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Why is Forgetfulness a Symptom of ADHD in Women? What You Need to Know

attention and memory Feb 27, 2023
Forgetful woman with ADHD standing outside with hand on her forehead.

Ahh, forgetfulness…

The symptom of ADHD you wish you wish you could forget.

Unfortunately, forgetfulness can be particularly challenging for women. After all, in our society women are expected to be organized and to remember all the details.

But if you’re living with an ADHD brain, it can be hard to keep up with daily life.

Why is forgetfulness a symptom of ADHD? It all comes down to your short attention span. Let’s explore what ADHD forgetfulness looks like and why it happens.

Examples of ADHD forgetfulness

Forgetting is a common symptom of ADHD. While everyone's ADHD experience is different, here are some common ways forgetfulness shows up for adults with ADHD.

  • Frequently misplacing items such as phone, keys, glasses, wallet, etc.

  • Missing important an important meeting or deadline.

  • Difficulty recalling names and other details.
  • Immediately forgetting what people have said to you.

Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are responsible for organizing information, planning, and executing a task. They also control your thoughts and help you regulate your emotions. All these skills are necessary to prioritize tasks, remember information, stay focused, complete a task, and respond appropriately.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, impacts the parts of your brain responsible for executive functioning skills. 

What Causes Executive Function Problems?

Differences in the areas of the brain responsible for executive function skills can result in dysfunction. 

Areas of the brain involved in executive function include: 

  • The prefrontal cortex (responsible for high level executive functioning skills)
  • The parietal cortex (involved sensory processing)
  • The basal ganglia (involved in information processing and motor control)
  • The thalamus (responsible for sensory and motor signals)
  • Cerebellum (motor memory and movement)

Several structural and functional differences have been identified in people with ADHD. This can result in various cognitive symptoms that impact your daily life. 

The ADHD Brain and Executive Functioning Skills

People with symptoms of ADHD will have trouble with cognitive tasks including:

  • Difficulty paying attention to daily tasks.
  • Trouble focusing on important things over distractions. 
  • Unable to create and complete a to-do list and complete tasks effectively.
  • Having a hard time with impulse control (i.e., moving onto the next thing quickly, without much planning or thinking ahead or intense, emotional reactions in a scenario without thinking)
  • Memory issues that impact functional daily living, productivity, friendships, and confidence.

ADHD and Memory Deficits 

When it comes to remembering information, your attention is required. In other words, you won’t remember information you never fully received in the first place. 

Memory isn’t accidental.

That’s not to say you won’t occasionally remember very random facts or details… but something about those random facts grabbed your attention, allowing your brain to process and store that information.

It’s quite simple when you understand how memory works…

And it all begins with your working memory.

What is Working Memory?

Your working memory is a temporary holding space for information. When your brain receives information, it immediately goes to work to process the information to use it or store it for later.

Examples of working memory include:

  • Listening to multiple step instructions and then completing the first step. 
  • Remembering a question long enough to formulate a response.
  • Requesting a phone number and storing it in your contacts.
  • Reading and executing steps to a recipe.
  • Driving to a location.

Individuals with ADHD struggle with working memory because they have a short attention span.

To be clear, this is not just a matter of discipline. Studies demonstrate that individuals with ADHD have decreased volume and activation in areas of the brain responsible for working memory and information processing. 

Working Memory and ADHD

When your working memory is interrupted due to frequent distractions or task digression, you’re not able to process and store information effectively.

This can result in:

  1. Not encoding (or storing) the information at all…
  2. Or storing the information in a disorganized manner, making it hard to access (or remember)

When information isn’t encoded properly, your brain can’t easily remember it. This can lead to a lot of feelings of self-doubt and frustration, often without knowing the cause.

Challenges at the level of your working memory will also result in long-term memory loss. 

Long-Term Memory and ADHD 

Information is only as useful as how it was stored.

Therefore, if your brain didn’t store it properly, you can’t retrieve that information later, no matter how hard you try.

In a study on long-term memory performance in adults with ADHD, long-term memory issues were attributed to the acquisition of information, whereas no retrieval problems were observable.

This means that remembering isn’t the issue, receiving is. In the end, it all boils down to attention.

Other factors that impact your memory include:

  • Lack of sleep.
  • Poor diet.
  • Chronic stress or anxiety disorder.
  • Overall mental health.
  • Overuse of screentime and social media. 

