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Memory problems

If you notice that your memory is poor, it is natural to think of a worrying explanation such as Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia. In fact, there is usually another reason and the problem is often temporary.

Causes of memory problems

Depression is the most common cause of memory problems. With depression, many of the mental processes are slowed, and memory is particularly affected. Unfortunately, worry about memory loss can worsen the depression, producing a vicious circle.
 
Stress is another common cause of memory problems. Almost any worry or stressful life event can affect our ability to store and recall memories. When the problem is resolved, or time has healed the pain, memory becomes as efficient as it was before.
 
Stressful life events that can affect memory
  • Work-related problems
  • Divorce or other relationship problems
  • Being charged with an offence
  • Being involved in litigation
  • Bereavement

Normal ageing. During your mid-40s and 50s, it is quite normal to believe you have become more forgetful. Surveys find that half of people over the age of 50 report some memory problems (British Medical Journal 2010;340:730-6). But it may not be as bad as you think. Young people forget things and do not bother about it, but older people take more notice of their memory lapses, and worry about them. Do not make the mistake of thinking that everyday memory lapses are Alzheimer's disease – forgetting where you put your keys is not Alzheimer's! We all occasionally put things in strange places (such as the keys in the fridge), but it is only when this sort of thing begins to happen regularly that there may be a problem.

A study of 111 people aged 90–100 years showed that over half had a strikingly good memory (Neurology 2003;60:477–80), so memory loss is not automatic as we get old. Other studies have shown that old people are better at judging whether people are honest or intelligent, so some aspects of mental function actually improve with age.
 
The ‘tip-of-the tongue’ phenomenon is a very common experience. Your mind suddenly freezes when you need a crucial word, such as a name (often of someone you know well). This is more likely to happen if it is a name that you seldom speak aloud, because scientists believe you are simply having trouble retrieving the actual sound of the word from your memory bank of word sounds. It is a nuisance, but does not mean you are on the way to serious memory loss.
 
Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, a failing memory does occur with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is mainly a disease of the elderly. About 1% of people in their 60s, 20% of those over 85 years and 30% of those over 90 are affected.
 
Stroke. It is common to have some memory loss after a stroke, but this usually improves over the following 3–6 months.

Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn
Last updated: Wednesday, October 5th 2011

 


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Comments on this article

Posted by david on 15/04/2014 at 06:45

I have never had a real good memory, aaltho this sit has been very helpful. And yes I suffered from a heat stroke, on disability due to memory loss and other. I do agree some depression is a factor, but it is so frustrating, when people come up to me start a conversation and I have to say excess me, but who are you again. Are the people I probably now but don't recognize and they think I just being a snob. What can I do r do I need a brain scan

Posted by Tyler on 07/04/2014 at 12:03

I read a book which I thoroughly enjoyed and when I went to list it in my Shelfari list ( on line book page) it stated that I had read it 3 years ago. I don't remember a thing about that book. Is that an early sign of dementia

Posted by Optional on 04/04/2014 at 01:47

at first when I was younger it was only things people said I forgot, but know I forget to pick up people or I leave someone behind. I also have a lot of trouble focusing when I am driving.

Posted by april on 25/02/2014 at 11:41

Im 22 a mom of three and I forget everything I forget I left food on the stove I forget when im on the freeway driving and I will arive home and not remember the ride home or anything that I saw on the way I dont remeber driving im just home already I change the pass word on my email and the go to logg in 2 hrs later and I completely forgot again . I FORGET what breast I last feed me baby on I forget everything it this normal my babies 4 months old dose it have go do something with that? Im tierd of forgetting things please help

Posted by koko on 20/02/2014 at 07:36

i am currently going through embarassing memory loss and inability to comprehend anything.i am suffering depression and i am finding it difficult to live normally

Posted by Optional on 19/01/2014 at 08:14

I'm 33yrs old,i can't remember anything that i read in the book,like the 3rd sentence erase the 1st sentence,i read all the time but my memory is just as bad, What must i do to remember what i've been taught yesterday,i'm still a student and i'm failing to remember,i straggle a lot,i fail my test, I use to take Omega 3 an turbuvite but they didn't help me much. Anonymous

