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4 Reasons People With ADHD Lose Things

Many people with ADHD find that they have a blind spot when it comes to keeping track of their belongings. In fact, frequently losing things is one of the ADHD symptoms listed in the DSM.

Lost KeysWhy do people with ADHD have a tendency to misplace things, though? I can think of at least four reasons.

  • Inattention: Staying up to date on the current location of a certain object requires constant vigilance. All it takes is a moment of inattention to lose the thread. You put your keys down in one room, then you leave the room without thinking about where your keys are. You lean your umbrella against the wall in a restaurant, then you leave the restaurant without giving your umbrella any notice. One moment of low alertness is enough for you to later find yourself having to retrace your steps, straining to figure out: when was the last time I saw my umbrella/keys/whatever, and where was the critical point of inattention at which things went awry?
  • Disorganization: People with ADHD are multitalented. We’re inattentive, yes, but we’re also disorganized. Which means that we create opportunities for objects to disappear into a mess of papers, fall off the radar in a pile of clutter, or float out into a universe of other random objects that lack any overarching organizational system.
  • Forgetfulness: Often, people with ADHD are only sort of paying attention to what they’re doing. This side of ADHD can be thought of as half-attention or as going on autopilot: you’re doing something, but your brain isn’t really focused on what you’re doing. Because you’re not fully processing your own actions, it’s easy to forget those actions ever took place. So, when it comes to losing things, the scenario goes something like this: you file some documents away in a drawer while you’re thinking about something else entirely, and you subsequently have no recollection of having put those documents anywhere at all.
  • Milk-in-the-Cupboard Syndrome: Then there are times when we lose something by just putting it in the hopelessly, completely wrong place. Call it milk-in-the-cupboard syndrome, keys-in-the-dishwasher disorder, whatever you want – in any case, it’s another effect of the ADHD brain operating on autopilot and of inattention.

If you have a penchant for misplacing objects, have you noticed any patterns in how you tend to lose things? D’you have any tips for keeping track of stuff? Please share by leaving a comment below!

Image: Flickr/Anders Sandberg

4 Reasons People With ADHD Lose Things

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). 4 Reasons People With ADHD Lose Things. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 May 2018
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