Memory Loss And Aging
Weve all misplaced keys, blanked on someones name, or forgotten a phone number. When youre young, you dont tend to pay much attention to these lapses, but as you grow older, you may worry about what they mean. Perhaps you start to talk about a movie you saw recently when you realize you cant remember the title. Youre giving directions to your house when you suddenly blank on a familiar street name. Or you find yourself standing in the middle of the kitchen wondering what you went in there for. Memory lapses can be frustrating, but most of the time they arent cause for concern. Age-related memory changes are not the same thing as dementia.
As you grow older, you experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions youve always taken for granted. It takes longer to learn and recall information. Youre not as quick as you used to be. In fact, you may mistake this slowing of your mental processes for true memory loss. But in most cases, if you give yourself time, the information will come to mind. So, while its true that certain brain changes are inevitable when it comes to aging, major memory problems are not one of them. Thats why its important to know the difference between normal age-related forgetfulness and the symptoms that may indicate a developing cognitive problem.
Signs Of Stress Is It Time To Take A Break
Life makes demands on all of us, all of the time: work, home, relationships, health we gamely juggle the load, sometimes with spirit and enthusiasm, at other times with a sense of obligation or duty.
The point is, we cope we get the things done that need to be done and our lives roll on, maybe not perfectly, but in a way that we can say with some confidence, Ive got this.
Low-level stress can be motivating in small doses. Who hasnt responded to a looming deadline by working with a bit more focus? Unfortunately, sometimes the demands on us can feel overwhelming. When that happens, our mental and even our physical health can be affected.
But what level of pressure is acceptable, and how do we recognise when we need help?
Im fine must be one of the worlds most overused phrases. Any time were asked if were OK, we reply mechanically: Im fine. And then, one day, we realise were not fine. Not fine at all.
Its time to become more self-aware time to listen to our minds and bodies and recognise the signs that we need a break to recharge. But what are the signs that we need to look out for? And what can we do about stress?
Weve been inspired by Headspace, an organisation which uses a mindful and meditative approach to help us become self-aware and make long-lasting improvements to the quality of our lives.
How To Support A Person With Dementia Who Has Anxiety
Encourage them to:
- talk about their worries or fears If something very upsetting or traumatic has happened recently or in the past, the person may find it helpful to talk about their feelings however, if it was severe emotional trauma, ask a professional counsellor or psychotherapist for help first . If they are not comfortable discussing sensitive issues with someone they know, it may help if they instead talk to a professional counsellor or therapist.
- continue with treatment Encourage them to keep taking anti-anxiety medication or doing a course of therapy, even if they think improvement is slow at first.
- stay active
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Other Causes Of Memory Loss
Other reasons you may experience memory loss can include the following:
- Normal age-related memory loss is common and manageable. One example of this is forgetting where you put your glasses but remembering later in the day.
- Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia. It can cause progressive, irreparable brain damage and memory loss.
- Mild cognitive impairment can alter thinking skills and eventually progress to Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia.
- Minor head injury or trauma can trigger slight memory problems, even if you didnt lose consciousness.
- Forgetfulness is a potential side effect of certain medications.
- Brain tumors or brain infections can affect your memory or trigger dementia-like symptoms.
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency can create problems with your memory. This is because youre not maintaining healthy nerve cells and red blood cells.
- Alcoholism or drug abuse can impair your mental state and abilities. This can also occur when alcohol interacts with medications.
- Hypothyroidism slows your metabolism, which can lead to memory problems and other issues with thinking.
- Brain or nerve damage caused by diseases such as Parkinsons disease or multiple sclerosis can cause memory problems. A 2013 study found that people with depression have a greater risk of developing Parkinsons disease.
As A Care Worker How Can You Help
There are many conditions and circumstances where you may see signs and symptoms that may be confused with dementia. As a care worker, it is not your responsibility to try to diagnose the condition. However, as you may be the one person who sees the individual on a regular basis, you are well placed to notice any changes. Encouraging an older person to visit their GP on a regular basis can help them to maintain their general health and wellbeing.