Posted by Jay on 09/01/2014 at 01:36

I've wondered about memory loss for some time now. I'm a 43 yr old male. Lived a normal working life. Kind of flit from one job to another so done pretty much most unskilled stuff. I've never believed myself to of suffered from depression or any bad illness. Just an everyday bloke But I often think ild love to get in touch with old friends but I really carnt remember there names. I'm not on about pre school Iran teen age friends. I often get ppl say they know me and ask if I remember such n such. Sorry but I don't. I even struggle to remember girls I've slept with ( not always a bad thing) I forget what yr I've worked at jobs and carnt remember any if the people I've worked with in the past by name. I know I've worked with them I just carnt remember there names. I've hit tattoos I carnt remember having. I loose daily things. ( I guess we all do that ) but I can find stuff n think it's mine until the family explain it's not and often turns out I've never owned anything like it. It's worrying that I remember so little about my past life. Or meeting ppl that I simply carnt remember. I also have pictures of people in my mind but no idea who they are. Drives me crazy.

Posted by Optional on 26/12/2013 at 07:54

hey..i'm just 20 and really do a lot of practice so that i learn it properly..i do learn and write a lot of time but still i forget things the very exact time i need it..it doesn't mean that i do not pay attention..i do but still......i do not get good grades but i want good grades and for that i know i have to do a lot of work but it does'doesn't help me too much..i really want help..how can i improve my memory..??please help....!!!!

Posted by kay on 14/11/2013 at 05:59

im getting so forgetful.cant remember dates,names and what was said to me 5mins ago.im worried and my sister is thinking im making it up.i get so angry over this

Posted by Optional on 09/11/2013 at 06:22

I'm 17, female, and have consistent memory loss, as well as Major Depressive Syndrome. Used to be very intelligent, was in the top 6 students of my graduating class, and now I can't even remember what I said yesterday. My sister is the only person who believes I am losing my mind, and now I actually consider it a possibility.. Help

Posted by fanek1 on 22/10/2013 at 09:39

hi im a 32 year old women, I've had depression for 10 year's and take medicine and my memory doesn't work I went to school too 2006 to 2009 and I learned an understood it was esl English. I knew everything but when I get home or anywhere I forget everything!! and when I try to find a job I forget every thing. I don't speak English or write, this what im using to type Is a translator. life is really hard now. and I still have depression. Doctors said just go sleep what am I going to do. and I have 2 kids. this is messing with my life....I don't know I pass out I go drop. they test and when I pass out my heart stops for 4 seconds if its over im dead. this is really hard if anyone knows anything please tell me! thank you bye. this meant a lot to say it.

Posted by Racheal T. on 18/10/2013 at 12:54

I am 18yrs old, yet I forget things easily which is very frustrating.I don't remember my childhood days, even my secondary school classmates that we have played together then just about 3years ago I hardly recognise them or remember them. I don't usually remember people's name and hardly recognise them. Now I am a student nurse and I hardly remember things that I am being thought in school. The most embarasing part is reading for exams and forgetting after getting to the examination hall. I don't know what to do.

Posted by Optional on 13/10/2013 at 06:26

Well this was nt helpfull i am 24 nd for get things easily. I love to read my books very well bt when i want to talk abt what i have read al over time i cant rember any tin expt u remind me. Plzz tell me if some thing is wrong with my brain

Posted by ram on 08/10/2013 at 05:57

hi,i am ram.. i am really afraid because i easily forget what i read or im poor in memorizing. i am short memory.. and forgetful. do give me some tips.huhuhu.

