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Is Your Poor Sense of Direction a Symptom of ADHD?

October 3, 2017 Noelle Matteson

Some with ADHD have a poor sense of direction. The complex connection between ADHD and your sense of direction may have some explanations. Check this out.

I have wasted so much time trying to orient myself while traveling thanks to my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and my lack of sense of direction. My iPhone battery is a precious resource when I have to constantly check its GPS. I try to inform others that I have a terrible sense of direction, but many still seem surprised at my incompetence (ADHD: Better Late Than Never?). The connection between ADHD and a sense of direction is more complex than I realized.

Sense of Direction and ADHD May Be Connected

Is my experience unique in the ADHD community? According to a number of forums and article comments, no. Quite a few people with the condition note that they easily become lost, and one commenter claims that her ADHD medication improves her sense of direction. However, others say that their sense of direction is average or excellent, showing once again that ADHD is a highly diverse spectrum.

From what I can tell, an underdeveloped sense of direction has to do less with the diagnosis of ADHD and more with the conditions that frequently occur with ADHD. Navigational skills depend on the memory of where you’ve been and where you are in relation to other objects. People with ADHD can have incredible memories for things that capture their interest, but they can forget what they just did.

Conditions Comorbid with ADHD Impact Your Sense of Direction

Some call the inability to competently navigate “directional dyslexia.” A high percentage of people with ADHD have learning disabilities including dyslexia, a disability in which many confuse left and right. Still, dyslexia has to do with reading rather than navigation. But, dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder, also often overlaps with ADHD and can include having a poor sense of direction.

The hippocampus is a part of the brain that stores memories, including spatial memory and recognition, and it can create internal maps. One of my theories is that a part of one’s brain needs to be aware of the environment in order to record it, a focus that many with ADHD might lack. People with ADHD also struggle with working memory, the ability to not only absorb and retain information but to draw on it when necessary.

You Can Improve Your Sense of Direction, ADHD or Not

The good news is, even though some (including quite a few ADHDers) are born with an incredible sense of direction, navigation skills can be greatly improved with practice. A study shows that the hippocampi of London cabbies, people who frequently navigate maps, are larger than the average person’s (see “Why Do You Always Get Lost?” in sources). Using compasses to navigate and studying maps before stepping outside are first steps in improving one’s sense of direction.

Please let me know in the comments if you or someone you know has an astounding—or astoundingly terrible—sense of direction and if it occurs with ADHD or another condition. It seems as though there have not been many studies done on this subject, and I would like to know more about others’ experiences.

Sources

  1. Bates, Michael. “Directional Dyslexia.” Dyslexia Reading Well. http://www.dyslexia-reading-well.com/directional-dyslexia.html
  2. Kuchinskas, Susan. “Why Do You Always Get Lost?” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/brain/features/why-do-you-always-get-lost
  3. Lapkin, Emily. “Skills That Can Be Affected by Dyslexia.” Understood. https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/skills-that-can-be-affected-by-dyslexia
  4. Taylor, Janet. “Dyspraxia in Adults.” The Dyspraxia Foundation. https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/dyspraxia-adults/

APA Reference
Matteson, N. (2017, October 3). Is Your Poor Sense of Direction a Symptom of ADHD?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2017/10/is-your-poor-sense-of-direction-a-symptom-of-adhd



Author: Noelle Matteson

Find Noelle on Twitter, Facebook and her blog.

Norma Greenwood
July, 14 2024 at 11:23 am

I have struggled with getting lost all my life . I am left handed but was forced to use my right hand as a chikd and always blamed thus for my poor sense of direction. I hate the insecure feeling that comes with nit being sure of which way to find The restroom. exit i
I’ve always made a joke of it, but i It really runs my life since I’m a person who loves Travel and exploring new places.

Megan
July, 9 2024 at 7:07 pm

This is so interesting! I have ADHD, Autism, Dyscalculia, and Aphantasia, and absolutely struggle with this. At first I assumed it must just be the Aphantasia but then I looked into it & found that there were some Aphants who didn't struggle with constant directional disorientation.. Weird! Glad I'm not the only one who does tho! :)

B.
June, 16 2024 at 10:39 pm

This is so validating. Both my brother and I have ADHD, though being a woman I was late diagnosed in my 30s. I'm now in my 40s. We both have a horrid sense of direction to the point where I have been lost and found my way back going against my instincts. I will CONFIDENTLY turn in the wrong direction every time. I have trouble leaving a store in the mall without turning the wrong way once I leave. I have lost my car in the parking lot nearly every time to the point I was convinced someone stole it. My husband thinks it's charming and quirky but I spent half my life lost. Voice and visual GPS has helped immensely but I absolutely hate going somewhere for the first 4-5 times until I am familiar with an area. It's wild to see so many also experience this. Also although my meds have helped a ton it has not helped with this.

