Important Information Regarding Memory Problems

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated March 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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As human beings, some of our most prized yet intangible possessions may be our memories. Memories can allow people to recall relationships, experiences, hobbies, interests, and other monumental milestones throughout life. However, the great value of one's memories can also become troublesome when memory problems begin to appear.

Are you or a loved one experiencing memory problems?

There is a considerable variety of memory problems. Each one can have its causes, symptoms, and associated issues. Some can be treated, while others, as of right now, still cannot. However, a clear and concise understanding of memory problems can always be helpful. The truth of the matter is that unexpected events can occur in the lives of various individuals and their loved ones, so a general understanding of this area of study can be helpful.

Potential causes of memory problems

There are a series of issues in one's life that can engender memory problems. 

Medications

Most people regard medications as substances that are designed to treat and get rid of problems, not create problems. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The AARP affirms that certain medications can engender or contribute to memory problems. Some of the medications include, but are not limited to sleeping pills, antidepressants, and painkillers. Even medications that are designed to combat anxiety and lower cholesterol can have adverse impacts on one's memory.

Unhealthy lifestyles

Most people may regard memory problems as issues that are brought about by uncontrollable, external factors.

While this is true in many cases, there are certain situations where an individual's lifestyle can either contribute to or cause short-term memory loss and other memory problems.

For example, depression, stress, and anxiety are all factors which can bring about memory problems.

In many regards, depression, stress, and anxiety can be an interconnected trio of states. Often, anxiety can lead to stress. Similarly, ongoing stress can prompt depression. However, the negative effects of these conditions are not just limited to memory. Stress and anxiety can also engender attention issues. Moreover, individuals who struggle with sleeping, eating wellexercising, or maintaining a healthy balance in their lives may be more susceptible or vulnerable to anxiety, stress, depression, and, by extension, memory problems.

Alcoholism and drug addiction

Addictions to drugs and alcohol can be considered infamous for being behind a litany of issues within individuals' lives; memory problems are no exception. This does not mean that one can never enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, but dependence on alcohol or drugs may make one likelier to experience memory problems. According to a neurology study, heavy drinkers are more vulnerable to experiencing cognitive declines and mental regression than individuals who drink in moderation or not at all.

Lack of proper nutrition

Although many people are told about the merits of a healthy diet, not all of us take nutrition as seriously as we perhaps should. The failure to consume a nutritious diet can lead to unwanted, undesirable consequences later in life; memory problems are just the beginning of the probable consequences which can accompany a lack of proper nutrition.

To be more specific, individuals who fail to consume the proper amounts of B12 may be placing themselves at considerable risk for memory problems and other health ailments. B12 is a critical B vitamin and paramount to ensure proper functions of the nerves. Generally, B12 is in fish, meat, and dairy products. 2.4 micrograms of this B vitamin is recommended for ongoing daily consumption. Dementia, overall confusion, and disorientation are offshoots that can follow a lack of proper nutrition.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is clinically defined as a sleeping disorder which prompts the ongoing starting and stopping of breathing as an individual sleeps. Loud snoring and exhaustion after a full night of sleep are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of memory problems and other similar health issues. This particular disorder is somewhat common, yet thankfully treatable. Anyone who believes they are experiencing sleep apnea should immediately see a medically licensed doctor.

Left unchecked, sleep apnea has the potential to inflict not only memory problems but also engender complete memory loss and dementia. Moreover, sleep apnea can interfere with the delivery of oxygen to the brain which eventually can harm certain cognitive functions such as spatial navigational memory. Spatial navigational memory impacts the part of the brain which allows people to remember basic, yet critical matters, such as where they placed paperwork or how to follow specific instructions.

Strokes

Although this may seem abundantly obvious to certain individuals, it is still worth noting; strokes can have devastating impacts on the state of one's memory. The process of undergoing a stroke engenders a temporary cut off from essential blood vessels within the brain. These vessels are often connected to cognitive functions which people rely upon to perform the most basic of tasks, such as moving independently and forming thoughts. Depending on the severity of a stroke, it can have temporary to permanent impacts on the brain, thus leading to vascular cognitive impairment.

Individuals who already experience memory problems are also more vulnerable to experiencing strokes.

A critical overview of memory problems

An awareness of the causes behind memory problems can be considered paramount for the sake of preventing such ailments. Medication, unhealthy lifestyles, alcoholism, drug addiction, improper nutrition, sleep apnea, and strokes are certainly connected to the existence of memory problems; however, they are not the sole influences.

Many memory problems are engendered merely by the process of aging; in other words, older people are particularly more vulnerable to these issues. This does not mean that all senior citizens will experience problems with their memory, yet it is a possibility to keep in mind.

In many cases, memory problems can be indicative of budding dementia.

Forgetting something every once in a while does not necessarily mean that one is experiencing dementia or memory issues. But if the following symptoms apply to you or someone you know, it might be time to see a doctor.

  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Erratic, random mood swings or behavioral changes
  • Repeatedly asking the same questions
  • Confusion of words
  • Misplacing personal belongings

Are you or a loved one experiencing memory problems?

The possibility of rehabilitation

Anyone who suspects that they (or a loved one) may be experiencing issues with their memory should immediately see a doctor for consultation and a possible memory test; attempting to self-diagnose is not advisable.

However, some memory problems are curable and treatable. For instance, someone who experienced issues with their memory due to certain medications can sometimes benefit from a change in medicine. Similarly, certain supplements can be used to offset the negative impacts of improper nutrition. If anxiety, stress, depression, or other emotional factors are responsible for memory problems, seeking out the services of a counselor, psychologist, or therapist can be the proper solution.

If you happen to know someone who may be experiencing memory problems, they should see a doctor first and foremost. After they have been diagnosed and made aware of their options, your loved one will likely require a strong and loving support system. This supportive foundation can let this person know that they are not alone. As previously stated, stress, anxiety, and depression are considered contributing factors to memory problems. Being surrounded by people who will do an excellent job of supporting you can stop problems with brain health before they happen.

Mental health help is there for you

As with a strong and supportive network of friends and family, someone who may be experiencing memory problems is also likely to benefit from speaking with a licensed professional. Here at BetterHelp, our ultimate priority is to provide care and guidance to all people who reach out to us, regardless of who they are or what they may be experiencing. Life can get challenging. Everyone deserves the opportunity to receive assistance and be as content and happy as humanly possible.

Unfortunately, some individuals maintain at least moderate levels of discomfort regarding the notion of seeking out professional guidance. In certain situations or environments, this decision may be viewed as a sign of weakness or a personal shortcoming. Asking for assistance is one of the strongest and bravest things that anyone can do. We were not put on this earth to be alone.

Online therapy may be a good option for you if you experience memory loss. You can be matched with an experienced therapist quickly and meet with them from the comfort and familiarity of your own home, on a schedule you set so that you can keep track of it more easily. You can also message your therapist at any time, which can be helpful when noting down symptoms or questions you may not otherwise remember.

This form of therapy is still relatively new, but has been proven effective; many studies conclude that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for a wide range of conditions associated with memory loss including anxiety and depression. So not only are you receiving effective, high-quality care, you are also doing so at a more affordable rate and in a more convenient environment.

Takeaway

While there is still much we don’t know about the complexities of the human mind, we can recognize connections between certain behaviors and memory loss. Memory loss is sometimes a genetic inevitability or part of growing older, but it also sometimes is triggered by other factors, such as lack of proper nutrition, mental health issues, or sleep difficulties.

If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of memory loss, speak to a trained health professional for more insight and resources.

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