The Object Permanence ADHD Misconception

Demi Aspey
7 mins read
Sep 11, 2023

The realm of ADHD is complex, but don’t we know it?!

As a result, misconceptions run rampant.

Chief among these misunderstandings is the erroneous conflation of ADHD with the concept of object permanence. 

You know the phrase "out of sight, out of mind"? Well, it isn't directly related to object permanence, but it does have its part to play in ADHD minds. 

As always, we are committed to dispelling the myths of ADHD.

We will tackle the connection between object permanence and ADHD so we can all get crystal clear about its definition.

Let’s get to it!

Object Permanence: A Historical Overview 📜

So, what is this mystical “object permanence”?

Object permanence is a pivotal developmental milestone that signifies an individual's cognitive acknowledgement that even if objects are out of our immediate view, they persist in their existence. 

Rather than being intrinsic knowledge, this awareness evolves, notably during the foundational years of a child's life. 

Renowned psychologist Jean Piaget was instrumental in foregrounding the intricacies of object permanence.

Through extensive research, Piaget unveiled that young infants confronted with a concealed toy tend to react as if the object has ceased to exist. 

As children mature, their cognitive faculties evolve, leading them to actively seek out the hidden toy, cementing their understanding of its persistent existence beyond their immediate sight.

Essentially, the game of peek-a-boo has an expiration date!

ADHD Object Permanence Peek-a-boo gif

The ADHD Misunderstanding: Why Object Permanence Doesn’t Fit the Bill 🤔

So, I won't teach you to suck eggs.

We likely already know ADHD for its many symptoms, including inattention, impulsivity, and heightened activity in our minds and bodies. 

However, it's critical to underscore that object permanence ISN'T among them. The frequently cited notion, "out of sight, out of mind", prevalent among adults with ADHD, does not indicate disbelief in an object's existence. Instead, it highlights sporadic episodes of forgetfulness or inattention.

For those of us living with ADHD, maintaining an unwavering focus on tasks or objects, especially when they fade from their direct purview, can be a challenge.

It doesn't mean we don't understand or recognise the object's existence. Instead, it's a manifestation of our condition, which occasionally results in brief lapses in memory or concentration.

To put it simply, we know something exists. We just tend to forget about it if we don’t have a constant reminder.

Here’s an overview of what symptoms ADHD may include:

  • Inattention
  • Lack of focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing important items
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Daydreaming
ADHD memory loss object permanence ADHD meme

Here’s what we now know ADHD does not officially include:

  • Object permanence issues

That isn’t to say someone with ADHD can’t have issues with object permanence, but it is not a recognised symptom.

As such, we think it’s best to stick with the symptoms that are identified as markers for the condition. 


It stops misinformation, helps avoid potential misdiagnoses and dissipates the harmful stigma that continues to grow around ADHD.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind & ADHD: An In-depth Look 🔍

Venturing deeper into the nuanced world of ADHD introduces us to a term that aligns more fittingly with the symptoms exhibited by individuals with the condition: "out of sight, out of mind". 

This phrase tackles the hurdles many of us face with ADHD, specifically challenges tied to consistent awareness and recollection of everyday objects and tasks.

Beyond Physical Presence: The Essence of “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” in ADHD

The proverb “out of sight, out of mind” finds tangible resonance in the experiences of those living with ADHD.

This sentiment isn’t a rejection of the continued existence of objects but a transient oversight fuelled by the inherent traits of the condition.

  • Forgetting tasks not on our to-do lists
  • Forgetting whether or not we’ve taken our medication
  • Forgetting a medical appointment if not on a calendar
  • Forgetting to text someone back
  • Forgetting to follow through on work requests

But let’s unpack these common occurrences a little further!

Tangible Illustrations of ADHD “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” 👀

Bill Payments: More than Monetary Oversight

Envision allocating funds for a bill yet being blindsided by its due date.

It isn't a simple financial lapse but a glaring example of challenges with forgetfulness and inattention.

It can often result in "ADHD Tax", meaning there are associated costs surrounding forgetfulness, losing essential items or becoming easily distracted. Think late payment fees!

ADHD meme memory object permanence adhd

Wardrobe Redundancies: Beyond Fashion Faux Pas

Imagine the sensation of purchasing a shirt, only to discover upon reaching home that an eerily similar piece already hangs in your wardrobe.

Such instances are less about fashion choices but a transient memory lapse.