Taylor
May, 1 2024 at 11:30 pm

I am 35yr old and have adhd. I didn't get my drivers license until I was 29. I have very poor sense of direction when driving and even when I have taken the same path to and from home several times. I can't go anywhere without my GPS. I even have great difficulties finding my car when I'm done at the shopping center. It seems to be connected to my adhd struggles.

Vanessa
March, 5 2024 at 11:11 pm

I’m 41 years old and have also been suffering from ADHD, poor working memory and no sense of direction. My biggest issues are retracing my steps both by foot and by car. So my husband is constantly my Tour Guide. It’s so aggravating to come out of a store and not know where I parked my car. Luckily, I have a bright orange SUV so that helps a bit.

Lynn
December, 28 2023 at 4:23 pm

What a relief to read this article. Struggled with finding my way with directions my whole life. I have Dyslexic, Dyscaclia and awaiting diagnosis for adhd. Strange that I always like to lead. My husband suggested I turn the opposite way, to the way I want to go, then I would have had more chance of being right. Unfortunately this is true, after 41 years together he knows me well. I really relate to the lady who said she found in hard in the restaurant toilet to find the right door out. Have so done this. The building where I work. the other day had to use the stairs. I could not find the lift. It's so humiliating. It knocks your confidence, so annoying.

Trina
June, 20 2023 at 6:34 pm

Thanks for your article and the honest responses. I am 53 and don’t have ADHD, but my sense of direction is so bad that I sometimes drive the wrong way to my best friends home that is 2 minutes from my home. I often turn the wrong way with Google maps on my phone, even if it’s somewhere I have driven multiple times. I know the start and the end of a route, but it’s like there’s a link missing for the middle part of the drive. I often forget what I’m saying and wonder if there’s a memory link to that. Lucky I am very good at laughing at myself …. but it would be great to get some tools to help with these issues.

Tracy
February, 2 2023 at 7:10 pm

Oh wow. I never knew it was a thing. I just thought I was stupid. I have never know my left from right, I have to imagine picking up a pen and writing my name in the air to know that’s my right hand, sometimes I need to do it twice to make sure.
I can relate to all the previous comments, I have spent 90% of my life being lost.
I moved house two years ago after putting off relocating for years mainly because of my poor sense of direction, I was so worried about finding my way around a new town.
I don’t or can’t go anywhere without the sat nav, it sounds ridiculous but sometimes the destination I enter into the sat nav is only 1.5 miles away but I still need it otherwise I would be driving around aimlessly getting nowhere fast. When I arrive at my destination I then spend the whole time worrying about how will I get home.
I can’t recognise roads (they all look the same) or read maps, if I hold a map in my hand I never know if it’s upside down or not. After rotating it 5 times or more it gets thrown to the side crumpled into a ball of frustration. I rely heavily on technology.
I’m no better on foot. I can walk in the wrong direction for 30 minutes before I realise I have gone the wrong way, it’s so embarrassing, I can be walking along quite happy and then suddenly realise i must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, I then stand rigid not knowing which way to turn.
If I am in a restaurant and I need the loo I am not able to find my way back to my table. I have asked the waiter before now to escort me back to where my family are seated. It has nothing to do with having drunk too much wine, although I’m happy for the waiter to think that.
Large hotels are a nightmare for me, with all the corridors carpeted exactly the same and the lifts all looking the same. I can never find my way back to my room from reception (especially if it’s not well signposted) maybe by the end of my 10 day holiday I may have just cracked it but it’s then time to check out.
I don’t have a diagnosis of any kind, do you think I should be tested for ADHD?

