busy buying too many things I probably didn't need, I missed out on the fact that I must pay my rent, electricity dues, and other bills on time.

Do you know what helped me realize that I was missing something? It was the disconnection of my internet connection, which I need for my work. When I called customer service of the company, they told me that I had not paid my bill for two months already and that's why they've disconnected my services. They told me that if I wanted to reconnect, I had to pay the amount I owed plus additional charges. I was utterly shocked when I heard that because I know this is not good for my financial health.

Forgetting Loved One's Birthday or Important Dates

One of the memory problems that I often struggle with is when I try to remember important events, like birthdays and anniversaries 🎂. It's like having memory tests repeatedly, and I often fail miserably. Sometimes I forget my loved one's birthday and even our anniversary. 

My partner always felt disregarded whenever his birthday approached, and I didn't even bother to ask him what he wanted or plan something for him. It always results in a fight between us 💔, and often it takes days or weeks before we can patch things up again. If only I could address my difficulty in remembering things, then maybe I won't have to go through that again.

Masking ADHD & Being Forgetful

Many people with ADHD tend to miss a lot of details and essential information. As I age, I often ask about my memory and mental health. Do I have an average memory loss experienced by everyone else, or is this an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-related memory problem? 🤔 When I was younger, I was more diligent and focused on my studies and other things I had to do. But as I reached adulthood, a lot of things changed.

Adult ADHD has always been a battle for me, and it is usually an uphill climb. Aside from being impatient and having difficulty waiting, I often get hurt by other people's feedback regarding my ADHD symptoms. The moment they share feedback regarding how careless I am, I often reconfigure my outlook and try my best to overcompensate for my forgetfulness. I try to prove to everyone that I am not entirely forgetful and that my memory is just as good as theirs.

some people with ADHD can also hide and compensate a lot

As someone who has an affected working memory, I try to lessen my memory problems by setting alarms at different times ⏰of the day to remind myself of other things. My mental health doctor also prescribed an ADHD medication 💊 that will help me boost my long-term memory and focus. There are also times when I use organizational tools to sort out my life and get through all the struggles that I experience because of my ADHD symptoms. I also have to exert extra effort and take precautions to lessen my inhibitory control problems.

How to Improve Adult ADHD Memory?

According to Harvard Medical School, as indicated in one of their evidence-based studies, there's a notable instance among ADHD adults that has affected working memory. As we grow older, we tend to experience more memory loss and brain fog, affecting how we improve our focus and remember details in conversations. However, there are ways we can improve our memory. Here are a few of the tips that you can try to do:

  • Do memory exercises - one of the best ways to improve our brain is to use it frequently. Online memory exercises can help us enhance our ability to remember things 🧠.
  • Take advantage of the technology - use related smartphone applications, notepads, or scheduling tools to help you remember things. A lot of people with ADHD tend to rely a lot on their ADHD brain but end up disappointed by it.
  • Get visual in organizing your thoughts - preparing to-do lists or using sticky notes and placing them in an area where you can easily spot them can make you stop forgetting your routine or idea.
  • When having difficulties, ask for help - it takes a lot of courage to admit that you are in trouble, but once you get it off your chest, everything can come in quickly. Ask for help from the people you trust, and they will understand your struggles.
  • Talk to a mental health professional - seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. It only means that you want to get better and achieve stability in your life. Your doctor may assist you in getting the right approach to improve your memory 🧑‍⚕️.

Working memory, and even long-term memory struggles, can sometimes be a part of our ADHD life. They are sometimes our constant companions. We often beat ourselves up for forgetting things and our inability to focus. But we have to remember that we are not alone in this battle. The most important thing we can do is not give up on ourselves and fall into more profound struggles like anxiety or depression. There are many ways we can improve our ADHD memory, and we have to find the one that will work for us.

Is it ADHD or ormal forgetfulness

ADHD and Forgetfulness: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

 Is being forgetful a sign of ADHD?

Yes, it is. It is one of the 9 signs of the Inattentive Presentation. Specifically, “often forgetful in daily activities” is a sign of Predominantly Inattentive ADHD.

Why is being forgetful a sign of ADHD?

The exact reason is still unknown but there are reports indicating that some people with ADHD have affected working memory. Working Memory is how we store information long enough so we can accomplish tasks. 

How do you cope with being forgetful?‍

These days, there are many things you can do to cope with forgetfulness. Setting alarms, jotting down notes, and doing memory exercises can be helpful. Of course, seeking consultation with a mental health professional is also crucial. 

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