Memory loss, also called amnesia, happens when a person loses the ability to remember information and events they would normally be able to recall. It could be something that happened seconds or minutes ago, or a memorable event that occurred in the past.
The loss of memory may have started suddenly, or it may have been getting worse over the last year or so. Memory loss has a wide range of possible causes, depending on the type of memory loss.
Doctors classify memories as either:
Immediate memories – such as sounds, which are only stored for a few seconds
Short-term or recent memories – such as telephone numbers, which stay in your memory for 15 to 20 seconds; the brain can store about seven chunks of short-term information at any time
Long-term or remote memories – more permanent memories, which have been reinforced because you've repeatedly gone over them in your mind
Common causes of memory loss
GPs often find that people who see them about memory loss are most likely to have: Anxiety, stress, depression.
Their memory loss is a result of poor concentration and not noticing things in the first place because of a lack of interest. Sleeping problems often make the memory loss worse. Your GP may suggest trying antidepressants. If you have depression or anxiety, your memory problems should get better as the depression or anxiety improves. An elderly person with memory loss is likely to have depression if they also experience changes in behaviour, such as hoarding or being bad tempered.
Tips for coping with a poor memory
Keep everyday items, such as car keys, in the same place and try to do things in the same order each time.
Write information down, and keep paper and a pencil near the phone.
Keep a diary at home as well as at work to remind you to do daily tasks.
Use an alarm to help you remember to do something in the future, such as taking something out of the oven.
Repeat important information you need to remember back to someone.
*It's normal to become a bit forgetful as you get older. However, memory loss could be a symptom of something more serious and should be checked by a GP.