Avril
April, 11 2023 at 4:43 pm

Oh my goodness! You have described my issues to a T! I'm 54 and have just been diagnosed with ADHD. My sense of direction is horrific. It even extends to the area where I live. I can't explain where a place is in relation to another place for example . If I come onto a roundabout I've used a million times from a different direction I'm completely disoriented.
I asked the therapist when I was being assessed for ADHD if poor sense of direction could be attributed. She said it could.

heather
August, 2 2023 at 5:00 pm

Getting lost has always been a problem for me, I also have difficulty recognising people and have to meet someone quite a few times before I know who they are, sometimes people chat with me and it's obvious they know me but I struggle if they are not where I usually see them eg- shop keeper, nurse, butcher, etc anyone else also have this problem?
ps I was diagnosed ADHD at age 55

Sadie
December, 20 2023 at 7:16 pm

I wouldnt get tested unless you think you have other symptoms, but if you do definitely go get tested. It could also be another condition as well. Some people are also just bad at directions 🤷‍♀️ i feel you though my sense of direction is awful.

Jane Wilson
January, 7 2023 at 1:26 pm

I've always thought my seeming total lack of a sense of direction was the result of moving so much as a child (my father's international banking career had us moving every two years or so - from Montreal to Toronto to Nassau to London to Toronto to London to Seattle to Calgary...and on and on - I went to 17 schools before university) and I merely assumed that because we travelled so much, I simply stopped noticing where I was going because I knew we'd soon be moving again...so what was the point?
I continued travelling for my career (the US, London, France, Italy, Western Canada) but for many years now, I've lived in Toronto where my work requires me to find my way all around the city, and even though Toronto has an excellent transit system (subway, streetcar and buses) and the internet let's us map our journey with ease, I STILL haven't been able to grasp the basics of navigation.
Even on a streetcar, traveling in a straight line (on tracks!) I refer to my phone to make sure I note all the stops, and not miss my own.
But my biggest problems come when I get off transit and proceed on foot...and have to negotiate streets and turns and side streets, and against all odds, ALWAYS turning in the wrong direction until I'm lost and late and beside myself, sometimes crying with frustration and self-incrimination.
I feel ridiculous! And though I'm genuinely pretty bright, getting lost feels like a huge failure...a potential loss of work...and something little kids can do, but I can't.
BUT...
Even though I was diagnosed with adult ADHD about 15 years ago (a surprise to NO ONE but me!) I'd never heard about the connection between ADHD and being directions-challenged. And even though it's no cure, knowing there's a solid, sensible reason lightens my load.
(Now if it could only get me where I need to go!)

Kate
December, 16 2022 at 1:53 am

All my life I have felt so stupid for not knowing directions or left and right- my family used to joke my lodestone fell out when I was born- I have got so lost at times which led to extreme panic! Learning to drive was a nightmare- I would sweat so much I had to change all my clothes afterwards- an instructor saying ‘turn left at the end of the road’ would make me feel unbearably stupid.
Then I became a teacher and started coming into contact with children with ADHD.. and then had a partner who was undiagnosed for years( fortunately is diagnosed now!)- and just as I began to understand my brain menopause hit!
Tge good news is my HRT medication seems to do everything that adhd meds would- I am so much calmer now- and not embarrassed about getting lost- I just have to factor it in or always have gps with me. I do wish I could tell my younger self that I wasn’t stupid though..

Sheila Klebeck
June, 24 2023 at 10:10 pm

Frustrating and embarrassing. I hate to be the driver, and be going somewhere familiar. Everyone's else in the car knows where we are going, and so should I. If people are visiting in the vehicle as they should) I will get turned around, and get us lost.

Alyce
November, 14 2022 at 11:40 am

I am somewhat relieved to hear of others that also have a struggle with direction. I am 71 years old and I was diagnosed with inattentive type aadd at 62 and did not realize there is a connection..I have just felt very stupid and flawed it is extremely embarrassing for me and something I try to hide.Just talking about it brings tears to my eyes right now as we speak.. I usually try to hide this problem. I wish someone could tell me why I have this problem. it has caused me slot of anxiety and makes me feel very down on myself. Can someone please explain why I might be this way??? I think understanding it would help me feel better about myself.

Chrissy
November, 18 2022 at 3:00 am

Hi Alyce
I am 63 and have ADHD - mainly inattentive. My sense of direction has caused me intense embarrassment. I am 100% convinced it is connected. I think its connected with inattention and not 'laying down' the memory of how I got somewhere. For example, many times I've been to the bathroom in a restaurant and cannot find my way back to the table. It doesn't seem to be 50/50 chance of me turning back in the right direction either. I always take the wrong / opposite turn. Sometimes (infrequently), I remember my failing, and I make mental notes of the route, getting there, so that I can work out my way back - I can do that. It's just that I mostly don't!

