I am forgetting everything

Why Do I Keep Forgetting Things? Is It Alzheimer’s or Normal Aging?

Written by Virginia Anderson

  • Other Causes of Memory Loss
  • Memory Loss: What’s Normal?

As you get older, chances are you’ll sometimes forget a word, where you left your car keys, or the name of a neighbor you bumped into at the market.

These small memory lapses happen. They're a normal part of aging -- just like creaky knees, wrinkled skin, or blurry vision.

It can help to:

  • Write yourself notes.
  • Place your keys in the same place each day.
  • Play word games or do crossword puzzles.

Because loss of memory is also a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, you might worry that these lapses are a sign of something more serious. Alzheimer’s, which affects some 5 million Americans, most of them over 65, is irreversible.

Other Causes of Memory Loss

In most cases, there’s no great cause for worry. Just because you lose your keys or forget someone’s name doesn’t mean you have Alzheimer’s. You could have memory loss due to the normal aging process.

Conditions that contribute to memory loss include:

  • Depression
  • Medication side effects
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Not enough vitamin B12 or a low thyroid level
  • Stress and worry of any kind, such as from the death of a spouse or loved one, or from retirement
  • Illness

Memory Loss: What’s Normal?

One symptom of more serious memory loss is that you’re not aware there’s a problem. Family members might seem more worried than you are. If loved ones are talking to you about your memory, take their concerns to heart and see a doctor.

Here’s a checklist for what’s normal, along with causes for concern.

Normal: You forget daily appointments but remember them later.
Cause for concern: You ask friends and family for details over and over again, or need them to do tasks that you used to do yourself.

Normal: You make a mistake balancing your checkbook.
Cause for concern: You have trouble planning or solving problems that used to be easy. It’s hard to do things that involve numbers, like follow a recipe or pay monthly bills.

Normal: You need help once in a while with the microwave settings or a TV remote.
Cause for concern: You can’t work the stove or drive to a familiar spot.

Normal: You forget what day of the week it is but remember later.
Cause for concern: You find yourself in a place and don’t know how you got there.

Normal: You have age-related vision changes. You get a cataract, for instance.
Cause for concern: You have problems with distance, color, or perception. You pass a mirror and don’t know your own reflection.

Normal: You can’t find the right word immediately.
Cause for concern: You call things by the wrong names. You stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea what you were saying.

Normal: You misplace your glasses or the remote from time to time.
Cause for concern: You put things in weird places, and you can’t retrace your steps to find them. Or, you accuse others of stealing.

Normal: You make a bad decision from time to time.
Cause for concern: You make bad choices with money often. You don’t groom or keep yourself clean.

Normal: You feel tired of work, family, and social demands sometimes.
Cause for concern: You can’t keep up with the teams or hobbies you like. You try not to spend time with others because of the changes you’ve been through.

Normal: You have your ways of doing things and get grumpy when you’re derailed.
Cause for concern: You get upset easily, when your routine changes, or when you’re out of your comfort zone. You’re often confused, anxious, suspicious, depressed, or afraid.

Alzheimer's Disease Guide

  1. Overview & Facts
  2. Symptoms & Causes
  3. Diagnosis & Treatment
  4. Living & Caregiving
  5. Long-Term Planning
  6. Support & Resources

When to be Concerned About Forgetfulness

You were rushing to leave the house this morning and forgot — again — where you left your car keys. Or maybe you spent at least five minutes looking for your reading glasses, only to realize they were hanging on the chain around your neck the whole time.

You’ve been wondering if it’s time to worry. Are these common memory lapses or a health issue, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?

It’s always good to keep an eye on your health and ask questions — and while certain things are normal to forget, other signs should prompt you to call your doctor.

Memory issues that are normal

We’ve all had moments when we couldn’t remember something simple, like someone’s name, only to have it come to us later.  

“Memory slips like this are common,” says Dr. Glen Finney, a behavioral neurologist at Geisinger. “The key is that it comes back to you eventually and that you didn’t completely forget. If it’s harder to remember or think things through than it used to be, even when you give yourself all the time you need with no distractions, you may need to see your doctor.”

If what you notice falls into any of these categories, your memory is likely nothing to worry about:

Forgetting facts over time

For example, if it’s been a while since you’ve done complex math, it might be hard to remember how to do it. This is called “transience.” 