Posted by Optional on 06/10/2013 at 11:17

I am Destiney and I am 14 and I am experiencing memory problems I sometimes cant remember what I read a second ago or even what someone said like 10 seconds ago I feel terrible so I node and say "oh yeah" and smile no one knows what is wrong with me only my closest friend Sadie. she is very helpful reminding me on what to do or telling me what just happened a few minutes ago. Thanks to her my memory is kind of improving. If your reading this Sadie I love you and thanks for everything! <3

Posted by Optional on 30/09/2013 at 08:51

Hey im 14 and i seem to forget everything within a day and i have gained alot of weight can that be from stress or depression?i dont think its normal to forget so much at a young age like this

Posted by Optional on 23/09/2013 at 11:48

I am frightened, my memory lapses..I search for words in conversation. I know I am depressed since my husband died. I have a sometime boyfriend who has major problems too workwise and makes me very depresses to the point I sometimes dread answering his calls. I drink too much occasionally bu my memory loss scares me. How do I know if I have dementure?

Posted by Optional on 23/09/2013 at 10:01

I struggle to remember sometimes and I forget quik, I mustabated a lot I think that might be the cause

Posted by Optional on 20/09/2013 at 12:24

During school I had trouble learning in my teens... I left with no grades but I was great at things that was self taught or exciting, I'm now 27 I was ill during school diagnosed with asthma but iv had stroke like symptoms about 15 years... Now my recent memory after a recent attack has worsened.... But iv no stroke showing on the brain scans.... Is it anyone else like this? If anyone has any feedback email on cjw3010@hotmail.co.UK hope this is ok.

Posted by Kaylala111 on 28/08/2013 at 04:42

My memory has been getting bad! 4 day ago my husband and I went shopping and I bought a raspberry lemonade, I didn't drink it and we put it in the fridge. This morning I saw it and I was like wondering where it came from and I was almost like think strange things like someone bought it for my husband so I asked him where it came from and he reminded me that I bought it!! I did remember right away! I am extremely concern now!! Does anyone think that I should be concern??

Posted by karen on 26/08/2013 at 02:06

i have memory loss so bad that while i m typing this i forgot , ive been told its stress my husband died three and a half yrs ago backk then i had it but its gotten much worse .i wa useing alot of drugs a few years back please help any thing i will try.. im really scared i

Posted by estephania on 17/07/2013 at 11:23

I am yound, but I have had for a few years now memory problems. I forget what I'm going to do, or say, I often mix words. I forget what people tell me sometimes not 30 minutes have passed and I totally forget. I often have problems full filling a task quickly because I start doing 2-5 things one after the other without finishing NONE. Its even caused Me problems with my boyfriend, half the time he thinks I'm lying.

Posted by deli worker on 22/06/2013 at 02:22

i have just turned 22 this yr. i am single parent. I have had memory problems since age 5 my parents had me to alot of dr no help. when told serveral things to do i can not remember them. i forgot get things all the time loss my keys forget what my mom tells me i need tp pick up and i do not do well at all with direction. can you please help me now i have a kid.

Posted by Optional on 10/05/2013 at 05:52

I just seem to forget what people mostly family members tell me.

Posted by akeem on 27/04/2013 at 04:38

hey my name is akeem , an i have a problem with my brain , the problem is when i try to study i cant study i goes into alot of daydreams i forget alot i start to feel sleepy , and i can consecrate on my work, my left side brain hurt when i study sometimes , i really need help

Posted by Optional on 06/04/2013 at 08:57

I had brain cancer in 2007.I lost one eye.I have aways worked and still do,till 3wks ago I have not been able to. I get real depressed,headaches,and also repeat things over and over every 5 to 10 minutes.Iwent to the emergency had x-rays and cat scan. but dr. said every thing looked normal. I'm worried I'm repeating a lot.what could be my problem.

