I forget. a lot. I don't know why. please help me.
August 25, 2010 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I forget. a lot. I don't know why. please help me.

I have been noticing for a while now that I am increasingly forgetful. we all forget the occasional birthday. we all fudge a detail or two. or have to ask again about something someone explained a week earlier. this happens a lot to me.

I used to think it was because I chronically lacked enough sleep. fatigue does hurt your concentration. I started writing a lot more things down. I tried to be extra-dilligent in what I did. it doesn't seem to have worked.

I have been told by more than one friend that I have a tendency to ask the same question more than once over the course of a few hours. I forget details they have told me. I notice myself that I have to force myself to stay concentrated more so than I used to have to. I have to keep myself from skimming over documents and I have trouble remembering so much as a license plate or what I was going to get from the supermarket. I suppose you all know what it's like to forget that one thing you meant to buy there. that happens to me all the time.

I am not sure what is going on. I am thirty-three, healthy and in good shape. doctors usually notice my slow heart beat and low blood pressure but not much else. I am wondering if this is something I should inquire about specifically and what to ask for.

I am not asking you to make a definitive diagnosis. we all know that's not possible. but I am asking for pointers. does what I am describing remind you of anything? have you dealt with similar situations?
posted by krautland to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You sort of are describing getting older. I'm 29 and my memory ain't like it used to be. Forgetting things after just leaving the house is like a daily occurrence.

I find using spaced repetition exercises - even for unrelated things, helps. I use it for learning a second language - working on memorizing phrases has helped my memory... "power" in general.
posted by alex_skazat at 12:06 PM on August 25, 2010

As sio42 pointed out, see your doctor and discuss your memory issues with him/her.

If those come back negative and you're still having issues, see a neurologist. Your doctor may or may not need to refer you to one. If your insurance covers neuropsychiatric testing, that would be a great test for them to see more into your memory problems.

Are you on any medications? Some medications can screw with your memory.
Any past head injuries?

I have a crappy memory - but that's because I have narcolepsy - and like you mentioned - fatigue hurts my concentration (memory). But I also had some neurological testing (balance, reflexes) and answered questions just to rule anything out.

Besides when tired, my memory is at its worst when I'm depressed.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:10 PM on August 25, 2010

I am a little younger than you and have noticed the same thing in myself over the last couple years. Especially the trouble concentrating and defaulting to skimming parts. I also find myself attempting to listen to what I know is important information, but accidentally zoning out (this happens at work a lot and is super embarrassing!). The part that scares me the most, though, is the fact that I blank on words a lot - both vocabulary words and also names of things, especially titles, place names, technical terms I'm supposed to be familiar with.

I'm divided as to whether it's normal, just the first signs of aging and my naturally very quick brain settling down a little*, or whether it might be a symptom of something more serious.

Like you, I am otherwise healthy and have no other physical symptoms. I can't offer any advice, obviously, but I will be keeping a really close eye on this thread.

*I was a gifted child and even as an adult am used to being very quick, almost photographic memory, trivia geek, etc.
posted by Sara C. at 12:12 PM on August 25, 2010

It is not normal to be that forgetful at 33. Some forgetfulness, sure, everyone forgets some stuff, but not to the point of making a habit of repeating the same questions again and again without realizing it. It's a good idea for you to be making a list of possibilities to ask your doctor about. sio42's list is a good one.

Hypothyroidism is a key possibility to check since it can also cause a slow heart rate, as you mentioned having. Thyroid testing can be problematic because a number of doctors will tell you that your thyroid is normal based solely on your TSH blood test results, but some people are hypothyroid and yet have normal TSH levels, so they have to rely on other blood tests, specifically the free T3 and free T4 tests. I mention this only because it happened to me.
posted by Ery at 12:25 PM on August 25, 2010

Do you drink a lot of wine, beer, etc? Alcohol can do this to you. Stress, also.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:30 PM on August 25, 2010

screen for Alzheimers. It runs in my family, and I've heard that new thinking is that it can start showing up as early as the 30s.
posted by Ys at 12:38 PM on August 25, 2010