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Reaching Out For Support
While mild anxiety symptoms might lift on their own, persistent anxiety generally wont improve without support from a trained mental health professional.
To find therapists in your area who specialize in anxiety, consult a therapist directory or try a quick Google search.
Interested in giving online therapy a try? Start with our recommendations for the top online therapy services.
Let your therapist know about all of your symptoms, not just memory loss. Make sure to let them know if memory problems dont improve with treatment.
Already receiving some kind of treatment for anxiety and still have symptoms? Its worth talking to a professional about other approaches.
Not all treatments work for everyone, and it may take time to find the most effective approach for you.
Some people benefit from therapy alone, while others find a combination of medication and therapy most effective.
The Stress Response Changes The Electrical Activity In The Brain
Apprehensive behavior activates the stress response, which causes a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the bodys ability to deal with a threat.
Some of these changes cause an increase in electrical activity in parts of the brain. Increased electrical activity causes the brain to generate an increase in thought generation and at a faster rate.
An increase in thought generation can cause our attention to be easily distracted, which can cause split attention and focus making learning and remembering difficult.
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Normal Forgetfulness Vs Dementia
For most people, occasional lapses in short-term memory are a normal part of the aging process, not a warning sign of serious mental deterioration or the onset of Alzheimers or another dementia.
The following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:
- Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
- Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your sons name.
- Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
- Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what youve just read, or the details of a conversation.
- Not quite being able to retrieve information you have on the tip of your tongue.
How Can Stress Cause Memory Loss
When we are stressed, our adrenal glands produce more cortisol, one of the bodys key stress hormones. The cortisol shuts down bodily functions that may get in the way of survival until the crisis has passed.
The problem is that if we stay in a state of stress, our bodies do not return to normal. If we want to know what causes memory loss, we have to look at chronic stress and what it can do to the brain.
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Youre Not Sleeping Well Or Enough
Whatever the reason youre not getting enough good quality sleep, poor shuteye can affect your memory in a big way, says Dr. Petersen. During the deeper stages of sleep, certain proteins are cleared out of the brain, says he says. But if you never get to the stages of sleep when these housekeeping activities are thought to be taking place, perhaps toxic substances can build up in the brain, Dr. says, and affect the way these nerves work. Talk to your doctor about possible sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea for which you can be treatedimproving sleep can boost your alertness throughout the day, which helps memory, says Dr. Petersen.
How And Why Do Anxiety And Depression Affect Memory
Numerous studies have shown a clear link between depression and anxiety and memory impairment but what is it about these mental health conditions that affects the memory part of the brain?
According to Dr Krista Jordan, a clinical psychologist and therapist at Choosing Therapy, there are many reasons why this is the case, one of which being the impact cortisol the stress hormone which tends to exist at higher levels in people with anxiety and depression can have on the retention of memories.
While mild to moderate levels of stress can actually improve memory and other cognitive functions by providing motivation, high levels of stress releases chemicals in the brain that disrupt memory formation, she explains.
When stress chemicals like cortisol and corticotropin-releasing hormone are high in the brain it prevents the brains memory centre, the hippocampus, from functioning properly. If memories cannot be integrated by the hippocampus, they never make it into long-term storage and fade very quickly.
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Keep Calm And Carry On
Anxiety is often a normal reaction to a stressful situation, so its not something we should always try to cure. However, if you suffer from a serious anxiety disorder, which is a constant problem in your life, ignoring it could cause long-term health problems on top of any memory issues.
Of course, being told to simply calm down can be the last thing someone with a GAD wants to hear because its not always that simple. However, a visit to your GP is undoubtedly your first port of call. He can prescribe anti-anxiety medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and suggest talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or neurolinguistic programming .
