Memory is probably one of the most relevant cognitive skills when it comes to organizing our lives.
The ability to remember our history and our identity, to preserve our experiences and to keep in mind what we have just done or what we need to do are elements that derive largely from different types of memory, being the deterioration of this ability is a cause for concern for most people.
The reason is, in many cases, the association of memory loss with the neurodegeneration inherent in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. But if there are memory deficits and impairments in many of these diseases, memory problems are not limited to neurodegenerative diseases.
In this article, we will analyze what we consider to be memory problems and some of the different contexts or situations in which they can appear.
What is a memory problem and when can it occur?
When we say that we or someone has a memory problem, we are generally referring to the fact that we have experienced situations (usually several) in which information we previously learned and / or forgot to remember. or remember.
This lack of memories can be experienced in different ways, And in some cases, this could indicate the presence of a significant difficulty. Specifically, the growing concern about dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease often causes these errors to generate a high level of anxiety and visits to a doctor and neuropsychologist.
Checking the possible reasons for these errors is more than desirable and especially from certain ages but it should also be borne in mind that many factors can cause memory problems throughout life, many of them are normal and not inherently pathological. However, when memory problems are common and repetitive, it is strongly recommended that you visit a professional to assess the presence of serious difficulties.
We also should not immediately identify memory problems in older people: young people and adults can also suffer for different reasons from different failures whether on time or with a certain frequency.
Another important aspect to consider is the fact that while the problem that usually worries you usually occurs in memory or evocation, in fact memory is a process that is not limited only to this moment: that a memory is found. to be so requires that information first be captured, encoded, processed, stored and ultimately retrieved. So, a memory problem can actually occur at any of these times, and it can also happen that interference appears, making it difficult to recall later.
Confusion with other psychological issues
Memory problems are often confused or identified with the presence of problems in other mental skills and abilities. This is not a strange mistake, because the truth is many mental abilities are linked to memory.
One of the most common confusions is probably between memory problems and attention problems.
And it is that attention problems often make it difficult or even prevent the correct recording of information, affecting the capture and processing of information to be stored, Which in subsequent memory tests could be interpreted as a memory problem. This occurs both in the face of existing attention difficulties and in situations where simultaneous attention to different stimuli is required.
Types of memory problems
There are many types of memory and many alterations that can appear as such. In summary, we will cite some of the best known.
It is defined as amnesia in the inability to remember past experiences in the case of retrograde amnesia or as the inability to encode and store new information in memory in the case of antegrade, resulting from the presence of ” brain damage (such as amnesic syndrome) or for emotional or psychological reasons (In case of dissociative amnesia).
Amnesia can be transient or permanent, depending on each case, and include or influence over a period of time.
2. Paramnesias and parapraxias
The term “paramnesis” is understood to mean memory problems characterized by the presence of distortions or of incorporations of false elements in the memory or associated with an erroneous temporality. It is not that the subject does not remember, but that these memories are altered.
On the other hand, parapraxias are understood as memory errors of healthy subjects and are usually based on forgetting details or having difficulty producing a memory that we know is present.
Within these groups, we find memory problems such as conspiracy (introducing elements to fill memories, unconsciously), the tip of the tongue phenomenon (When a word doesn’t come out as deep as we know we know it), temporary gaps or loss of detail due to automation of known tasks.
too much recognition problems can be seen like the famous “déjà vu” (experiencing something for the first time even if you have the feeling of having experienced it before) and the “never seen” (the opposite) or cryptoamnesia (believing that a memory is not such but something happening now for the first time).
We seldom identify too much remembering, but the truth is that for some people it can be. This is what happens with flashes experienced with the consumption of certain drugs, In post-traumatic stress disorder or in psychopathological conditions such as paranoia or ecmnesia (in which one thinks of living in the past.
