We can all forget things at one time or another. It is normal to be forgetful from time to time. It is also normal to worry about your forgetfulness, however when does forgetfulness become abnormal?
While only scientists and experts hold the answer to this question, they have provided us with a list of memory problems that should not be the cause of too much worry in the case of your mental health.
This refers to an individual’s tendency to forget about particular events and facts.
Mostly, this due simply to the item not having a strong enough emotional impact to be comprehensively retained. To many people, this is viewed as a sign of a person’s poor memory skills.
However, transience, in a general sense, is deemed as beneficial by some brain scientists. This is because forgetting these facts and events may also mean clearing the brain of unused memories so that it can have enough space for newer and more useful information.
So, problems relating to transience are not always a problem. Of course, if the amount and seriousness of things forgotten affect a persons wellbeing or quality of life, outside help should be sought.
For example, an eye witness of a crime points out that the murderer is a blonde-haired man. However, the next day they read in the newspaper that the same crime was said to be committed by a brown-haired man.
In turn, the eye witness may now begin to recall and create images in their mind about particulars from the crime with that brown-haired man in it. This occurs because there are times when a person’s memory becomes vulnerable to the power of suggestion. This is also the reason why people can recall some incidents in their childhood, but in reality some of these recollections never really took place.
If you keep on forgetting where you put your eyeglasses or car keys, then you are absent-minded. This occurs because your mind is thinking about what it perceives as being more important things, and in turn does not bother to secure the encoding of information that is not so crucial.
Absent-mindedness can also manifest if a person finds themselves forgetting certain activities that need to be done in a certain time or schedule, resulting in missed appointments and missed dinners.
Have you experienced trying to name something or someone you know, but at that instant find yourself having difficulty remembering what it is? Subsequently, you just tell the person you are talking to that it is just “on the tip of your tongue”.
This is an example of “blocking” which refers to the inability to recall or retrieve certain information that you previously knew well. Although the information has been properly stored in a person’s brain something keeps them from recalling it.
You may even find yourself retrieving the wrong information that is somehow related to what you really wanted to recall. You will also feel like this wrong information you retrieved is competing with your ability to recall the correct one. For example, you may repeatedly call your dog’s name by your other pet’s name.
Many people mistakenly believe that their memory has the ability to record what a person perceives and experiences in a manner that is completely accurate, like an infallible recording. What they do not realize is that a person’s memory and ability to record information can also be affected by their belief, mood and prior knowledge. This ‘filtering’ explains why a depressed individual recalls many sad and negative thoughts more readily than happy and positive events.
This memory problem manifests when you recall only a portion of certain information, or improperly link memories. For example, you may accurately recall the name of the person you happen to meet inside the store but failed to remember where you met that person in the past.
You may even mistakenly associate that person as “John, the guy I used to work with in Colorado” but only to realize later that it was John who used to be your neighbor when you were still living in Colorado. Misattribution is more common in older people.
While this can in part be due do some decline in ability to remember, it should also be remembered that older people have had to try to remember a lot more over a longer time than a younger person. So not only do they have to filter through a lot more memories, a long time since the memory was stored may have occurred, which will make accurate recollection much more difficult.
If you notice your loved one having troubling trends in memory lapses, or a friend is having sudden changes in their ability to recall things, encourage them to visit a health professional. Only an expert can tell whether someone is suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other mental health problems. Whether it is one of these issues, or something more relatively minor, the sooner the diagnosis the better the prognosis.