“Researchers speculate it may be the brain’s way of making room for new information or memories,” says Dr. Finney.

Being absent-minded

Forgetting for a moment why you went into a room or misplacing items (like your car keys) in a common place is a sign that your brain didn’t secure the details, likely because you were distracted.

It happens to us all, especially if we’re particularly tired, busy or stressed. Try retracing your steps to jog your memory when this happens to you.

Not being able to retrieve a memory in the moment 

This happens when a memory is on the tip of your tongue. Also called “blocking,” it might happen if a stronger memory gets in the way.  

“When this happens, try to relax. Then, usually, the memory will come back to you,” says Dr. Finney.

Forgetting minor details or having inaccurate memories

Find yourself remembering part of a memory but not all of it? Or maybe you get some of the minor details wrong. 

This is called “misattribution.” It can be frustrating, but be open to someone else’s recollection of a particular event and try not to get frustrated with yourself for forgetting.

Memories are subject to suggestibility, meaning that something you learn after creating a memory can change how you recall it. If this happens only once in a while, it’s not a cause for concern.

Memory issues that may require a doctor

People who have memory loss symptoms that affect their day-to-day function may have dementia.

“Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in people over age 65,” says Dr. Finney. “More than 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and the biggest risk for developing the disease is getting older.”

If you or a loved one have the following symptoms frequently, it might be time to talk with your doctor:

Memory problems that impair daily living

Forgetting things you just learned, needing to have things repeated frequently, repeating yourself frequently or needing memory aides and notes to remember simple tasks when you never had to before… it can be frustrating.

When your memory impacts your daily life, working with your doctor to find a diagnosis may lead to treatment that can help.

Getting lost in familiar places

This can include not being able to find your way through your favorite park, getting lost on your way to work or forgetting how you got somewhere.

“Though some people can be embarrassed to admit when they get lost in a familiar place, coming to your doctor about a problem like this can help you stay safe in the future,” says Dr. Finney.

Misplacing objects in unusual places

Frequently being unable to find an object even after retracing your steps, or finding something in an unusual spot (such as your car keys in the refrigerator), may indicate a memory problem that requires working with your doctor.

When to talk to your doctor about forgetfulness

“While it can be hard to talk about, diagnosing dementia early can allow you to make plans for your future care with your loved ones,” says Dr. Finney. “It allows you and the people close to you to have a framework for making decisions.”

Some causes of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, are progressive, meaning memory loss symptoms get worse over time. But others can be fixed or stopped if caught early enough. So, if you or someone you know has noticed changes in your memory — especially if accompanied by other signs like challenges with planning and problem solving, difficulty with words and visual relationships, poor judgment or mood changes — talk to your doctor.  

Next steps:

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"I keep forgetting everything" | PSYCHOLOGIES


Know YourselfAnti-stress

Simple absent-mindedness or obvious health disorder? Can we cope with our forgetfulness on our own or should we seek help from specialists?

Memory disorders can have many causes. The most difficult cases are associated with neurological disorders. “And above all with Alzheimer's disease,” says neurologist Vladimir Zakharov. - Only in the initial stage of this incurable disease can we make life easier for patients. We preserve their memory with the help of transmitters, drugs that make up for the lack of acetylcholine, the substance by which information is transmitted from cell to cell.

Another common cause of forgetfulness is vascular dementia. It develops rapidly, and in this case, memory helps to preserve drugs that normalize cerebral circulation.

These severe impairments must be distinguished from simple forgetfulness, which can be caused by stress, depression, or long-term traumatic experiences. And in these cases, it is quite possible to improve memory. “If, having forgotten the name of the actor, you remember it when you hear his name, then the violation is not of a systemic nature. In this case, you can turn to a psychologist,” says Vladimir Zakharov.

Psychological reasons

“Forgetfulness often occurs at the moment when a person's connection with himself is broken, he stops hearing his inner voice, and perceives life as a difficult test,” says psychoanalyst Ksenia Korbut. “Oblivion turns out to be a saving way out, however, only for a short time.” Psychodramatic trainings, work with a psychotherapist help to clarify the relationship with oneself and with one's family history.