Causes and situations in which they occur
There are many possible causes, contexts and situations that can be related to the occurrence of a memory problem. Among them we can find prominently some which are in fact normative and others that derive from a certain type of pathology or acquired situation.
1. Interferences in the memorization process
Our knowledge is influenced by the events and learnings we receive over time. One of the possible reasons why a memory problem that does not have to involve pathology may appear is interference generated by what is learned before or after the event to be remembered.
It’s easier to understand with an example: if I learn a phone number at a given time and a little earlier or a little later we learn another, we are likely to forget certain figures or to confuse them.
2. Lack of sleep and / or nutrition
Fatigue and fatigue are aspects that can seriously affect our mental capacities. Sleep is generally associated with the recovery of the body and the nervous system.
REM sleep is associated with memory consolidation of memories. Sleep deprivation is usually detrimental to higher mental processes, especially memory. In addition, the attention and concentration necessary to detect, capture and process information will also be impaired if we do not get enough sleep.
3. Stress and anxiety
Having to multitask, being restless or nervous, or suffering from anxiety or burnout can also be other reasons memory problems appear.
While they are particularly evident in the case of prospective memory (towards the future, i.e. remembering that a certain thing must be done), errors, blockages forgetting specific experiences the difficulty of recording new information.
A large part of these memory problems are related to attention problems, with the subject being focused and immersed in a situation of anxiety or stress.
4. Health problems
Memory is also affected by various physical ailments. For example, breathing problems can cause less blood to reach the brainSomething that has a direct impact on its functioning and in certain areas can affect the ability to remember.
Also problems and illnesses like anemia, diabetes, excessive blood loss or a lack of vitamins and other nutrients can lead to memory problems. The same can be said of the presence of tumors that affect or put pressure on certain areas of the brain.
5. Drugs and side effects of certain drugs
The use of alcohol and various drugs has also been associated with the onset of memory problems, blockages and other miscellaneous problems. In some cases, disorders such as Korsakoff syndrome can occur, in which memory is severely affected.
Likewise, some medications can also cause memory problems as a side effect, such as some mind-altering medications (although other medications are also associated with them). In the event of memory deficits it may be possible to look for a similar medicine to avoid this effect, Or assess the pros and cons of continuing treatment.
6. Depression and other mood disorders
Depression can also lead to memory problems, based among other things on the mental sluggishness it can cause, rumination and concentration problems that may be associated with this diagnosis. It is not uncommon for blockages, evocation failures or a lack of attention to appear bias towards memory of negative events.
7. Aging regulations
We all know that most people lose faculties over the years. We are slowing down, we have more mobility problems and we need more time to reason.
The same thing happens with memory: as a rule (but not always) most of us lose the ability to learn new things and it is easier for distractions and forgetfulness to appear. This is due to the aging of neurons, it is common for areas of the brain such as the hippocampus to decrease or their blood levels to decrease.
All this leads us to say that some memory loss is to be expected, although it is necessary to monitor the level of loss, if it generates malfunctions or if an obvious decrease is seen from previous times.
8. Acquired brain injury: head trauma and stroke
Traffic accidents or different types of blows to the head can also lead to memory problems, in the form of either anterograde (recording new information) or retrograde (from previous knowledge or experience) amnesia. It can happen at any age.
Likewise, strokes (whether hemorrhagic or ischemic) can affect areas of memory related to the brain, such as the hippocampus. In fact, in some cases vascular dementia can eventually occur derived from the presentation of cerebral infarctions, which depending on the affected areas can cause memory impairment.
9. Process of cognitive impairment and dementia
Although we started this article by showing that not all memory problems involve dementia, we cannot fail to mention this type of disorder along with the mild cognitive impairment and impairment that occurs in other mental disorders like one of the causes of memory problems.
In the case of dementias, these memory problems in most cases they will tend to accentuate and worsen over time due to neurodegeneration.
- Sants, JL (2012). Psychopathology. CEDE PIR preparation manual, 01. CEDE. Madrid.