Patricia
November, 18 2022 at 7:32 pm

We’re in the same club lol! I’m 62 also. I felt so disabled that I didn’t get my drivers license until my mid thirties. I hate driving someone else when I don’t know where I’m going (even with navigation) due to being so self conscious. When people would give me directions in the past I would just nod my head up and down while my eyes glazed over and I’m sweating.
This article pointed out some good things like working memory. I can never remember street names or if I’m going N, S, E, or west. So never ask me for directions because I’ll tell them to ask someone else and hide behind the nearest bush.
Also, for me there’s also something about my brain not working as fast as the rate of speed. Hence, I would be better served with a horse and buggy.

Sharon
October, 11 2022 at 2:45 am

Thank you for this article! I can definitely relate. When l think back l remember struggling at secondary school to find my classes, turning up late simply because l got lost. I sometimes still have nightmares about it :) Also when l am pointing to an area l am frequently told I'm pointing in the completely wrong direction. I just feel if you spin me around once anywhere l will be lost. I am in my 50's now and have often wondered why this has been a problem.

Derian
September, 22 2022 at 3:40 pm

No offense but I skipped reading this one once I saw the words "lost" and "GPS". I thought it was going to be about "direction in life", which is what I need some help with. But I have a compass in my brain so I never get that kind of lost lol

Annie R.
September, 19 2022 at 2:27 pm

I have been klutzy all of my life with a poor sense of direction. I could not pick up my BF at the airport bc I took the wrong ramp and then got lost trying to go home again and this is WITH a GPS ! I don't believe I have ADHD but dyspraxia. Now I'm afraid to go to p laces. My BF had to call LYFT and I feel a sense of failure.

Sandy
August, 30 2022 at 12:04 pm

I am studying Leetcode for software development. I am struggling with keeping previous, present and future data straight enough to write the code. Is there any hack for this buggy software in my head?

Heidi Kamaka
July, 15 2022 at 3:03 am

I get lost so easily. I get disoriented, even in Costco. I can’t find my way back to the registers. It makes me panick! I can follow a map, but if I miss a turn or end up on a one way street going the wrong way I don’t know how to correct it. I can’t even just drive around the block because it always feels like I’ve driven around it but it ends up I only went around 3 sides of it & off I go again in the wrong direction. I have no problem telling my left from my right, but I have No sense of direction & always get so disoriented. I wish I knew what is wrong with me.

Frances Van
August, 10 2022 at 3:10 am

I also have ADHD and have been lost since birth. Do we all wonder...with a 50/50 chance of turning left or right, why am I wrong 90% of the time? I get disoriented in hotel bathrooms, even in my household bathroom if I don't turn the light on. I panic and begin feeling my way along the wall looking for the light switch or door and end up stumbling into the bathtub. When I go to places unfamiliar, I count my steps and say aloud each turn I take so I can backtrack. Otherwise, I will end up in an operating room, restaurant kitchen, or set off an emergency exit alarm. For the person wondering if it's lack of attention, not for me, and probably not the others when alone. With ADHD you pay attention when something is important to you. When you find yourself in a dark, desolate area with your gas fragments empty or you make one wrong turn and end up in another city; directions quickly become important to you Unfortunately, trying to navigate without N-S-E-W understanding is like opening a can without a can opener. So you decide to just stick with places you're familiar with, work and home. A car stops and asks you for directions. You say I'm sorry, I don't know this area. Then you wait for the car to drive away before carrying the mail back into your house. Lastly, According to 23 and Me, they detected a variant associated with having a worse sense of direction.

