ADHD Is Forgetfulness with Style
Thursday, February 11 2010 Douglas Cootey
Who hasn't forgotten what they were about to say in a conversation, or forgotten why they entered a room? Forgetfulness is part of life. We have many names for it: Forgetful, absentminded, dotty, ditzy, flakey, nutty, screwy, nitwitted, scatterbrained… So what makes plain ole forgetfulness different than the ADHD variety?
If you've ever lost track of what you were doing for a moment, or misplaced something, you might be wondering what all the ADHD hullaballoo is about. After all, everybody can be forgetful when they're tired, or sick, or distracted, or overwhelmed. But the adult with ADHD doesn't need to be any of those things to be forgetful. The adult with ADHD can be forgetful with a full night's sleep, a full breakfast, and a full checklist in their hands. They'll likely leave the trash bag behind their car because they were distracted by a child's toy in the driveway, then back up over the trash, get out to clean the mess, and lock their keys in the car. ADHD is forgetfulness with style.
Have you ever driven to the store and forgotten why you were there or called someone and forgotten who you were calling? More than once? I do it all the time. Just like my dad. He once walked out the door and drove all the way to the house I was supposed to babysit at without bringing me.
"Mum, where'd Dad go?" I asked.
"I don't know," said my Mum with a bit of reservation.
"Doesn't he know I'm supposed to be at the Jones' in 20 minutes?"
"I'm sure he does."
I could tell by her tone of voice that she didn't believe it. In fact, he was quite embarrassed when the Jones' opened the door and asked where I was. That was the first moment in the twenty minute trip that he became aware he had left without me.
I'm not any better. I've headed off to the store many times and come back with a cart of wonderful items except the one I went in for. I've demanded changes to a contract then mailed it off without adding the changes or my signature. I've even run across campus to greet a friend I hadn't seen in a long time, only to forget their name within feet of greeting them.
"Hey, uh, you! How are you doing?"
I wish I could say that I've mastered the art of faking my way through those conversations, but I haven't. Just last month, in fact, I was at a dinner party and introduced my wife to everyone, remembering all their names until the very last person. Oh, that was embarrassing. Everyone was watching.
Truly what makes the ADHD variety of absentmindedness stand out is the frequency, scope, and alacrity of it. Ask your husband to take out the trash and he immediately walks into the living room and starts tweaking the TV. Confide in your friend about a deeply personal matter and they reply by talking about their favorite TV show. These things in and of themselves may not prove anything, but when they are repeated day after day, hour after hour, the best explanation is an attention deficit disorder. It's enough to drive you mad, if you can stand being around them long enough.
Next week I'm going to address things you can do to help your adult with ADHD plug up the sieve of their mind. There are tricks that can help them stay focused and mindful that go way beyond tying string on their finger. Until then, make note of the most forgetful things your loved one does. Study them and watch for patterns. Although ADHD can ofttimes be random, each person struggles with different aspects of it. This will also help you see the scope of the problem and perhaps help you stop taking their absentmindedness personally. Good luck.