Total and complete meaningless anecdata, but . . . your symptoms sound exactly the way my friend describes her friend. He has a benign brain tumor.
posted by MeiraV at 1:25 PM on August 25, 2010

- Ask the same question more than once over the course of a few hours
- Forget details they have told me
- Force myself to stay concentrated more
- Skimming over documents
- Trouble remembering license plate[s] or what I was going to get from the supermarket

It seems to me your examples aren't so much about forgetting information you once knew as they are about focusing and absorbing information as it's coming to you. When you are asking a question, are you truly giving the person your full attention and listening to their answer, or is your mind racing ahead to the next thing? When you're reading are you slowing down and concentrating on the material or are you or trying to speed through or do other things at the same time? I know for me grocery lists and license plate numbers are looked at or written down quickly without really taking time to commit them to memory, so it's no surprise I can't remember them later.

I think this is a sign of too much multi-tasking and information overload. We have a culture that's accustomed to fast, easily available information in a constant overwhelming stream, and we rarely need to really exercise our memorization skills, so it's no surprise they are rusty when we go to recall information later. Chances are it's not that you're forgetting these things, you never really knew them in the first place! Memory games and exercises may help, but more importantly, slow down and focus when you are taking information in. Eliminate distractions, both in your mind and in your environment. Close your eyes and repeat the information to yourself a few times. If you improve your focus and listening skills, my guess is you'll find your recall skills will improve as well.
posted by platinum at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Or you on any medications or take any drugs regularly?
You mentioned you lack regular sleep... Do you still get less than 7 hours a night?
Do you take anything like Ambien?
posted by Theta States at 1:45 PM on August 25, 2010

Wow, you sound like me. I frustrate the hell out of my boyfriend because I completely fail to remember aspects of conversations, meaningful moments, whether I was supposed to buy cranberries or cherries etc.

I agree with platinum. I think maybe 85% of the time it's because I wasn't really listening to start with, even if I *thought* I was. Instead, I'm thinking about whether I've got food in my teeth, or whether I need to go to the gym tonight, or if I'll have time to job hunt when I get home and how much would it cost to hire a van and what if the bank are really rude when I phone them back etc etc.

I never struggled when I was younger, probably because there was less life-baggage weighing me down. I'm only 25 - I'm fairly sure that by 33 I'll have completely ceased functioning. You're doing well to have remembered to post this question!

Personally, the solution I'm working towards is: stop multitasking. Yeah I'll be less productive; but it'll be quality, not quantity.
posted by citands at 2:02 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You haven't become vegetarian during the time period in question, have you?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2010

So did you actually solve your chronic sleep deprivation problem? Because that is still a pretty good explanation, and let me tell you from experience, your body's ability to roll with that particular form of self abuse diminishes as you home in on middle age. On another tack, and just to get very "in the news" about it, are you marinating your brain in the emanations of digitial doohickies all the ding dang day? Maybe you've got "brain fatigue.".

In my experience persistent stress above my average background level (enough that I'd notice and remark upon it) makes me forget stuff like crazy. I find it difficult to imagine a doctor taking the "symptoms" you're describing very seriously, but only a doctor could confirm that guess.
posted by nanojath at 2:18 PM on August 25, 2010

I have your problem, and have chalked it up to attentional problems. I don't have problems remembering things if I'm deliberately studying them, but the minutia of everyday life passes me by. It's very annoying. I also have problems understanding speech, even though my hearing's fine. It just takes too long for my brain to lock on to the speech and extract meaning.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:37 PM on August 25, 2010

I started taking fish oil daily for other health reasons a couple of years ago, and coincidentally or not, my memory has noticeably improved.

I now wake up in the morning and know what I have to get done today, rather than having to rely on notes on the fridge or reminders in my mobile phone. I remember birthdays of distant friends and relatives beforehand, instead of the day after.

YMMV, but it might be worth a try.