Anna Keen
November, 23 2022 at 2:22 am

You made me chuckle! Here is a true story about my prize Where anm I going and What am I doing?
I did a solo laser-dinghy sailing course this summer, me at 50 yrs the others 7 were kids about 14 yrs old. Lots of following a route around buoys you could barely see, rounding them to port (left) or starboard ( right) .. trying to follow a hoisted course map, where nothing was in scale and some red buoys became the green buoys, but in reality on the sea were actually a yellow marker buoy! Your course could be altered if on the flagship boat your race flag was hoisted, you had to remember what weird symbol was yours…maybe a blue triangle, or a red circle on white … then decipher the code below…as each buoy is numbered, if it is in one colour you go round it one way, another colour you go round it another way, …half way through the race, your course can change and you miss out a ‘led’ ( whole section…and seamlessly (,) continue. The wind changes direction very often, leaving your sail doing the wrong thing and capsizing you, when you get back up in the boat, you dont know which direction you were going, if the wind has shifted again, also if the tide is now going out instead of in,.. and therefore the direction of the current is dragging you to the left or to the right…or if you are in a back eddy which is actually dragging you the opposite way from the tide. Coupled with the Buoy problem is that some buoys have names and nobody uses the number ( or doesn’t know, or sometimes they do not have a number) these names can be called thing like Black Rock…but th buoy is green. When you are trying to get anywhere, you can t sail straight to it ‘sometimes’! If it were ‘never’ it would be easier! If the wind is in your face and the direction you need to go is in your face, you have to go off to one side , or perhaps the other..or your sail doesn’t propulse you anymore and you get stuck ‘in irons’…that is until the wind suddenly shifts and fills your sail and capsizes you! Then as you scramble back in and try to remember which way you were trying to go and how long you have been doing this lap and whether you have been round already twice in reality or twice in your head…then tears of frustration pour down salty cheeks..but there is nobody to ask directions and you can t stop sailing or you will capsize..and if you do, and just hang onto your boat hoping for rescue, then you will dift into the shipping lane or be swept off round The Needles.. via t The Shingles …which are evil moving gravel banks which lie just under the surface of the water, causing ships to run aground…or you will get caught in the eternal loop eddies around sme headlands and bays… or perhaps you will be swept the other way and end up between Cowes and Portsmouth being sailed over by a cross channel ferry or a huge sea container ship full of tons of imported goods…or exporting tons of refuse…but then again, those ships could actually not be going anywhere apart from round and round a gyratory system ( a water roundabout) while they wait for a change of tide…or maybe a space to dock.. anyway… to get back in the dinghy and try to sail back to the club house as the storm is coming in and it is getting darker,, and by now if you don't aim to sail somewhere you don NOT want to go, the tide and wind which sometimes work together, but the angle of the wind keeps shifting (if it goes round trees or buildings it gets bent … these are dragging you straight towards the pier and the ferry, who even if he sees you can t stop or maneuver quick enough to stop you getting chopped into tiny pieces. And so you aim in a totally different direction as the current and wind pulls you in various ways, then you also have the waves which push you towards shore, but the back wash sucks you away from shore, and also the seabed is getting shallower and lots of places have rocks tou must remember where the deeper channel is and try to criss cross to stay in it, each time tou change direction the sail comes over so quick and tries to knock you out the boat or knock you unconcious! Then it becomes too shall, so you must pull up your centre board and rudder…but without them you now have nothing to stop you being pushed or pulled like a leaf on the water as your power of using resistence to angle yourself beneath the water has now gone…so you need to jump out into the water , but the seabed is not even in height so someplaces are too deep and you have to try to swim and push your boat to shore, without it getting scratched and scraped as it suddenly gets too shallow..oh and also, you need to try not to let the boat turn away from the direction of the wind ( which is always changing!) or ithe sails will fill up and t will start sailing away! If it does, you have to try to scramble back in and do it all again! But by then everything will have changed and the tide is still going in or out, or the ferry is, or the wind has changed direction so the effect of surrounding objects like trees or buildings or someone else's sails will have a different outcome due to the change of wind direction..which of course you can’t SEE… and if you put a wind-vane up, it can be doing something different at the bottom of the mast, than at the top, and then you have to tighten or loosen not only the direction of your sail, but the sagginess capacity to be fuller of wind or not…to hang out the opposite side to counterbalance, to pull the centre board half up sometimes…if the wind is hitting you sideways..but also if you are going towards the wind in light winds..or its drag outweighs its stabalising capacities.. a
Anyway..writing this I realize why I won the prize for endeavor and also the special prize invented just for me ‘Where am I going and What am I doing? I am only lately realizing that I must have adhd ..with my utterly unbelievable lack of time or direction. I often look at other people and am amazed how much they hold quite naturally in their heads. Though I must say my powers on concentration, improvisation and tenacity far outweigh the majority. I have had to develop those traits or I would not have survived.

