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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Memory Loss and ADD

03/03/2003

Question:

Hi, I'm a 16 year old female with ADD. Lately I`ve noticed that I`ve been losing items, and forgetting more and more. Is it possible that my ADD is effecting my memory? I feel like I`m 75 years old with my memory. If it is my ADD is there anything else I can do other than take my current meds?

Answer:

In many people, the main way their ADD exhibits itself is in lack of memory. However, if that had not been a problem before this it is unlikely that is whole answer. Our memory and attention are guided by many different brain circuits. Those directly involved with ADD are only some of them. One of the reasons a clinician should always look for other coexistent problems, even when it seems clear someone has ADD, is that attention can also be strongly effected by other problems. Some of those include mood (depression is a big culprit of attention problems), stress (some of the chemicals that form when under stress can make us more attentive, but generally it`s the opposite), and allergies (many with a stuffy nose from allergies can tell you their thinking gets stuffy as well). In adolescence, the rapid and vast hormonal changes likely effect memory as well. On the other hand, most children or adolescents on stimulant medication need to keep increasing their dose as they grow. If the dose of your medication has not been changed in quite a while and you are on a stimulant, that could be an important factor. The best course for you is to follow up with the health care professional who follows your ADD. They likely know you well and can help you figure out what`s going on.

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Response by:

Susan Louisa Montauk, MD
Formerly Professor of Family Medicine
University of Cincinnati