man on sofa using tv remote
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Lack of Exercise

If your memory is hazy, your ADHD may be to blame. And if you don't exercise much, you aren’t doing your brain any favors. However, physical activity can improve your memory. It can also help you make decisions, learn, and pay attention. Time to dust off those sneakers!

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couple eating in restaurant
2 / 11

Eating Out Often

Making dinner may not be rocket science, but it takes a lot of mental effort if you have ADHD. You have to plan, prep, and follow steps. Sure, it’s easier to go out, but you should do so rarely. Healthy food can help you manage ADHD, but it’s hard to get on the go. Restaurant food is packed with calories, sugar, salt, and fat. You won’t get enough fruits and vegetables, either.

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jar of lollipops
3 / 11

Too Much Junk Food

So far, science can’t answer the question of what, if any, foods make ADHD worse. But research suggests that added things, like food coloring, can make some children’s symptoms worse. You’ll find this stuff in junk foods like soda and candy. Scientists don’t know if it affects adults too, but it can’t hurt to nix junk food. Try it, and see if your symptoms get better.

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man walking with phone and coffee
4 / 11

Skipping Breakfast

If you blow off that morning meal, your symptoms could get worse. Breakfast can make it easier to handle social situations. It can also help you think and keep you focused longer early in the day. Even if your meds zap your appetite, try to eat a little something. A hard-boiled egg or carton of yogurt will do the trick. 

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messy room at home
5 / 11

Messy Homes and Offices

Some people say clutter is a sign of genius. Research suggests it may signal creativity. But a messy nest could make some symptoms worse. Those piles of papers, books, or laundry remind you of all the stuff you need to do. Sometimes it can be too much. On the flipside, clearing the clutter can make you more productive and ease your worries. 

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shopper surrounded by bags
6 / 11

Too Much Stuff

Shopping can be fun, but a nonstop habit can lead to hoarding. If you have ADHD, you may find it easy to get too much stuff and hard to let it go. The good news: There’s a way to stay calm and shop on. Follow the “one in, one out” rule. If you bring in a new item into your house, you have to donate an old one.

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adderall pills
7 / 11

The Wrong Meds

When your doctor diagnosed you with ADHD, were you honest about your life and symptoms? If not, you may be on the wrong treatment -- and you could be worse off. Why?

  • ADHD meds don’t always work well if you have substance abuse problems. 
  • Drugs for major depression can make ADHD worse. 
  • Some ADHD medications can make anxiety worse. 
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light behind window at night
8 / 11

Lack of Sleep

Sleep problems and ADHD often go hand in hand. For some, the cause is a stimulant medication. For others, anxiety, depression, and other conditions that come along with ADHD are to blame. Lack of sleep doesn’t just make you tired. It can also worsen symptoms like lack of focus and problems with motor skills. Your doctor can help. Let them know what’s going on.

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man in therapy session
9 / 11

Quitting Therapy

If you’re doing well with therapy plus medication, stick with them. You might be tempted to quit therapy once you feel your ADHD is under control. After all, taking a pill is so much easier and therapy costs money. But research shows it really helps ADHD -- especially when paired with meds. Skipping it could make your symptoms worse. 

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woman using laptop at night
10 / 11

Too Much Screen Time

Could your gadgets make your symptoms worse? Maybe. Doctors have found links between ADHD and excess screen time. Internet addiction can also lead to more severe ADHD symptoms. However, we don’t yet know which problem fuels the other. What we do know: Screen time before bed can disrupt your sleep -- and that will make ADHD symptoms worse. 

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woman relaxing with cup of tea
11 / 11

Not Enough Caffeine

If you have ADHD, your coffee or tea habit may make your symptoms better. So it stands to reason that kicking the habit could make you feel worse. The caffeine in tea could make you more alert, help you focus, and help your brain work better. It can also give your working memory a boost. If your doc says it’s OK to have caffeine, enjoy it! 

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/11/2019 Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 11, 2019


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Journal of Attention Disorders: “Long-Term Memory Performance in Adult ADHD.”


Trends in Neurosciences: “Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation.”


CHADD: The National Resource on ADHD: “30 Minutes of Exercise Can Increase Attention,” “ADHD, Sleep and Sleep Disorders,” “Medication Management,” “Nutrition and ADHD,” “Organization and Time Management,” “Pay Attention Longer With Breakfast.”


Obesity Reviews: “Nutrition Standards for Away-from-home Foods in the United States.”


Harvard Mental Health Letter: “Diet and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”


Journal of the American Dietetic Association: “Breakfast: A Missed Opportunity.”


American Psychological Association: “A messy desk encourages a creative mind, study finds.”


Behaviour Research and Therapy: “Inattention, but not OCD, predicts the core features of hoarding disorder.”


Frontiers in Psychology: “ADHD, Lifestyles and Comorbidities: A Call for an Holistic Perspective -- from Medical to Societal Intervening Factors.”


Cureus: “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as an Adjunct Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Young Adults: A Literature Review.”


BMC Psychiatry: “The association between attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and internet addiction: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”


National Sleep Foundation: “Scary Ways Technology Affects Your Sleep.”


Neuropharmacology: “The effect of caffeine on working memory load-related brain activation in middle-aged males.”


Medical Hypotheses: “Tea consumption maybe an effective active treatment for adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on September 11, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.