If you find yourself forgetting why you walked into a room or constantly misplacing things like your keys, you may start to wonder if this is normal forgetfulness or something more. We all forget things from time to time, especially as we get older. However as we get older, many people worry that forgetting things can be an early indication of Alzheimer’s disease or other memory-impairing illnesses.
Forgetfulness alone does not necessarily mean that you may have a memory-impairing illness. In fact, certain types of memory loss or distortion are normal and can occur in healthy people of any age. These seven normal memory problems are known as:
- Transience: the tendency to forget facts or events over time.
- Absentmindedness: forgetfulness due to not fully paying attention and/or being distracted.
- Blocking: the temporary inability to retrieve a memory even though it is on the “tip of your tongue”.
- Misattribution: remembering something somewhat accurately, but forgetting details such as the time, place, or people involved.
- Suggestibility: when information you learned after the fact becomes a part of your memory, even though it did not happen during the initial memory.
- Bias: memories are affected by individual perceptions, emotions, beliefs, prior knowledge, and mood, therefore you may recall certain information easier than other information.
- Persistence: memories, that are usually negative, that persist over time.
Now that we’ve taken a closer look at certain types of memory problems that are considered normal, let’s take a look at memory problems that could indicate something more serious. Memory loss can be caused by a variety of conditions including: medications, head trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol, vitamin B-12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, or dementia, just to name a few. Therefore, if you are concerned about your memory, it is important to schedule a consultation with your local neurologist to determine if memory impairment is present and to what degree. Here are some signs that your forgetfulness may be a problem:
- Forgetting common words during a conversation
- Misplacing items in inappropriate places, like putting your car keys in the fridge
- Getting lost in a familiar place
- Mixing up words
- Taking longer to complete a familiar task
- Forgetting how to use things that you normally use on a regular basis
- Trouble focusing or being easily distracted
Unfortunately, most people who have the aforementioned symptoms are unable to recognize it in themselves. In most cases, it is people around them that often notice changes in their behavior that suggest a memory problem. Generally, these behavior changes are subtle and they may not even be noticeable at first. For example, repeating the same words or phrases over and over. You may also notice that there are changes in their daily routine, they may forget appointments or deadlines, and that they are suddenly struggling to complete tasks that were once easy for them.
As with most things, the sooner you get the problem checked out, the better. As mentioned above, there are a variety of things that can cause memory problems, so it is important to determine the cause in order to start the right treatment. If it does turn out that dementia is to blame, early intervention helps to prevent further damage and slow its progression. It also provides an opportunity for you or a loved one to plan ahead and make the necessary decisions before the disease has progressed.
Dr. Kashouty, a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), practices general neurology with fellowship trained specialization in clinical neurophysiology. Dr. Kashouty finds the form and function of the nerves and muscles the most interesting part of neurology, which is what led him to specialize in neurophysiology with more emphasis on neuromuscular conditions. He treats all neurological diseases, but his main focus is to treat and manage headaches, movement disorders and neuromuscular diseases.