Posted by Olipah on 18/03/2013 at 11:42

My forgetfulness is wearing me down because half the time I practically walk miles my own home because of it

Posted by Jasmine Cherie on 25/02/2013 at 03:51

I am 17 & currently a senior in high school and for the past two years My memory has left ... someone can tell me something and within 30 seconds I'd forget it . I am so scared because this isn't normal for some one My age . I forget alot of stuff , especially important things . My mom is 32 ,& I have 3 brothers . They're 9 , 2 ,3 & I have to deal with them all day because My mom works and goes to school , so it leaves all the pressure on me with My brothers .. My Uncle thinks i'm stressed , can any one sorta help me

Posted by Nyo on 25/02/2013 at 12:53

I lost some part of my memory. i went out with my friends on 24.02.2013. I can remember until the time i left them. But my friends said they were along with me and we were talking together. but i can't remember that moment at all. It may take 15 to 20 minutes. Next day my friend recount about last night and i was shock as i can't remember. Is there any solution to remember again?

Posted by Masturbater on 23/02/2013 at 05:20

What is with you Pakistan and Indian people..masturbation is healthy, your country is messed up to teach you it messes with your memory....hahahahah and the fact that you believe such a crock of shit is even more funny! Just a way to brain wash you people...listen sex and masturbation lead to the same thing orgasm..and if it were not healthy to have a orgasm or made you have memory problems the human race would be endangered and we would all be idiots. I have been masturbating for 33 years never a problem and my husband for 34 years and he is near genius! Go get your lotion bottles and your porn and have a great time!! Spread the word to all your Friends...you are normal and healthy!!!!!

Posted by mill on 31/01/2013 at 03:51

I have always had a memory problem as far as i can think back in 16 and my childhood meaning under 7 i prob only rember a entitre 6 events and honestly wish i couldnt. like i forget names of family and sometimes even my own. i can be looking for an item i lost for upto six hours trying to find it even if i had it less then a min prior. i cant make appointements cause i simply wnt rember. it restricts me in many ways. i dnt know if its cause my mental health is a bad state, subsance use, or that it runs in my blood. i even forget partners names that gets awkward

Posted by Andy Hollis on 28/01/2013 at 10:33

I suffer with memory loss when dealing with things that are every day or not exciting and perhaps this is the key? If I have an interest in something then I have no problem recalling details, dates etc. Maybe if I filled my life with fun or mild challenges I would have a perfect memory? :-)

Posted by Santhosh on 06/01/2013 at 12:07

I've been masterbating over 5 years and i lost my memory, couldnt concentrate on anything:-) plz help me soon bye

Posted by shania on 04/01/2013 at 07:47

Hi, uhm i am having memory problems, like i knew my best friend for 3 years and after seeing her one day the next day when i saw her face i couldn't think of her name, and i keep forgetting how to spell things and i forget where i put things and how to do something in school and half the time i don't even remember conversations i have had... can you tell me whats wrong?

Posted by Optional on 25/11/2012 at 06:48

hi, My girlfriend in 24 and Alzheimer’s runs both ways in her family. Her grandma has it in her mothers side and her fathers parents both had it. Ive known my girlfriend for 2 years and i've noticed she forgets things easily. It is both little things like which day her appts are to big things like when/where did you use hundreds of dollars. For instance, she cant remember what she did 3 months ago with $500.00. She thinks she knows but she isnt 100% sure. I dont know, but for some people, wouldnt you remember things like that? She is very smart though, dont get me wrong. I dont know if heavy drinking in her past has anything to do with it or not. I guess what my question is, can early Alzheimer’s have an on-set this early?

Posted by O on 23/11/2012 at 01:35

I'm 13 and i have a really bad memory i cant remember anything from 2 weeks ago to earlier and no one can help me :(

Posted by Samy on 13/11/2012 at 11:34

i forget everything from people's, work related and important things, money, ect... i'm having difficult to remember a persons face that i met 2 days ago sometimes. i'm scared its getting worse

Posted by Optional on 26/10/2012 at 04:26

i am 21 years old , i have lack of concentration , easily tired , short-term memory loss , shortness of attention span what i should do ? and what is my possible diagnosis ?