From the point of view of psychoanalysis

Everything that we once experienced, everything that causes us a feeling of discomfort, anxiety, fear, we push into our unconscious. “This is how one of the methods of psychological defense works,” explains Ksenia Korbut. “By “forgetting”, we get rid of the ambivalence of our feelings, protect ourselves from negative experiences - in a word, we temporarily forget about what causes mental pain. But at the same time we move away from ourselves, because the cause of our suffering remains unchanged.

"I couldn't remember how old I was"

Nikolai, 51, employee of the Ministry of Culture

“For the last few years, I keep forgetting things. For example, I need to find something in the office. But while I'm going there, I forget what I was going for. On duty, I have to conduct many negotiations with a variety of people. And often I completely forget our preliminary agreements. Some kind of sudden failure, a veil ... This happens to me more and more often, and it becomes simply unbearable. And the other day something quite out of the ordinary happened: I could not remember how old I am! All of this makes my life miserable. "

Everything that is stored in our unconscious periodically breaks through in a symbolic form, in the form of plot dreams, erroneous actions (slips of the tongue, slips of the tongue), memory lapses. Alexander, 32, constantly forgets or loses the keys to his apartment. He grew up in an authoritarian family, and his parents made it clear very early that he had no place in their home. From the age of 18, Alexander lives independently. It would seem that he forgot about what he experienced in childhood, and perhaps only such a strange forgetfulness worries him.

“Rejection is a strong destructive feeling, it is difficult to cope with it,” comments Ksenia Korbut. - Unconsciously forgetting the keys, Alexander is still trying to free himself from this experience. But each time, faced with a locked door, again and again he feels abandoned. Forgetting indicates the presence of a problem, and what exactly we have forgotten can tell us where to look for the cause of suffering. Psychoanalysis helps to plunge into the unconscious, to relive painful experiences and thus free oneself from them.

What to do?

1. Do exercises to develop attention

Buy a beautiful frame, insert a sheet with some poem in it and hang it in a conspicuous place. Your goal is to memorize one or two poems a week.

2. Work with the body

Sign up for a dance studio: classes will help you maximize your memory and attention.

3. Not trying to do everything

Forgetful people often think about a hundred things at once. Let yourself rest and learn to shift some things to others - then it will be easier for you to remember the main thing.

4. Play associations

Connecting one representation to another is a great way to remember them. Look for your memorization techniques.

5. Develop sensuality

The more your senses are involved during some activity, the more likely it is that you will remember it well. Go to a perfume shop to enrich your olfactory palette, quit smoking for a better taste, and pay attention to tactile sensations.

Advice to those around

The main victims of forgetfulness are those who forget themselves! So don't be too harsh on them. If, having forgotten about the agreement, the person again let you down and is trying to find the reason for his forgetfulness, show tolerance. Prompt, ask leading questions related to a particular situation.

This is exactly what the therapist does during a session. Help your forgetful loved one train their memory: instead of repeating the same thing three times, ask him if he remembers what you just said. Such "checks" will contribute to his greater concentration.

Text: Natalya Gridneva Photo Source: Getty Images

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I constantly forget everything.

Is it sclerosis?

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Polina Golovina

Or you open the refrigerator and you just can’t remember what you wanted to take from there so tasty. Or when you start talking, and the next second there is emptiness in your head and not the slightest idea what the conversation is about. Why is this happening? Is it dangerous? Is it possible to remember everything? Let's build neural connections on this topic in the correct sequence.

Forgetfulness is not a sign of senile sclerosis, although everyone is used to joking like that. To do something, you need to give the task part of your attention. Attention is a complex process that the brain performs in order to focus on a certain type of information or task and not get distracted by everything else. But we live in a complex world full of physical and informational noise, and over the years these interferences only get bigger. Some kind of interference can distract the brain so much that it switches its attention to it and loses connections in the current context. So it turns out that while you are preparing breakfast, “background” thinking about the upcoming work, wandering thoughts about business crowd out the context of breakfast, and now you are standing at the open refrigerator, blinking from the bright light and trying in vain to remember what you need to get.

It would seem that the solution is obvious: just don't get distracted! But the problem is that people do not fully control their attention: although the main focus is directed to the main task, the person continues to perceive what is happening around. This is necessary so as not to get confused if something unexpected happens. It is through this channel of information that an uninvited stimulus periodically sneaks.

