What are the causes of forgetfulness

Forgetfulness, memory and concentration disorders

Forgetting is not a bad thing per se. Deleting information makes sense because it creates space for new things. Saving new memories then takes place in several steps. The brain first filters out the most interesting ones from the constant flood of stimuli and feeds them into the short-term memory. Through repetition, conscious learning or emotional connections, the information reaches the long-term memory and remains available there for hours to decades.

Both short and long-term memories can, however, decline for different reasons - either temporarily or forever. In dementia, for example, the short-term memory is primarily affected, while memories of things long past are still clear. But be careful: Not every forgetfulness in old age is automatically dementia. The ability to remember and concentrate in old people often deteriorates for very simple reasons, e. B. if they drink too little or if they no longer train their mental abilities when they retire. Poor blood circulation due to hardening of the arteries also leads to forgetfulness.

What many do not know: Sometimes a mental illness is behind a deteriorating memory performance. People suffering from depression, for example, find it difficult to concentrate, some trains of thought are downright blocked, and memory also deteriorates. Especially with old people, depression is often hidden and overlooked because one thinks: "Grandpa is getting old".

Correct memory gaps occur with the amnesia. Affected have z. B. after a fall on the head or a traumatic event no memory of what happened. In some cases, however, the memory returns after a while.

The most commonly used expression forgetfulness can refer to any type of memory disorder, but usually means small memory gaps in everyday life. Occasionally embarrassing something, looking for a name, or sweating an appointment is a "normal" forgetfulness. It increases with stress, fatigue and strong emotions (sadness, being in love).

Symptoms, their causes, measures and self-help

  • Occasional forgetfulness and / or concentration disorders with lack of sleep, excessive demands, psychological stress, strong emotions

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  • Repeatedly forgetting unpleasant tasks

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  • Falsified, incomplete or missing memory (black out) of individual stressful events; often after disasters, accidents, operations; usually no further memory disorders

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  • Lack of memory of suddenly running away or traveling for no reason

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  • Acute memory impairment with confusion and disorientation; anxious restlessness or excitement; possibly hallucinations (e.g. seeing small animals) or delusions; possibly impaired consciousness; possibly sweating, tremors; possibly fever

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  • Acute impaired memory, often also impaired consciousness; often headache; possibly speech or vision disorders; possibly paralysis; possibly sensory disturbances

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  • Acute, short-term memory impairment with confusion; Duration a maximum of 1–24 hours; no other psychiatric or physical complaints

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  • For months to years increasing forgetfulness and confusion; Slowdown, awkwardness, problems with abstract thinking; later gaps in memory, disorientation

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  • Increasing forgetfulness in old age with normal thinking skills

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  • Difficulty concentrating, combined with depression

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  • Concentration disorder with euphoric or strongly fluctuating mood and constantly changing ideas

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  • Concentration disorder with extreme distractibility and impulsiveness in children; Tendency to outbursts of anger and / or aggressiveness; often pronounced urge to move (hyperactivity, "fidgety philipp")

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  • Disorders of the ability to concentrate and react when consuming alcohol or drugs

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  • Disturbance of the ability to concentrate and react when taking medication

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Occasional forgetfulness and / or concentration disorders with lack of sleep, excessive demands, psychological stress, strong emotions

Root cause:

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the family doctor or psychotherapist if the symptoms do not subside within a month

Self help:

  • Relaxation procedures, adequate sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • "Change of scenery", z. B. Vacation

Repeatedly forgetting unpleasant tasks

Root cause:

  • Displacement as a normal protective reaction

Self help:

  • Reminder notes can help overcome your "weaker self"

Falsified, incomplete or missing memory (black out) of individual stressful events; often after disasters, accidents, operations; usually no further memory disorders

Causes:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor or psychotherapist if symptoms such as fear, restlessness or physical symptoms occur

Lack of memory of suddenly running away or traveling for no reason

Root cause:

  • Dissociative fugue (a seemingly unmotivated and then unrecognizable running away or traveling from several hours to months with the assumption of a new identity; the clinical picture belongs to the dissociative disorders)

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the family doctor or psychotherapist

Acute memory impairment with confusion and disorientation; anxious restlessness or excitement; possibly hallucinations (e.g. seeing small animals) or delusions; possibly impaired consciousness; possibly sweating, tremors; possibly fever

Root cause:

Acute organic psychosis and delirium, e.g. B. at

Measure:

  • Immediately to the family doctor, psychotherapist or to the nearest clinic

Acute impaired memory, often also impaired consciousness; often headache; possibly speech or vision disorders; possibly paralysis; possibly sensory disturbances

Causes:

Measure:


Acute, short-term memory impairment with confusion; Duration a maximum of 1–24 hours; no other psychiatric or physical complaints

Root cause:

  • Transient global amnesia (sudden memory disturbance of unknown cause, which subsides after 24 hours at the latest without consequences), possibly as a special form of a migraine

Measure:

  • Harmless, but still to the family doctor, neurologist or the clinic outpatient department immediately to rule out other diseases

For months to years increasing forgetfulness and confusion; Slowdown, awkwardness, problems with abstract thinking; later gaps in memory, disorientation

Root cause:

Chronic organic psychosis, e.g. B.

