5. Memory and learning problems in ADHD
Forgetfulness can result from distractibility, when another stimulus has so captured attention that the previous object of attention is lost from sight.
Forgetfulness can also result from memory problems when no other stimulus changes the focus of attention or displaces the previous subject from memory.
- Is often forgetful during daily activities (DSM IV / 5)
- Frequently loses objects needed for everyday activities (DSM IV / 5)
- Inability to remember actions/incidents/agreements
- Initial situations are no longer remembered, which can cause the feeling of constantly being in unforeseen situations
- Subjective feeling of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease
5.2. Learning problems
In ADHD, the ability to learn is often impaired.
ADHD-specific learning problems result from, among other things, decreased levels of dopamine, GABA, growth hormone, and BDNF, neurotrophic substances required for neuroplasticity (the formation of new synapses). See more at ⇒ Neurophysiological correlates of learning problems. Learning problems also result from executive (organizational) problems.
- Ability to learn requires immediate feedback
- Little is learned from punishment
- Penalties are mostly issued with a time delay due to the principle
- Punishments are therefore fundamentally worse learning reinforcers.
- Punishments inhibit behavior; they do not act as behavior reinforcers.
- (School) learning is (neurophysiologically speaking) a process of reinforcement, less of inhibition.
- Even non-affected people learn better through praise and motivation than through punishment.
- However, ADHD sufferers learn from punishment even worse than non-affected individuals
- Regardless, ADHD-affected children were more sensitive to punishment than non-affected children.
- Learning ability in ADHD appears to be independent of delay aversion or working memory problems.
5.3. Poor memory of childhood events
In our impression, many ADHD sufferers have difficulty remembering situations or moods from childhood. It is difficult to ask questions about examples of interactions with parents or siblings.
This may be consistent with our hypothesis that ADHD symptoms are mediated by the same neurotransmitter shifts as chronic stress. Chronic stress causes the brain to store experiences in a less consciously reconstructible way. Psychotherapists often experience that trauma victims have a good memory of events prior to the trauma when the trauma was a singular, surprising event. Traumas, on the other hand, that occurred in a stressful overall situation (chronic stress) (such as persistent sexual abuse / persistent physical abuse) are much less easily remembered.
We know an adult with ADHD-HI who, unlike most ADHD sufferers we know, has excellent HRV, which is a marker of low autonomic nervous system stress levels. This affected person has an exceptionally good memory, reminiscent of a voice recorder to some extent. We are looking for other ADHD sufferers with an exceptionally good memory and would be happy to hear from them.
5.4. Memory problems as symptoms of stress
Forgetfulness and memory problems are typical symptoms of stress.
- The implicit memory
- The declarative memory
- The working memory
Impairments in all of these memory areas are also described in ADHD, although not every ADHD sufferer shows impairments in all memory areas at the same time.
Forgetfulness is known as a typical symptom of severe stress. Memory problems as well
For impairments of memory due to stress, see ⇒ above Distractibility and attention problems are symptoms of stress.
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