I think a doctor's checkup wouldn't hurt, though.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:00 PM on August 25, 2010

You may want to look into nootropics, particularly the "racetams" such as Piracetam. They've been shown to help with a huge array of mental problems, from decline associated with aging, to memory, to brain damage due to hypoxia. They have been extensively studied and they have been shown to be extremely safe.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 4:19 PM on August 25, 2010

Doctors' first resort is to say it's normal for you to forget more things as you get older. I heard that for years, but then one MD believed me -- or rather, believed my husband when he gave specific examples of my over-forgetting. I've been helped a lot with supplements and medication.

Hypothyroidism is less common in men than in women, but you could be one of those men. There are also some mood stabilizers that can improve memory -- you'd see a psychiatrist about those. The drug that's helped my memory the most is Wellbutrin, which I take to counteract sluggishness and memory loss caused by an antidepressant.

Depression or stress can greatly impair one's memory, as well.
posted by wryly at 4:36 PM on August 25, 2010

I think these memory symptoms, considered in light of your low blood pressure and slow heartbeat, mean that you are not getting anywhere near enough blood flow to the brain.

Back in 2007, you were having near-fainting spells and it turned out your heart rate was down around 34 bpm. That's exceedingly low, as I'm sure you're aware.

But you never did answer ikkyu2's question about the findings of the doctors you went to.

I'd say whatever was wrong then has never gone away and may well be getting worse.

But that's as far as I can go without more information.
posted by jamjam at 6:24 PM on August 25, 2010

Are you absorbed in some big project or another? When I'm working on something super important that-just-needs-to-be-done-to-perfection, I have appalling episodes of complete inability to chew gum and walk at the same time. I'm so totally wrapped up in my thoughts, that f.ex. when recently I had to run a simple errand, go to a store to get two items, I made the so many times I thought I was going mad: first, I actually ended up somewhere else (mailbox, another "errand" type place) than the store. Then, I forgot my wallet, back I go. Then I forgot to actually take the bagged items with me when I exited the store, and only discovered that the stuff was missing when I returned home, then I went back, and they couldn't find my bag, so I had to buy the items again, only - you guessed it - I forgot my wallet again, so I had to go back to pick up my wallet and set off for the store again. I was ready to shoot myself, only I don't own any guns. FWIW, once upon a time, I was able to function in such conditions, but with age, my ability to multitask has declined sharply.

My advice, focus on one thing at a time. Now, I know not to try to run even simple errands when I'm in the middle of something that's too consuming.
posted by VikingSword at 7:21 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: thank you all for the pointers. stress is definitely a factor, as it has been for a long time. the lack of sleep I am talking about refers to me getting on average seven hours, which isn't enough to replenish me the way I would like. I could sleep for ten hours without any problems were an alarm not awakening me and quite often a lot more.

I rarely consume alcohol and don't think that's an issue. no medications are being used - and haven't for a long time.

It seems to me your examples aren't so much about forgetting information you once knew as they are about focusing and absorbing information as it's coming to you. When you are asking a question, are you truly giving the person your full attention and listening to their answer, or is your mind racing ahead to the next thing?

you raise an interesting point. I have noticed me fudging details and forgetting things even when I did wish to pay full attention. it's easy to zone out and not focus and that's certainly an issue but I wonder if it's just a lack of discipline or more.

Back in 2007, you were having near-fainting spells and it turned out your heart rate was down around 34 bpm. That's exceedingly low, as I'm sure you're aware.
But you never did answer ikkyu2's question about the findings of the doctors you went to.

that is true. they did a lot of tests back then but didn't find anything in particular. I had appointments for about five months to do all sorts of tests until I finally had to stop the process because I was moving to europe. I need to get back onto this.
posted by krautland at 4:38 AM on August 26, 2010

Possible causes:

B12 deficiency
Lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep
Anxiety, because it overloads the system with cortisol, which has a deleterious effect on the memory over time
Certain medications
Information overload from TV/internet/texting etc.

I have this same problem. In my case, sleep and anxiety were the problem.

I have found piracetam to be incredibly helpful. (The only thing I don't like about it is that I get a little creeped out about the purity of supplements that you have to special order from God knows where.)

In addition, aerobic exercise and meditative/quiet time spent in nature are supposed to help. The former because it increases blood flow to the brain and the latter because it will aid concentration.
posted by mintchip at 1:04 PM on August 26, 2010

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