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The Psychology Shop

Memory: Part 2- Cause of Loss

Memory : Part II
I’m Sorry; I Don’t Remember

This article is dedicated to the cause of memory loss. And yes, there are indeed many ways you can lose your memory, many of which you may not have thought of yet. You can develop memory loss through physical events such as a stroke, head injury, certain medications, hormonal changes….just to name a few. Every day events such as too much stress can also impact your memory.

Just by looking at the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression and it can be easy to see how these mood problems can really impact your memory. For example, people who are anxious will often worry, have a hard time controlling anxiety, feel restless, are easily distractible, have sleep problems, and can be irritable. People who are depressed, will often feel extremely sad, have no interest in any normal activity, have difficulty focusing, and experience sleep difficulties. Symptoms such as concentration, distractibility, fatigue, excessive worry, irritability, and moodiness all impact your ability to remember things. If you can’t focus on something, how are you going to remember it, right? The same goes for feeling tired. It is physically more difficult to remember information when a person is fatigued. The next time you wonder about your memory abilities, just ask yourself, “So, how is my mood?”.

Many people begin to be more aware of their memory as they get older. Well here is the good news and the bad news. Yes, it is indeed true that the older you get, the harder it may to remember things. But, wait….there is more to the story than that. While it is true, the speed of recall decreases with age, the ability of recall does not necessarily go away. In other words, it just takes longer to process the information. Give yourself more time to remember something. Also, consider how you are attempting to remember something. By the time we are in our late 50’s and 60’s it becomes far easier to recognize something than recalling it without any cues. This is called recognition memory, the ability to recall an event after being provided a cue (“You know, that just reminded me of ……”). In addition, many folks may also experience word finding difficulties (it’s on the tip of my tongue) which will interfere with any discussion. Let’s not forget the ability of hearing or seeing. If you can not adequately hear a conversation or see what you are reading, it will be impossible to remember. You have to get the information in your brain first to be able to retrieve it.

Well if mood and age were not enough to impact your memory, here is a quick list of physical factors which influence memory. First, there are the events that impact the brain directly including stroke and head injury. While each of these can cause dramatic memory changes, it is not uncommon to see a patient improve with time. And by time, we are talking about months up to a few years. While the brain is truly a remarkable organ, it often takes a long time to see to what extent a person will recover. Other health problems which impact memory are: thyroid, kidney, liver changes, cardiac problems, and alcoholism. Alcoholism can be associated with severe memory problems and this is not just blackouts. Alcoholics who have drank heavily, are at risk for Korsakoff’s Syndrome which is related to a combination of alcohol and poor nutrition. The best treatment for Korsakoff’s Syndrome is to stop drinking (this disorder is associated with prolong heavy alcohol use - not normal social drinking) before any problems develop. Last but not least, let us not neglect the use of certain medications. If you feel that you are developing memory difficulties that you can not explain, immediately go to your doctor. It really could be as simple as changing a medication.