Lisa
April, 11 2022 at 9:12 am

Hi, I know it’s 5 years later, but I see your still checking the comm nets so I thought I would add to the conversation. I have the worst sense of direction possible. Sadly I’m a door dash driver, which I couldn’t do without gps. I’ve managed to get right and left down but NWES is a mystery to me. I get furious when Google tells me to head North! Quite recently I was tested for ADD and aced it. I scored off the charts. I am 52 and a woman, so I wasn’t diagnosed in school. I was wondering, do people with ADD often accidentally overdose on medicines? That happened to me and I have been afraid for awhile that it was going to happen. It was a perfect storm of high anxiety and no working memory whatsoever. I had a headache from all the emotional stress so I wanted to take some prescription medicine I had for it. I kept thinking I didn’t take it yet. I took it 3 times in a matter of 20 minutes. I ended up having to call 911. Is this common?
Thank you for your articles.

S
June, 29 2022 at 2:24 pm

Hey Lisa,
A low tech help for med taking is those plastic pill minder containers. I swear by mine. When the pills for the day are gone, you've taken them. Really helps to ease the mind. Accidentally taking 2 doses of a stimulant med once was such a horrible experience, it made using a pill minder a priority. Hope this helps.💗

Lisa
August, 15 2022 at 7:39 pm

Hey Lisa,
Yes, it happens to me as well. I can't seem to remember if I had taken my supplements because I take too many types so I space them out in days. People ask me if I take them regularly, I say, yes, i take them 3 times a week. :). I took an online test, and not only does it say I may have ADHD, it also says I may have 5 other conditions: OCD, Bipolar, Dyscalculia, Depression and Language Processing Disorder.

Lea Hurst
March, 11 2022 at 9:30 am

Aside from ADHD my left/right confusion is severe. I can extend that to almost total ignorance of E,W N and S. Reading all of these comments is really enriching. Why do they always draw maps upside down! Oh, and another thing, it doesn't help to grow up in the Southern Hemisphere and then come to live in the Northern

Jane Wilson
January, 7 2023 at 1:36 pm

I STILL identify west as the direction my friend Alberta lived, and east as the direction where Petsmart is.
Now, I only have to find out if I'm pointing north or south...

Hayley
February, 14 2022 at 5:35 am

I'm so glad I found this post, I resonate so much with this. I believe I have ADHD (currently undergoing assessment) and have wondered if my non existent sense of direction was related. Like others here, I am extremely reliant on Google Maps, even if I've been to a place before. Sometimes while walking around my own neighbourhood where I've lived for 2 years, I can't remember how to get home and can't retrace my steps. I also often get lost inside buildings like restaurants or offices when trying to get back to my starting point. It makes me feel so stupid and embarrassed when other people witness this. I also get turned around very easily and can't orient myself even when looking at maps. I find it hard to understand some sat nav apps while driving for some reason. The visual layout of the directions can really confuse me.
I also saw another poster comment about their husband's inability to recognise people out of context. I have this issue as well!

February, 14 2022 at 11:50 am

Hey Hayley,
While I can't speak for Noelle (who originally wrote this piece), as HealthyPlace's new "Living with Adult ADHD" author, I can speak from my own experience with ADHD! I personally don't struggle with direction, but I know how devastating it can be to feel stupid and embarrassed when someone else notices you behaving atypically. For me, this has appeared in the past as repeating the same stories to the same people, forgetting that I'd already shared it with them.
I always got, "Yeah, you already told me" as a response, and the slight annoyance in their voice left me feeling guilty. It was even worse in relationships when I'd accidentally tell my partner the same story several times.
But hey, ADHD or not, everyone has quirks and imperfections. I repeat stories. Some people can't remember how to get to Walmart. Other people can't whistle. That's just a part of being human, and there's nothing wrong with it.

Karrie Grimm
February, 24 2022 at 11:07 pm

Have you found anyone doing educational work arounds for directional challenges?... Like people who teach people with dyslexia coping skills? I need professional help with my young driver.

Kelly W
November, 12 2021 at 4:26 pm

I get lost do easily. When we moved to a new neighborhood (before GPS), I wound call my husband out of town and tell him what landmark I could see and ask him to help me get home. I think I remember how to get somewhere and often mess it up and end up late. I hate that anxious feeling, looking at the clock and feeling the panic rise, along with my navigation confusion. I can talk myself out of what is the right direction because I doubt myself so much. It stinks!!! Gotham’s you to those who shared. Makes me feel more normal.