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the family doctor

Self help:

Memory training, e.g. B. by

  • Memory and concentration exercises
  • Participation in conversations, social contacts
  • read newspaper

Increasing forgetfulness in old age with normal thinking skills

Causes:

  • Age forgetfulness (age-associated memory disorder)
  • Early symptom of depression

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the family doctor, when forgetfulness increases significantly

Self help:

Memory training, e.g. B. by

  • Memory and concentration exercises
  • Participation in discussions, social contacts
  • read newspaper

Difficulty concentrating, combined with depression

Causes:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the psychotherapist or family doctor

Concentration disorder with euphoric or strongly fluctuating mood and constantly changing ideas

Causes:

Measure:

  • In the next few days to the psychotherapist or family doctor

Concentration disorder with extreme distractibility and impulsiveness in children; Tendency to outbursts of anger and / or aggressiveness; often pronounced urge to move (hyperactivity, "fidgety philipp")

Causes:

Measure:

  • In the next few weeks to the pediatrician or family doctor

Self help:

  • Regular daily routine, adequate sleep
  • Fixed and consistent rules, lots of praise
  • Calm environment
  • Sufficient exercise

Disorders of the ability to concentrate and react when consuming alcohol or drugs

Root cause:

  • Effects of alcohol, cannabis (hashish) and many hard drugs

Measure:

  • If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, visit your family doctor, psychotherapist or a counseling center in the next few weeks

Disturbance of the ability to concentrate and react when taking medication

Root cause:

Effect / side effect or withdrawal, e.g. B. from

Measure:

  • Speak to the doctor the next time you visit, if the drug has been prescribed by a doctor and you are suffering from the symptoms

Self help:

  • Note reduced responsiveness (e.g. in traffic)

Your pharmacy recommends

Train the gray cells.

Not only our muscles, but also our cognitive functions become stronger with exercise. Conversely, if you do not challenge yourself mentally in everyday life, your ability to think and remember will decrease over time. So make sure you don't enter mental retirement when you reach retirement age.

Challenge the brain.

A crossword puzzle every day as brain jogging? Experts assume that this is not enough to stay mentally fit, because such activities often run in a kind of automatism. More complex thinking tasks such as learning an instrument or a new language are more helpful.

Go new ways.

Lots of people love their everyday routines. However, the brain is much more challenged when it is confronted with unfamiliar things. Small things are enough, such as brushing your teeth with an inexperienced hand or another way to get to work.

Movement helps.

Studies show: Anyone who gets physical exercise in addition to the brain teaser benefits. One explanation for this could be that physical activity provides the brain with better blood flow and more nutrients. Exercise also helps with learning, e.g. B. when you walk around or underline what you have learned with gestures.

Maintain contacts.

An important protective factor against memory disorders is contact with other people. So cultivate your relationships with family and friends. Group activities such as card or singing rounds are available in the nursing home.

Start early.

If mental degradation has already started, it may not be possible to restore all abilities. Therefore, start activities in good time to preserve memory.

Correctly interpreting signs of dementia.

Everyone forgets their keys or can no longer remember a name. It becomes more critical when such incidents become more frequent and other skills are suddenly lost. Difficulties in orienting yourself in familiar surroundings and inexplicable mood swings should make you think of dementia. If in doubt, clarify your suspicions with a doctor. If identified early, medication can sometimes help slow down the progression of dementia or at least improve the quality of life.

Take care of the elderly.

Dementia often goes undetected because it is mistaken for depression in old age (but also the other way around!). Therefore, pay attention to older people in family and friends. If you have any suspicions, speak to those affected and offer to accompany them to a doctor.

Authors

Dr. med. Arne Schäffler; Dr. med. Brigitte Strasser-Vogel; in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Editing: Sara Steer | last changed on at 14:52


Important note: This article has been written according to scientific standards and has been checked by medical professionals. The information communicated in this article can in no way replace professional advice in your pharmacy. The content cannot and must not be used to make independent diagnoses or to start therapy.