Almost everyone has memory glitches from time-to-time — they are usually not a sign of dementia.
Here are a few perfectly normal memory problems:
- Being unable to remember the word for something.
- After putting something down, being unable to remember where you left it.
- Having to think for a few minutes to remember where you left the car.
- Going upstairs, then forgetting why you are there.
- Forgetting something relatively unimportant someone has told you.
These are nothing to worry about.
Memory is also affected by poor sleep, stress and depression.
Most people who think they have some memory problems, actually do not.
The reason is that people who are having more serious memory problems are usually not aware of them.
Often it is friends and relatives who suggest a person having memory problems should get checked out.
Somewhat worrying memory problems to watch out for include:
- Forgetting the name of a close friend or relative.
- Regularly putting objects back in the wrong places and not remembering having left them there.
- Asking someone the same question again 30 minutes later.
- Trouble recognising words, faces, shapes or colours.
- Finding it difficult to get around very familiar places, like the local area.
- Difficulty doing multiple automated tasks. For example, a good cook who starts finding it hard to manage a very familiar recipe.
- A large change in personality, such as becoming very introverted after being an outgoing, social person.
The signs above are slightly more worrying but could still be the result of stress, poor sleep or grief.
The warning signs
The following signs, though, are more serious and would probably warrant being checked out by a physician:
- Not recognising close friends and relatives.
- Getting disorientated about time and space.
- Inability to tell the function of an everyday object — like a teapot.
- Poor everyday judgement: like wearing summer clothes in winter.
- Totally forgetting how to perform everyday tasks like using the washing machine.
- Leaving things in strange places, like putting a handbag in the freezer.
- Getting confused about the family structure. For example, being unable to match the grandchild to the right family.
- Asking for something that has just been had, like a cup of coffee.
- Having vivid memories from childhood, but faltering memories for very familiar recent memories.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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