When should you worry about memory loss? Memory loss is a symptom, not a disease in its own right, and can have many different causes, some more worrying than others. Not all types of memory loss are causes for concern and some are memory ISSUES rather than LOSS. This means that you may not have absorbed the information so you have not lost it – you never knew it in the first place!
Absent or Present?
Absent-mindedness is an example of this. For example you can’t remember if you have locked the doors before going to bed at night and have to go back down to check. This is because you were most likely thinking of something else, such as what a tiring day you have had and how much you are looking forward to hitting the sack and locking doors is a routine activity so you don’t have to concentrate to do it. Ergo, you get upstairs to bed and think, did I remember to lock the front door?
The way to avoid this kind of memory issue is to pay attention and focus on what you are doing while you are doing it. If you are fully engaged mentally with the task in hand, you will be aware that you have done it and won’t have to check again. In a nutshell, make sure your mind is present rather than absent!
The modern world is full of a far wider range of sensory distractions than our parents and grandparents ever had to cope with. Households often have TVs on in every room, regardless of whether anyone is watching, creating visual distractions. Everyone is tuned in to whatever notifications are pinging through on their smartphones and providing instant answers to messages during conversations with the people around them.
Somehow it has become necessary to listen to music all the time, wherever we are and whatever we are doing. How many runners, cyclists and pedestrians have accidents because they are listening to their earphones rather than paying attention to what is going on around them?
Our brains are usually pretty good at sifting out the relevant stuff but in recent years, this massive bombardment of information and stimulation is more than even the best multi-tasker can honestly cope with efficiently.
Give Your Brain a Break
Do your brain a favour. Switch off everything except what you are actually really focussing on, particularly when studying. There is a lot of talk about de-cluttering these days. Well, that applies to media as well as objects. Shut off your phone notifications and everything that goes ping! Chances are good that it isn’t urgent and responding in an hour or two won’t be the end of the world.
Don’t have the TV and music and other things going on to distract you when you are trying to study or have a conversation. If you are going for a run, leave the music behind and tune into your environment instead. Make a conscious effort to notice the things going on around you. Listen to the birds, the traffic, the people in your environment – it could save your life as well as widening your experience of your world.
When to Worry
The time to worry and see a doctor is when you experience any of the following:
Repeatedly getting lost on a familiar route such as between home and work.
Having difficulty find the words to express yourself beyond the usual ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon.
Having difficulty identifying common objects.
Not knowing where you are.
Not knowing the time of day.
Repeatedly asking the same question over and over.