Cognitive Maps in ADD ADHD – – – ADD Tip O the Day 551

Cognitive maps

From a course on learning: Starting as babies, we develop two kinds of cognitive maps of our environment. One is directions – go north three blocks, turn left at the pornography store, and right at the next light  –.

The other is a visual image of the landscape which we gradually build up as we explore it.

There’s two kinds, but I’m short one – geographically challenged

My brain never constructs the visual image. I can get lost in our house. In Santa Fe, 20 years now, I still have to look up how to get somewhere, or ask my wife, or follow a map.    I can’t picture where the major intersections are, or anything else.

I also  don’t know where different countries are located, in general. Fortunately, this isn’t so much of a handicap. I do have Mexico and Canada down pretty well by now.

Write it down

This is my strategy. Once I get the directions, I write them down, unless I’ve been there many times. I usually manage okay with the places I go to weekly, but that’s it.

Writing it down is an ADD ADHD strategy I use for many things; trying to hold something in my brain is asking for disaster.

My other strategy is the cell phone, which is a blessing.  Sometimes I can get the GPS to work for me and can follow it; more often, I use the phone to call my wife when I’m lost.  Which is often.

Question of the day

Is this part of ADD ADHD, or a separate dysfunction, dysgeographia, like dyslexia?

Does anyone else have dysgeographia?     


ADD,ADHD,adult ADD,adult ADHD,attention deficit,strategies,coping with ADD,coping with ADHD,life with ADD,life with ADHD

Where does this road go?


Bonus links

Ten tips from Homey

More on I get lost

Another geography strategy

About doug with ADHD

I am a psychiatric physician. I learned I have ADHD at age 64, and then wrote two ADHD books for adults, focusing on strategies for making your life better. I just published my first novel, Alma Means Soul. Your Life Can Be Better; strategies for adults with ADD/ADHD available at, or (for e books) Living Daily With Adult ADD or ADHD: 365 Tips O the Day ( e-book). This is one tip at a time, one page at a time, at your own pace. It's meant to last a year. As a child, I was a bully. Then there was a transformation. Now I am committed to helping people instead abusing them. The Bully was published in January, 2016. It's in print or e book, on Amazon.
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12 Responses to Cognitive Maps in ADD ADHD – – – ADD Tip O the Day 551

  1. I am really good at directions most of the time. I can usually find someplace a second time from the mental picture in my head. If not, I’ll just drive around until I figure it out. Getting lost doesn’t scare me at all.

    My ADHD daughter, on the other hand, is directionally challenged in a MIGHTY way. I remember one time she was going to the medical building for a check-up. She asked me how to get there. I told her, stressing that the hospital was right next to the highway. She could see the building from the highway. So she headed out and immediately got lost. She never saw the gigantic red brick hospital. I was so frustrated! I spent a lot of time on the phone with her getting her places. But this one – how could she miss the hospital!!!!! She wasn’t able to transfer information – she couldn’t take the information I told her about the hospital being close to the highway and realize that if she was far from the highway then she must have missed the hospital.

    I was SO thankful when she got an iPhone and learned to use GPS. She’s 28 now and still a bit challenged but she can usually find her way as long as she has her phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Homey – I’m with your daughter! Except I have trouble getting a GPS to work.
      Thanks for your input – is now three of us directionally challenged and two of us who aren’t, so I guess it’s really not a basic part of ADD ADHD.
      As always, thank you for commenting.


  2. I can relate. I have ADHD and I also have trouble “picturing things in my head” so I also write down directions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Scott Marckx says:

    Hi Doug,
    I don’t seem to have trouble with this one. I love finding new trails in our local woods, and after walking there a few times had a general sense of how to find my way, even on a new trail. I love looking at maps and charts and imagining places. I also use that same part of my brian when imagining a project and how to put it together, make the parts, try different solutions to some problem part of it in my head without having to actually make the thing first. The ADD part of my brain though just keeps going with endless messing around with fun things to make in my head and gets lost up there, instead of focusing on the task at hand.

    All the best,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Scott – so it looks like my dysgeographia is just me, a separate “disorder” and can’t be blamed on my ADD. I hope some other people comment, but so far it’s three without the problem to one (me).
      And that’s a very creative gift you have.
      We do need strategies for staying on track. I think specific ones for specific issues, more than a general one?
      Thanks for commenting.


  4. I have to go with Ken on his comment. Like him, I find that I have no problem with my mental map. In fact it’s one of my most reliable features. I call it my pigeon brain capability, as if I have a bit of magnetized grit in my head. I seem to naturally orientate myself when walking out in towns or the backwoods. Whereas my non ADD wife seems to want to head off in the most random directions until I redirect her.
    It seems the storage and visualization side of my brain works fabulously, totally contrasting the decision and organising side!

    Liked by 1 person

    • airplane -Wow! So far it’s two good and one bad, me. So maybe it’s not the ADD?
      Is the storage and visualization side of your brain the right side? maybe mine is missing? Or maybe there’s some other neurological explanation for my deficiency?
      Thank you for commenting.


      • Doug, you might probably have seen this already from Iain McGilchrist, who describes very interestingly how he believes the brain is split between tasks and roles. When you view it from our ADD perspective I find an added layer of interest reference the inhibition of the corpus callosum maybe not doing its job for us correctly and also perhaps our left side not functioning on the detail and concentration functions. What do you think?
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        Kind Regards


        • Steve – thank you for the very interesting link. I don’t know. It’s a different viewpoint.
          Certainly something doesn’t seem to be functioning – but people say I focus on the negative, which is true, because I’m trying to find strategies to compensate. So for the positive, I think there is agreement that most of us are creative. Maybe that is the right hemisphere not being subdued by the left. But again, I creatively blurt out creative things that are inappropriate – whoops! There’s the negative again.
          Thank you for commenting.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This is very interesting Doug because this is one of the few times I DON’T know just how you feel!

    I’d say my ADHD resulted in the opposite – I just couldn’t be bothered to learn the things I needed to write down (as a musician needing to learn key signatures this was a disaster!). Instead I let my super-manic brain work out mental strategies to calculate everything in my head alone. I’m also someone who can visualise even very loose plans or maps really well and find my way to (most) places pretty well. My wife, by contrast, who has no ADHD at all could get lost in a paper bag!

    I would be interested to see if other ADD ADHD peeps think like you and I’m the anomaly or if it’s vice versa!

    Ken 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • ken – your comment is interesting too. thats one of the points of the post, to learn if its just me or if its generally part of the ADD
      and my non ADD wife can find her way anywhere, even if she was last there 10 years ago. but is hopeless with a map. go figure.
      thanks for commenting

      Liked by 1 person

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