Les médicaments pour le TDAH aident-ils à résoudre les problèmes de mémoire?september 5, 2020
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“My partner has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and is starting meds, which have been good at improving his focus and concentration and impulsivity, in general he has more of a calmness, less buzzy and all over the place, which is fantastic. What hasn’t changed one bit is his
‘working memory‘ as he calls it, so he still forgets instructions, doing things, pick ups, etc. He’s still awful at making arrangements, and if he remembers to make them at all he’ll book two things for the same time.
This all impacts me in a big way, of course. Do meds help with memory issues?”
Meds and memory
ADHD meds don’t specifically help memory in the same way that they immediately impact focus. In fact, working memory is tough to improve – the best strategies are actually behavioral – putting a strict reminder system in place, and a good calendar. On this last there are a couple of different camps. Some suggest that a well organized paper calendar with a ‘to do’ area is best because it is paper and easy to see all at once. My experience is that most with ADHD don’t carry a large paper calendar with them, making this less useful in practice than theory. Better is a bullet journal combined with either an electronic calendar that has an audible reminder alarm for events. If you hate electronic calendars, then use that large paper calendar in the same way you would the electronic one (only without the audible reminders, which is the downside of this for people with ADHD, who benefit from being reminded when it’s time to do something.)
The bullet journal, which captures stuff to do the moment you think of it, and then helps you organize exactly when you are going to do it, is most effective when the user sets a 20 minute or so time at the end of each day to take what was captured that day in the bullet journal and transcribe it appropriately into the electronic calendar…as well as plan out their next day carefully.
The good news is that since your husband’s meds are helping him focus better, he will have better luck setting up a ‘memory’ system than he has had in the past.
But it’s not quite that simple
There are ways that meds help indirectly with memory. If one of your husband’s issues with memory has to do with distraction – i.e. he wasn’t paying full attention to what was going on around him and, therefore, couldn’t remember it adequately because he didn’t notice it in the first place, then meds might help a little. Medication to improve attention, combined with some mindfulness training to help him focus in the present moment and take it all in, could address memory lapses due to lack of attention.
Medications that change one’s emotional state might also help peripherally with memory, though that’s not their primary function. One man with ADHD also recently noted that his ability to ‘stay with things’ has improved with ADHD medication because he feels less anxious and is, therefore, able to engage better with his tasks and with his partner. His wife’s experience of this is that her husband is more ‘present’ for her, which includes an improved ability to follow through. She experiences this as better memory, as well as greater care for her.
What about computer memory training?
Some computer training programs were touted as helping to improve memory. Research on their impact with ADHD suggested that while they helped with ‘near transfer’ tasks (i.e. the same ones in the training itself) those gains did not translate into ‘far transfer’ tasks. So if the program trained you to remember a string of numbers backwards you got better at that, but it didn’t transfer to more easily remembering to pick up the kids.
Should a partner help?
If one partner in a couple has ADHD and the other one doesn’t, the non-ADHD partner may have an easier time remembering things. That leads some couples to put the non-ADHD partner in the role of household manager and master rememberer. DON’T DO THIS!! While it may be convenient for that partner to manage things, this almost always leads to what I call parent-child dynamics. The non-ADHD partner becomes responsible for remembering (and often doing) almost everything while the ADHD partner is seen as less and less responsible. This dynamic leads to anger, frustration, an imbalance of status and will, quite literally, ruin – and very possibly end – your relationship. So help out a little if you feel like giving that gift, but do NOT take on responsibility for being the family’s memory.
The bottom line
There is a huge body of research that suggests that medications alone do not make the best treatment for ADHD. Rather, a combination of a medication targeted to your specific ADHD symptoms plus a series of behavioral supports (such as the reminder and calendaring system mentioned above) create the most robust management of ADHD.
That means that while the medications alone don’t improve memory, one can combine medications to improve focus, extend attention, and improve emotional responses with ADHD-friendly behavioral supports such as strict calendaring and be much more likely to remember what you’ve committed to.
For the health of your relationship, it’s important to really dig in to setting up a great reminder and memory system because meds just won’t get one there. This will improve the ADHD partner’s reliability in the relationship and improve the relationship – and ADHD partner’s life – tremendously.