Your overall lifestyle matters when it comes to supporting strong focus and clear recall. 

6 Tips to Combat ADHD Forgetfulness

Below are some suggestions for how to manage ADHD forgetfulness. Keep in mind that no two people with an ADHD diagnosis are alike and each can benefit greatly for customized strategies to support focus and memory function with ADHD.

1. Environmental Design

If you're not thriving in your environment, try changing it. Decluttering your bedroom, office, kitchen, and other living spaces can reduce visual clutter and distraction. Though you may be tempted to dive into an entire home redesign, fight that urge and start with one small space at a time. Even organizing one drawer in your office desk can make a huge difference in your ability to stay on task. Set aside 15-20 minutes a day to start decluttering and watch your attention span rise. 

2. Designate a space for important or highly used items.

Always losing your keys? Time to hang a hook. Forgetting your vitamins? Store them in your mug cabinet so you see them when you reach for your coffee first thing in the morning. Taking the time to strategically place important items can save you from hours of searching or trying to remember. Practice mindfully placing items in set locations and eventually it will become habit. 

3. Use alarms and calendars.

Use organizational tools and technology to support your recall, especially if you're prone to missing important deadlines or doctor's appointments. Tap into your phone's calendar, alerts and alarms and schedule reminders. You'll thank yourself when they pop up.

4. Incorporate a mindfulness routine.

This is admittedly easier said than done. However, a mindfulness practice can help you put your brain where your body is so you can pay attention now and remember details better later. Try setting aside 1-2 minutes and focusing on your breathing. Once you've established this habit you can carry it over to being mindfully present in a conversation with a friend or in a meeting with your boss.

5. Try memory exercises.

There are many ways to improve memory function, but you must practice them. No, I'm not talking about memory drills with random word lists. Rather, read your grocery list and then test your recall in the store. Use acronyms or mnemonic devices to help you remember daily sequences or small lists. Read the chapter of a book and then summarize it to yourself or a friend. You can't improve your memory if you don't find functional ways to work on it. 

6. Get support.

Chronic forgetfulness and memory problems can be overwhelming. If you're spending a lot of time questioning your recall, doubting yourself in conversations with friends or at work, trying to remember details that feel fuzzy and frustrating then it's time to find additional support.

Support for ADHD and Memory Problems

Understanding your ADHD is essential to overcoming the challenges it presents. It’s 100% possible to support your focus and improve your recall with ADHD.

It just takes the right level of support, a strong commitment to yourself, and a willingness to tackle your problems. Opening up to friends, working with a therapist or coach, or discussing medications with your healthcare provider can all be helpful in various ways.

Can ADHD medication help with memory?


Prescription stimulant medication for ADHD can help you manage your symptoms, including your poor focus. If you're able to improve your attention, your memory will also indirectly benefit from the medication.

Do I have to take ADHD medications to improve my memory?


There are countless ways to support your focus with ADHD beyond just taking medications.

In fact, even with medications, completing memory exercises, adjusting your lifestyle to support stronger focus, improve brain health and build better daily habits can improve your life with ADHD.

Need Help?

As a memory health coach, I help women just like you feel more focused and less forgetful so you can be fully present in your life, without all the self-doubt lingering in the back of your mind.

And if you’ve read this article up until this point, you may have guessed that the first place we start is… drumroll please… restoring your focus, so you can remember information with ease.

Want help with this? Schedule your free call with me to learn more about how to overcome your memory problems once and for all.

Final Words 

ADHD impacts your attention. Attention is required for memory function. When attention is interrupted or impaired, it interferes with your ability to store information. This can lead to both short- and- long-term memory problems with ADHD.

However, just because you struggle with forgetfulness right now, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to stay that way.

You can improve your memory with ADHD. Whether with medications or holistic health practices and memory strategies, solutions are out there.

And I’m here to help!

Check out this article: Why Am I so Forgetful and Absent Minded at 43? A Client Case Study

Questions? Contact Francine Here

Meet the Coach

Hey there! I'm Francine, a speech-language pathologist turned memory health coach with a passion for helping you overcome your memory problems.

In my practice, I help women just like you trade memory problems for confidence and clarity everyday so you can think clearly and remember easily, without constant self-doubt weighing you down. 

If you're struggling with poor recall and foggy thinking, you're in the right place and I want to help you!


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