Renowned neuroscientist Adam Gazzali has been studying the factors that distract us and get us into such awkward situations for a very long time. He and his colleagues made a small classification of stimuli:

To visualize the difference between these four phenomena, let's imagine that you work in a cafe. You hear a low hum of voices, the sound of appliances, music and generally ignore them - this is an external irritant that Gazzali called a distraction. You need to calculate the client, and at this time a colleague asks you an urgent question - this new task will also be an external stimulus, but already interrupting, since you need to transfer part of your attention from the main task (calculate the client) to a secondary one - answer your colleague. You look at a client’s check and suddenly realize that you missed lunch and are very hungry — such “mental intrusions” Adam Gazzali refers to internal irritants, when a completely out of place thought suddenly appears in your head. Well, when you plan the weekend, getting ready to close your shift, these are “mental switches”.

As you can see from the diagram, two of the four types of stimuli occur when we try to do several things at the same time. Psychologists have been proving for decades that multitasking doesn't work. So we join them and recommend not to try to be a multi-armed Shiva, but to calmly do one thing after another.

In programming there is a term "context switch". If one task is running, then the multitasking operating system can, if necessary, abandon it and direct the main resources to solving the second problem. At the same time, all data on the first one is kept in memory in order to immediately return to it, as soon as the second one is solved.

The difference between machines and people is that people cannot always return to the previous context so easily: the necessary data literally fly out of their heads. The problem with "context switching" among people seriously worries technical directors and IT managers in general, because developers, switching from task to task, work worse. So memory difficulties happen not only in everyday situations, but also at work, and this is normal: this is how the human brain works.

Of course, memory problems can cause concern: is everything all right? But do not forget that the brain perceives, processes and stores a huge amount of information, and it cannot work perfectly. Experts at Harvard Medical School even published a list of seven “normal” memory problems.

So the following is perfectly normal.

  • Over time, forget facts or dates, especially those that you rarely remember in everyday life. Not remembering the date of the Battle of Waterloo or the birthday of a second cousin who has only been seen a couple of times in her life is not a cause for concern.
  • Forgetting distractedly: for example, it's perfectly normal not to remember where you put your phone or glasses if you didn't pay attention to where you left them in the first place.
  • Not being able to remember a name or word when it is needed, although you are trying very hard. Usually the brain at this time refers to a very similar memory, but not to the one that is needed, and most often after a couple of minutes or half an hour everything is remembered.
  • Remember something partially or with errors.
  • Remember something that didn't actually happen or didn't happen to you. Suggestible people can have false memories, but how this happens in the brain is still under investigation.
  • Recall the situation depending on your mood or condition. Human memory and perception are not perfect. They depend on many factors that affect what is remembered or remembered.
  • Always remember and cannot forget some events. This happens with psychological trauma, anxiety disorder or great stress.

It so happened that in Russian sclerosis is often called memory loss. At the same time, in medicine, sclerosis is not only not associated with memory, but it is not a diagnosis at all.

Sclerosis is the process when normal tissues in the body are replaced by connective tissues. For example, if metabolic processes are disturbed in the blood vessels, then particles of lipoproteins begin to settle on the walls of the vessels. Their diameter gradually narrows, and the blood flow worsens. This is how atherosclerosis manifests itself.

Most likely, the word sclerosis in our language is associated with poor memory, which is why.

If sclerosis extends to the vessels supplying blood to the brain, then the condition is fully called cerebral atherosclerosis. It can cause a stroke, or asymptomatically impair blood flow to the brain. As a result, the neurons in the brain die and the brain at first works worse, and then it completely ceases to cope. This is how vascular dementia proceeds, and memory lapses are one of its symptoms. This is how the unhealthy process in the blood vessels greatly confused the Russian people.

Claims of miraculous fish oil, glycine and other pills and supplements to improve memory are unfounded. It is much better to lead a healthy lifestyle: get enough sleep, do not abuse alcohol, eat right and varied, and take care of your mental health. Of course, the idea of ​​overclocking memory with pills is attractive, but our editors do not recommend engaging in self-deception.

The human brain perceives, processes and stores a lot of information, and therefore sometimes there are failures in it - and we suddenly forget something. If memory lapses bother you or prevent you from living a normal life, then you should share your concern with a doctor: sometimes it is a symptom of a dangerous disease, although most often forgetting something is normal for a person.

What we used to call sclerosis is actually a disease of the cerebral vessels.

Learn more