Louise Coleman
July, 20 2021 at 2:28 pm

These comments resonated so much for me. I am 51 and I think I have ADHD (awaiting a diagnosis) and I have always struggled with my non existent sense of direction. Out on a date once i got lost when I came out of the toilet and had to go out to the car park and come back in again! I hate it when my Sat Nav says things like "head east" as I have no idea where that is. The thing that I find strange is that I am not stupid but I cannot seem to learn how to navigate, I have to put the map in the direction I am driving and even then I get lost. It is extremely frustrating and added to my disorganisation I am usually late anyway so getting lost just adds to the stress. It is kind of comforting to know I am not alone though

Sandra Hennessy
July, 7 2021 at 2:15 pm

My son is 19 years old and has ADHD. I noticed when teaching him to drive that he often still confused left and right and still does to this day. He also had a lot of difficulty learning to park. Recently I also noticed that he has difficulty remembering the routes to various places, even though he has been there many times and can get confused even travelling home from a place he has been to quite often. Of course he is fine to go to work and back, something he does every day and does well most days but definitely learns routes slower than I expected. I attributed it to the fact that he seemed to rely on his GPS but since beginning to teach his brother how to drive, I have begun to realize that his ADHD plays a factor. Thank you for this article. I think it would be a very interesting thing for someone to do a study on.

Julie Brown
October, 21 2022 at 3:24 pm

My 16 year old is the same, which brought me to your post. I got curious and was wondering if it’s common for inattentive adhd kids to have difficulty learning directions

October, 25 2022 at 2:37 am

Hi Julie,
Inattentitveness will have a deletrious effect on whatever subject the inattentive person is trying to learn. I can't see why directions would be any different.
Michael.

Vicki
January, 6 2023 at 9:56 pm

I feel this is different because while I can learn things and remember enough to get by even earn a bachelor degree, I simply have no memory for places roads etc even if I travel that way every day for years the tricky turn after the major shoooing strip is an enigma until it’s in my sights I can’t visualise exactly where it is . But I can learn situational direction eg in my house south is the back door etc. Reading maps can be learned but is a challenge mainly in the processing speed and recall I think. When I come out of a shop I often find myself walking back the way I came, completely oblivious. Now I’ve learned to look around before I enter so I know what to look for when i come out. I’ve often called a friend for help on the side of the road and the best thing that ever happened tech wise for me was the GOS

Patti
June, 16 2021 at 9:41 am

I can’t believe others struggle with this. My husband of 25 years has ADD but I never realized his poor sense of direction was related. I asked him yesterday to go to my neighbor’s house right across the street and he went to the wrong house. He points to one direction when something is entirely in the other direction. He has trouble getting out of a gas station if it has more than two entrances. I get so frustrated with him but this helps me understand a little more. Thank you.

John
June, 14 2021 at 10:47 am

Great article! This is an area I have struggled with my entire life. I used to joke I would get lost on an one way road. I have realized that if there is only two ways to go that 99% of the time I will pick the wrong way. Still with practice I have become much better, and GPS is a godsend. I have overcome many learning disabilities, but this is one that is still a challenge. When I referee soccer I have to really focus so I don't point the flag in the opposite direction of what I want.

Kay
June, 4 2021 at 8:17 am

I am relieved to have stumbled upon this article and see that I am not alone. I was diagnosed in my early 40's, finally after always feeling something was just not right.
I can have troubles with something as simple as the direction to get back to my friends at a restaurant, when coming out of the restroom. I have to mentally take note as I'm walking towards it, in order to not look so dumb coming back. And then, on other occassions, I have no problem at all. It's as if something is clicked on that day, and I always find myself wishing I knew what it was so that I could always flip on that switch!
Going to a friend's house with a lot of turns through neighborhoods, has to be done a few times in order for it to finally stick, and then if I don't do it for a long time, I can sometimes still forget all over.
I'm reading through the comments here, and getting some good ideas on how to manage!

Trinity
May, 31 2021 at 5:57 pm

I have a very poor sense of direction and get lost easily. Also, coming back from where I came from. I also forget where I park my car and get lost in unfamiliar buildings. Retracing my steps is very difficult. When there is a lot going on in my visual environment I can not remember things just a few which makes finding places even harder. I was diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type as an adult. I am hoping my ADHD is connected to my trouble finding places. I always feel so stupid! Sometimes I just miss entire party or gatherings to avoid the embarrassment of showing up an hour late because I was lost again.