Finding an outlet for nervous energy can sometimes help too, because regular exercise releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins which can ease anxiety. Or you may prefer something that helps to calm breathing and relax the body, such as yoga. Usually a combination of all of these is what works the best.
The Stress Response Alters Brain Function
The stress response suppresses the rationalization areas of the brain and increases the activity in the fear center of the brain .
These changes make it easier to detect and react to danger.
While this change in brain function can benefit us when in danger, the downside is that it reduces memory performance.
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Anxiety Blackouts Confusion And Depressed Mood
Reviewed on 8/5/2020
There are a few different medical conditions that are strongly associated with:
- Depressed Mood
While the symptoms above can be considered a guide to help associate symptoms common among the conditions below, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms. Below are the top condition matches for your symptom combination from MedicineNet:
The Truth About Memory Stress And Cortisol
In the short term, cortisol may be beneficial .
However, cortisol binds to cells in that area of the brain that converts new experiences into memory. This binding disrupts the memory-forming process, ultimately making memory impairment permanent.
Researchers at the University of Iowa also found a connection between cortisol and short-term memory loss in older rats.
Another study by Cheryl D.Conrad found that chronic stress reduces spatial memory: the memory that helps you recall locations and relate objects. Chronic stress clearly impacts nearly every brain region.
Precisely the reason you sometimes forget where you kept your car keys when you are about to rush to the office for an important meeting.
High stress also activates the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream. Adrenaline increases your attentiveness which is important to support your defense mechanism of fight or flight when put in a stressful situation.
However, adrenaline and memory do not mix well.
While the increased attentiveness may have a fleeting beneficial effect on memory the anxiety and distress that causes adrenaline production is likely to lead to brain fog and forgetfulness.
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Why Does Severe Anxiety Cause Memory Loss
Extensive research demonstrates various ways that anxiety and memory loss are linked, and studies show that people with generalized anxiety and/or panic disorders have greater difficulty remembering experiences from their childhood than their non-anxious counterparts. Its clear that acute stress can disrupt the process of collecting memories.
“For about three years, I could not remember anything about my childhood.”
New Yorkbased licensed mental health counselor Ramon Lantigua Jr. further explains this connection to Allure. Anxiety can cause memory loss because it is an incredibly unpleasant emotion, and memory loss allows us to put off dealing with that negative event in an attempt to limit future instances of anxiety, he says. Often, specific memories that caused us anxiety are specifically lost as a strategic coping mechanism. This coping skill is very common when dealing with those who have struggled with trauma.
Rachel, 21, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, confirmed that they tend to forget specific memories that were traumatic or caused them great anxiety. I have difficulty remembering the order of events that are related to traumatic memories, they say. I may remember what happened but not how it happened. And for about three years, I could not remember anything about my childhood.”
How To Alleviate The Problem
However, it isn’t necessary to tease out all the nuances of stress and memory to realise that too much stress is bad for the system. Dr Yurdakul says, if you’re feeling forgetful, it may help to strive for better emotional regulation.
“Strategies such as meditation, t’ai chi and mindfulness can help reverse the effects of stress and promote a state of relaxation” he says. “Regular engagement in such activities helps form adaptive behaviours that become habitual and build resilience when dealing with stress. Regular exercise or finding fulfilling hobbies can also be very important in promoting enjoyment of life and emotional well-being.”
He adds that how we appraise events is also very important. If we interpret an event as threatening, we’ll experience a physical stress response. However, it’s in our power to reframe how we see things.
“Sometimes it is possible to do this on our own, sometimes with a trusted friend or a relative. Sometimes it may be necessary to see a psychologist or psychotherapist who practises therapies such as CBT or IPT ,” he says. “Making good use of one’s support network is a pivotal strategy for good mental health.”
There are also self-help books that can be invaluable as we move through this process. Dr Graham has written two books, Accept How You Feel and Mind What You Think, which shed light on the underlying patterns behind stress and anxiety.
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