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where did I put my mind?
Memory problems and what you can do about them
"Susan, how are you?" the voice calls out.
Uh, oh. You have no idea who this woman is, but you try to bluff your way through a conversation as best you can.
"Fine, and you? Yes, the kids are doing great."
Then you look at your watch, make a hurried excuse and run.
Hours later, it comes to you. She's your next door neighbor.
Are you often fuzzy-headed and have gaps in your memory? It happens to everyone once in awhile and can be associated with aging. But if you're living with a mood disorder, taking psych meds or have had electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), these may be the cause.
Do you have trouble:
- with numerical calculations that used to be easy?
- finding the right word?
- remembering facts?
- recalling events from five years ago? Or last week?
You're not alone.
Causes of memory problems
Stress, depression, bipolar disorder and some anxiety disorders can all cause some degree of memory and cognitive difficulties.
Studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder have problems with memory, spatial concepts and problem solving.
Depression can cause problems with long-term memory, and if compounded by anxiety, problems with the recall of new information, as well.
Lithium, a medication for bipolar disorder, was shown in studies to cause problems with memory, concentration and thinking processes. Many sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants are known to affect memory and brain function.
Electroconvulsive therapy has repeatedly been proven to cause memory loss, although authorities disagree about how long it can last.
Tips for keeping your mind sharp
Use memory tools
- Let calendars, lists and electronic organizers help you stay organized.
- Keep keys, cell phone, sunglasses in a basket by the door.
- Keep a list of account numbers, log-ins and passwords together in a secure place where you can access them when you need them.
Use it or lose it
- A brain that gets regular work-outs performs more effectively.
- Do word games such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles. Here's a good source for a fun mental work-out.
- Take a class to learn a new skill or explore a new interest.
An active body = an active mind
- Exercise increases blood flow to your brain and makes you feel more energetic and alert.
- Take the dog for a walk. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
Brain food: Eat smart
- Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that protect and nourish brain cells.
- Breakfast has been shown to improve the way we think and remember.
- Folic acids, calcium, vitamins B3, B6 and B12 and essential fatty acids can improve memory and intellect. Find them in these foods.
- Many dietary supplements claim to have brain-boosting effects. Reliable information on herbs and supplements can be found here.
De-stress your life
- Simplify your life. Cut back on commitments and activities.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Don't let multitasking overwhelm you.
Good food - Good mood
How to relax
InteliHealth and Harvard Medical School
National Library of Medicine/National
Institute of Health
Center for Biotechnology Information: U.S. National Library of Medicine
Pavel Yutsis MD and Lynda Toth, PhD, Why Can't I Remember? Avery 1998
Page updated November 1, 2009