Sari
March, 23 2021 at 10:10 pm

I've struggled with navigation my whole life and was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Whether it comes to driving or navigating a new building I'm always disoriented. I just wanted to share a tip with those of you who struggle with the same thing. I take pictures of my surroundings especially when I go somewhere new. I take pictures of my care when I park from two angles. I take a picture of the sign on the street corner so I can find it in my GPS. I take a picure of the entrance to the place I'm going to. Seems silly but it's helps me so much and sooths my anxiety to know I can rely on my pictures as a fail safe.

Annie
March, 3 2021 at 1:34 pm

No sense of direction, following directions, remembering directions, knowing I will get lost and the embarrassment of getting lost are as much a part of me as my ADD, chronic depression and anxiety disorder. I have sent my parents, siblings, friends, my husband and my adult children into fits of frustration over my inability to "find and remember". "Pay attention to your surroundings!" I've heard that so many times, I know it's going to come from someone's mouth 5 seconds before they utter the admonition. On more occasions than I can count, I've wanted to scream, "I'm not stupid! I hate this more than you could ever know!" I swallow those words and instead, apologize for my shortcoming and promise to remember the next time. Each time this happens, I tell myself that maybe I am stupid, maybe I don't pay attention, maybe I'm simply not trying hard enough and I hate myself a little bit more. Recently, my husband had to spend a couple of days in the hospital for minor surgery. We had parked in the parking garage at the hospital and made our way to his room on the sixth floor. We'd been there a short while when he realized he had forgotten to bring the book he was reading; he asked if I would mind bringing it back with me when I returned that evening. At that moment, fear and panic went through me like a hot knife, I couldn't remember which elevator we'd used to get up to his floor, the way to lobby or the parking garage if I was lucky enough to get to the lower floor. I smiled and told him I'd be happy to bring his book back with me. I prepared to leave, I looked at him and casually asked if the elevator we came up in was to the left of the nurses station, "yup", he said, and off I went. As I'd feared, when I stepped out of his room, nothing looked familiar to me whatsoever, I was lost before I was really lost. I was asking people for directions at every turn, with panic and anxiety waiting to boil over. When I finally made it to our car, I exploded into tears of anxiety, relief, shame; I hated myself. Upon my return, I went through the same agonizing journey getting back to his room. I shared my experiences with him and asked if he would give me directions for my way back down, not north, east, south or west...I wanted to write them down in list form, using words like "turn left, go right" and I wanted some "landmarks" along the way. For the first time ever, I could see he sensed my fear. I took a notebook and pen from my purse, wrote the number 1. on the paper and finished with number 7. Forgive my prattling, it's part and parcel of my ADD.

MC
May, 16 2021 at 6:04 pm

I deeply relate to this. My sense of direction and creating a “mental map” for the future is worthless. My brain just doesn’t retain it. I draw maps or write R and L down in order and then do the opposite on the way back. Not foolproof, but it helps. I also have R and L written in small print on the inside of my shoes just in case 😂 To be serious though, my anxiety and shame when I get lost is the worst feeling. And to be told over and over again that I’m not listening or not paying attention... Lord Almighty, it’s hard not to snap at people.

Holly
July, 27 2021 at 12:05 am

This is so me! Makes me feel so much better to know that I’m not alone. My friends and family have always given me a hard time about my directional sense. I always knew it had something to do with ADD. I’ve noticed that a lack of sleep, not enough food or regular exercise can exasperate my symptoms.

Valerie
September, 16 2020 at 4:17 pm

I have been married to the same man for 47years and it has not all been easy. I thought his inability to find his way in a car was because he was not paying attention. If I fell asleep while he was driving he’d go right past the exit or turn the wrong way and we’d get lost. I always had to pay attention and tell him which way to turn. I did not recognize there is a name for his disorder til later in our married life. He also has ADD which was never diagnosed when he was young. I have wanted him to go to a doctor and get medication for it but he always refused. I have lived with him for so long now I just accept that he has these disabilities.

Misha
October, 27 2019 at 7:15 pm

I have no sense of direction. I might know how to get somewhere, but coming back home just doesn’t make sense, even in houses or buildings. I’ve been lost twice on a mountain. I’ve tried everything to retrace my steps and be aware on my way there, but I haven’t had much luck improving my skill. I have trouble concentrating and at times and when I was young was hyper sensitive to noise. The lack of acknowledgement of the directional dyslexia is so frustrating because often people get irritated at me and think I’m just not paying attention. The truth is, I’m counting streets and trying to recognize visual markers to help me. It’s almost like when they spin you before you hit a piñata without the dizziness.

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