Posted by tshireletso mokhasimbe on 10/10/2012 at 07:08

memory problems are part of our lifes.....and if you get more depression it can make you anxious and unable to cope

Posted by Optional on 05/10/2012 at 09:55

I'm a 17 year old girl, I sometimes forget stuff but lately I have been forgetting a lot like a conversation I had with a friend or locking the door. should I be worried??

Posted by Optional on 01/10/2012 at 06:59

hi my namee is saeed khawaja i was wondering why do i loose my whole memory once in couple of years for 2-5 mints what are the possibilities please

Posted by isabel on 30/09/2012 at 03:12

Why do I forget words to use when having a discussion with a friend?

Posted by emmanuel osinachi on 16/09/2012 at 12:29

i have had this problem for couple of years now, i was once addicted to masturbation, which i did just for 1year, but now i have stopped this habit.... this are the physical symptoms i have , fatigue, loss of contration, social anxiety, memory loss

Posted by Optional on 12/07/2012 at 07:06

I'm 32 and have become forgetful from last few years, since born of my 1st child (C section) initially i thought it's due to hormonel changes as I use to remember every single thing i use to keep it but now i just forget where i keep things,what somebody told me to bring, what somebody discussed with me...I'm worried what's going on with me and want to get treated for this. Any help?suggestions?

Posted by JJ on 19/11/2011 at 10:58

I am aware that I am becoming more forgetful over the past 5 years. I can not recall a conversation with a friend just 6 days ago in which I was apparently quite upset during the conversation. I can't remember anything about it. This is really worrying me. I have lost so many things in my house lately and over the past 4 years I have fell over in public about 5 or 6 times, really big fall overs. Should I be concerned and should I go to the doctors?

Posted by Optional on 07/10/2011 at 10:00

Ive noticed im getting forgetful , i keep missing apiontments ,forgetting names etc.

Posted by Optional on 17/07/2011 at 08:44, Nigeria

thanks for yr enlightenment.

Posted by Optional on 28/06/2011 at 11:44, Pakistan

i am 21 years old and iam facing the problem of concentration and memory loss what would you suggest me to do because i masturbated for the last ten years

Posted by vishal on 19/04/2011 at 10:24, India

i always read a book i understand it at the moment but afterwards i dont remember anything to tell in interview i can remember bullet points to write in the exam.i dont remember names hich my friend remember very easily. this was not the case few years back.In my studies i used to remember everything even if i read once.

Posted by Shatex on 18/03/2011 at 05:49, Pakistan

i think over masturbation badly affects one's memory. over masturbation definitely results in lack of concentration, poor memory, forgetfulness, impaired thinking, complex and logical thinking is also impaired

Posted by Wes on 11/11/2010 at 02:48, United States

Very frustrating. There seems to be no information, no help, and no one capable of understanding that my girl's complete loss of memory is very serious. If we had money it probably wouldn't be a problem. Just flash the cash and get some help.

Posted by Mel on 28/10/2010 at 01:45, Australia

If you have concerns with your memory, going back to the GP is a good start as this is where you can get a referral to see a clinical neuropsychologist who can carry out some test on memory with you. There are a range of things that can impair memory as mentioned in the above article such as stress, depression and alzheimers. The main thing here is to be proactive and seek support around you rather then doing this all on your own.

Posted by Anonymous on 19/10/2010 at 04:44, United States

I honestly dont know what to do anymore about my memory problems. I just recently started noticing it about a couple of months ago when i was having a conversation with a friend. She has told me before that i ask her the same questions about four times in the same conversation. Sometimes i dont even remember how i get to places. I barley have any memory of what i did the day before. Its' pretty hard to deal with. I struggle in school because of it... everyone thinks i dont pay attention. I even take notes but they hardly help...

Posted by Optional on 28/09/2010 at 04:43, United States

My 29 year old friend can not recall restaurant names he has eaten at just days earlier. He also can not remember people's names he just met or just spent a few hours with. Sometimes he can't remember situations he and I have been in. Why is his memory so poor? Could something have happened to him earlier in life? He is able to function and hold a good job at work, as far as I know. Any thoughts?

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