Object Permanence & ADHD: What It is, Its Impact and How to Cope

Last Update on January 11, 2024 : Published on January 11, 2024
Object Permanence and adhd

The expression, “out of sight, out of mind” means that when something or someone is no longer visible or not currently present, it tends to be forgotten. People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often struggle with maintaining attention, so this expression might be more relevant to those who have the condition.

In this article, we’ll dive into the topic of object permanence, how ADHD affects this, and coping strategies plus resources for individuals who need help.

List of Contents

What Is Object Permanence?

Object permanence is a concept introduced by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. It describes how a child might know that objects continue to exist even when they are not directly visible.

Piaget explained that object permanence develops during the sensorimotor stage of cognitive development in babies. This stage starts when a child is born until age 2. An early sign of acquiring object permanence is when a child reaches for a covered object, which can happen around 8 months old.

More recent research shows that infants show signs of acquiring object permanence even earlier. In a 2015 study, the researchers investigated how well 5-month-old babies can find hidden objects, which is a sign of object permanence. They found that focused attention can predict a baby’s ability to locate a hidden object.

Object Permanence: Impact on Individuals with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD symptoms can range from mild to severe.

ADHD often starts in childhood and may persist into adulthood. Symptoms include struggling to focus on tasks, forgetting to do their daily tasks, and restlessness. ADHD social skills in children are also a concern, as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can manifest in social interactions.

The lack of object permanence is also said to be another problem for people with ADHD. While this isn’t a primary issue in ADHD, they might need more help remembering things.

For instance, they might not remember that an object is there if they don’t see it often. They might also need sensory cues or reminders to remember appointments or tasks in their to-do list.

This may be because inattention, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted are common symptoms of ADHD, so it’s easier to forget to do certain tasks or keep track of where things are.

One reason for forgetfulness in ADHD is poor working memory. Working memory is the mental space that is responsible for holding onto information for a short time. For instance, working memory is useful for remembering a phone number before dialing it on the phone.

In people with ADHD, working memory can be impaired, which creates challenges in different areas of their lives.

For example, they may forget that they have an item already stored in their cabinet, so they buy a new product instead. This leads to unnecessary purchases that can put a dent in their finances.

Adults with ADHD might also forget to respond to messages and texts, which can put a strain on their relationships.

Coping Mechanisms and Strategies for Object Permanence

Coping with inattention and forgetfulness involves implementing behavioral techniques, learning more about their condition, and improving their lifestyle habits.

1. Behavioral Techniques

Behavioral techniques that aim to address specific behaviors associated with ADHD are commonly used in managing the disorder. Being consistent with these techniques can help lessen problems caused by forgetfulness:

2. Manage Mental Paralysis

Mental paralysis is when a person gets overwhelmed with their thoughts and emotions and they start to have a freeze response. It can also be described as having brain fog or the “brain shutting down.”

Mental paralysis can inhibit working memory in people with ADHD. Working memory is needed in problem-solving and logical thinking. However, being mentally paralyzed makes it difficult to complete tasks. Additionally, an individual experiencing mental paralysis may be unable to focus, experience time blindness, and struggle to pay attention to conversations.

One of the common triggers of mental paralysis is executive dysfunction. Executive function refers to mental processes that play a role in a person’s ability to focus, manage time, plan, and organize. Additionally, it is also needed to remember details and retain information. Executive dysfunction is common in people with ADHD.

To manage mental paralysis, it is helpful to write things down to sort them out — from thoughts, feelings, and things that need to be done. It’s also beneficial to break down larger projects into smaller tasks. This can make things more manageable and less overwhelming.

Kids might find ADHD worksheets helpful in teaching them about their condition and reminding them about coping strategies that they can use when experiencing mental paralysis.

3. Practice Mindfulness And Meditation

Mindfulness is the mental state that involves paying full attention to the present moment. It can help with forgetfulness by promoting attention.

By bringing awareness to the present, it is possible to reduce distractions. When mindfulness becomes second nature, it is easier to bring back the wandering mind and focus.

Meditation is the practice of achieving mindfulness. In a 2019 study, it was found that short meditations, when done every day for 8 weeks, improved attention and memory.

Another study looked at the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on adults with ADHD. Researchers found that the interventions lead to improved ADHD symptoms. Moreover, mindfulness meditation helped improve executive function.

To achieve mindfulness, take a few minutes each day to practice. Sit down and pay attention to the sensation of breathing in and out. As the mind wanders, bring it back to the present moment.