I admit this happens to me more than I'd like when purchasing books! 

We could also account for this one due to our impulsive traits.

Rather than waiting until we get home to check that we definitely do not own the shirt or book, we jump to purchase immediately and deal with the consequences later.

The Forgotten Food: A Culinary Oversight

It's a familiar scenario for some with ADHD: buying food with grand culinary intentions, only to inadvertently let them languish until they're no longer consumable.

Sorry, lettuce, today is not your day. Enjoy moulding at the back of the fridge for another week or two!

The Elusive Documents: More than Mere Forgetfulness

The frantic, often exasperating search for essential items like keys or vital documents is a shared human experience.

Yet, for someone grappling with ADHD, these episodes might be more recurrent, not stemming from negligence but from episodic attentional lapses. 

Passports, bank cards, driving licenses - all items I've lost.

Someone once found my university staff card on the tube because I have a terrible habit of placing things down and instantly forgetting they exist!

The Ramifications of Forgetfulness in Personal Relationships 💝

The implications of ADHD and its intersection with forgetfulness seep into the domain of interpersonal relationships. 

It isn’t uncommon for an individual with ADHD to inadvertently overlook significant dates or miss subtle details shared by their partners.

Both individuals in the relationship need to recognise these are not deliberate oversights but unintentional manifestations of ADHD.

Make a note of dates in calendars, be sure to check in regularly and do your best to stay present during conversations.

All super helpful in maintaining a healthy relationship!

Strategies to Navigate Inattention & Forgetfulness 💡

If you have ADHD, embracing strategic coping tools can make a huge difference.

Embracing Visual Reminders

Stick post-it notes around your workspace, add reminders to your calendar, set alarms on your phone, have a list by the door, and use project management tools like Asana, Notion or Trello.

If you're likely to forget something, put it directly in sight so you can see what you need to remember.

Prioritising Visual Cues

More importantly, prioritise and continually use visual cues!

Utilising strategies like sticky notes, colour coding, or even strategic placement of essential items can prove invaluable in keeping critical tasks at the forefront of one’s mind.

But they are only as useful as your willingness to form habits around them.

Once you start, be sure to keep up with them!

Building Robust Routines

Habit stacking, the art of crafting habits that symbiotically feed into one another, can cultivate a seamless daily flow, reducing the odds of task oversight.

Championing Task Automation

Setting up direct debits, opting for automatic renewals, and scheduling appointments in advance can diminish the cognitive load, ensuring tasks aren’t forgotten. 

I suggest going all in on automation tools for work and business. T

hey will relieve anxiety and make tasks much more streamlined!

Automate all things meme

Try Body Doubling

And if you're struggling with focus and productivity, consider trying Deepwrk's body doubling app to get more done in a supportive environment.

For those looking to find a sense of community, Deepwrk offers ADHD coworking sessions designed to improve concentration & task completion.

Need that extra push to remember your tasks and to stay on track?

Deepwrk's accountability partner app can help you meet your goals by pairing you with someone who keeps you accountable."

Reflections: Understanding ADHD with Clarity ✨

The multifaceted nature of ADHD often eludes broad public understanding. 

It's important to see the difference between object permanence, inattention, forgetfulness and losing things.

Equipped with this knowledge and tailored coping mechanisms, those with ADHD can more effectively navigate our unique challenges.

Just remember that while yes the list of symptoms associated with ADHD may seem never-ending, object permanence is likely not on it!


What is object permanence?

It’s the cognitive grasp of the enduring existence of objects, even when they’re removed from our immediate visual field.

Does ADHD truly intersect with object permanence?

Contrary to prevalent myths, ADHD doesn't undermine one's understanding of object permanence.

Instead, the concept of "out of sight out of mind" in the context of ADHD relates to the manifestation of ADHD symptoms, such as forgetfulness and inattention.

Is it true that ADHD-driven forgetfulness can impact relationships?

Yep! Occasional memory lapses can lead to misunderstandings in relationships, especially if the nuances of ADHD aren't mutually understood.

Find your flow with Deepwrk. An ADHD body doubling app to get more done solo, not alone!
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Demi Aspey
Demi is the founder of the creative agency, Sonder Script, a culture columnist for House of Coco magazine, a part-time lecturer, and a soon-to-be Doctor in screenwriting. She is a scriptwriter by speciality and a copywriting cultivator by trade. Demi is a mental health advocate and was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult.