Jesse J. Anderson


Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The Truth About Object Permanence and ADHD

Do you know why babies love to play peek-a-boo?

For the first few months of a baby's life, they lackobject permanence.

If something disappears from their sight, it's gone forever.

So when you appear again with a delightful "peek-a-boo!", you have blown their tiny mind with the sudden magic of reappearance.

It's quite delightful in a baby. Another step of the natural development process.

It's less delightful in a 40 year old.

When I first heard that people with ADHD have difficulties that are similar to object permanence, I was honestly a little bit insulted.

Obviously, I know that things I can't see aren't gone forever. And I don't find peek-a-boo entertaining in the slightest.

And yet...

Do you leave books and papers out in piles, giant stacks of clutter all across (and expanding beyond) your work area?

If someone asks about cleaning up an area of clutter, do you respond with "but right now I know where everything is"?

You might not know about your deficiency in object permanence, but you intuitively know that if you clean up those piles and put those books away, you might forget they exist.

Heck, you might even forget people exist if you haven't seen them for awhile.

Not because you don't care, but because your brain simply deprioritizes things you can't see.