Other techniques can be helpful, such as walking meditation. A meditation app is also beneficial for beginners.

Mindfulness can be practiced at any time. For instance, when eating, being mindful means observing food’s colors, textures, and flavors. Mindful listening means giving full attention to sounds, such as the chirping of birds or the rustling of leaves.

Educational Intervention

Educational intervention for people with ADHD focuses on enhancing memory and organization. It also involves learning more about the condition.

1. Use Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are memory aids that can help in remembering information more effectively. This works by associating the information with a pattern, acronym, rhyme, or image. Students use them to memorize information.

One popular example is “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” which is used to remember the order of notes on the lines of the treble clef in music. Each first letter corresponds to the notes, namely, E, G, B, D, and F.

Acronyms can be used for remembering lists of items. For example, if shopping for groceries, the acronym TABLE for Tuna, Apples, Bread, Lettuce, and Eggs can be helpful.

2. Learn About ADHD

People with ADHD will benefit from learning about their condition, as it can promote self-understanding and self-compassion. Learning can provide insights into how their condition can impact their attention, organization, and memory. Moreover, it can encourage taking an active role in managing symptoms.

Lifestyle Adjustments to Cope With Object Permanence

Lifestyle habits can impact memory. These strategies can help reduce forgetfulness.

1. Prioritize your sleep

The good news is that sleep can improve memory. But lack of sleep and tiredness can make it harder to focus.  Paying attention is needed to remember the details.

Additionally, sleep plays a role in preserving memories. For these reasons, prioritizing sleep can help reduce problems caused by forgetfulness.

To start, ensure that the sleeping environment is comfortable, quiet, and dark. It is also helpful to indulge in relaxation activities before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath or listening to calming music. Also, avoid consuming heavy meals and caffeine close to bedtime because it can make it difficult to sleep.

Setting a consistent sleep schedule with a specific sleeping and wake-up time can also help build a good sleeping habit.

2. Create Reminders And Visual Cues

Visual cues help organize information and make them easier to recall. There are a variety of ways to keep track of tasks, responsibilities, or important details.

For example, sticky notes can be placed near the work desk to serve as a reminder about work deadlines. Calendar posters are also useful when taking down special dates and events.

Alarms are useful for reminding when to take medication. Timers and countdown visuals can also help track how much time is left, which helps improve focus and productivity. For kids, color-coded organizers or storage bins can help their belongings organized, making them easier to find.

Support Systems and Resources

Aside from self-management strategies that can be employed by people with ADHD, it is also helpful to tap into support networks and resources to manage forgetfulness.

1. Family and Social Support

Family, friends, teachers, and colleagues can offer individuals with ADHD help to overcome their challenges when needed. Patience and empathy can go a long way in promoting a supportive environment. Open communication and a safe space to discuss difficulties can help people with the condition feel supported.

For instance, family members can have a family calendar, to-do lists, or labeled storage spaces to serve as visual prompts for tasks and responsibilities at home. Friends can assist in setting reminders for important events by having shared digital reminders. It is also helpful to offer positive reinforcement for efforts and accomplishments, which can boost motivation for people with ADHD.

A support group with people experiencing similar challenges can also help people with ADHD who struggle with forgetfulness. They can learn tips to improve their situation and also have a safe space to talk about their concerns.

2. Professional Help

Seeking help for people with ADHD can help improve functioning and long-term management of the condition. Professional assessment by a healthcare provider or a mental health professional is essential for getting an accurate diagnosis of ADHD. This helps individuals with ADHD and their families understand the challenges they face and how to overcome them.

Once a diagnosis is made, personalized treatment plans can be developed to address the needs of the person with ADHD. This might include therapy and medication. Additionally, they can learn organization skills and time management, which can help with the management of their symptoms.

Overcoming ADHD-related Forgetfulness is Possible

It’s easy to miss things and experience object permanence issues when you have ADHD, but it’s also important to realize that you can make progress.

Being consistent in following these strategies can go a long way in managing the problem. Forgetfulness is a challenge many people with ADHD experience, and there is a supportive community of family, friends, teachers, and colleagues who are ready to offer support.

About The Author

Michael Vallejo
Michael Vallejo

Michael received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Portland State University in 2010. He is a licensed clinical social worker with a private therapy practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He specializes in helping children and teens with mental health concerns. Michael is passionate about providing effective and compassionate care. He is an advocate for mental health awareness, and is the founder of Mental Health Center Kids, a website that provides resources and support for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals who care for children and teens.

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