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Memory loss is the inability to recall information or events that typically would be remembered. Forgetfulness can be normal as adults become older. 40% of people older the age of 65 experience some kind of memory problems. However, serious memory loss can be very stressful for the individual affected and those around them, and can seriously impede quality of life. Frequent and severe memory loss could be an indication of a more serious condition, in which case an individual should seek support.

Symptoms of memory problems

Have you been having trouble recalling recent or past information? Have you also been experiencing periods of extreme sadness, sleep disturbances. Have you been finding it hard to concentrate, or have been distressed by worrisome thoughts?

If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms for a period of a few weeks, you may have memory problems, and these may indicate the presence of another condition, such as depression, stress, or anxiety. It is extremely important to seek support if your symptoms are not improving, if your state has affected your work, relationships, or personal interests, or if you are having any thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

While many assume that memory problems may be an indicator of dementia, this is often not the case. It is important to seek professional help in order to diagnose what the root of the problem is, so that appropriate treatment may be sought.

If you are worried that you or a significant other may have dementia, the general signs of this are a gradual worsening of memory loss and a struggle to remember recent occurrences, while still being able to remember past events. Therefore, if someone is having difficulties with their long-term memory, it is probably not dementia.

Causes of memory problems

Memory problems can result in the inability to recall a variety of information. Immediate memories include experiences that have just occurred, such as sights and sounds. Short-term memories are those that stay in your memory for less than minute. An example is a telephone number. The brain can typically store around seven pieces of this information at a time. Long-term memories are those that are more permanent. These are usually well embedded in your memory because you have probably gone over them many times before. These could be notable or important life events, or material that you have learned thoroughly.

Normal age-related memory loss is a result of the deterioration of the brain cells and structures that are responsible for memory functions. Other memory problems are often caused by a number of other conditions, including anxiety, stress, or depression. These primary conditions may mean that an individual is experience poor concentration, and may not be noticing various things around them in the first place. This would mean that the memories were never fully embedded in the brain, resulting in poor recall at a later point. These conditions are also associated with disturbed sleep, which can worsen memory.

Other immediate events can cause memory problems, including the experience of a serious head injury or a stroke. These would likely cause a sudden loss in memory, known as amnesia.

Treatments available for memory problems

There are a number of effective treatments for memory problems, depending on the root cause of the condition. If the memory problems stem from another condition such as depression, anxiety, or stress, common treatments of these primary disorders may improve memory. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or counselling are effective in treating these disorders. Medications, such as anti-depressants, can also be taken to improve these disorders, and may help alleviate any associated problems with memory.

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