Forgetting things may not be a memory problem

By David Joel Miller.

How well you remember may depend on how you learned.

Bokeh - Flowers - Forget-me-nots

Bokeh – Flowers – Forget-me-nots (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Memory is important. There is nothing as frustrating as standing there trying to remember someone’s name and come up with a complete blank.

We all blame this on a bad memory. That may not be the problem at all.

How well you remember someone or something may all depend on the very first impression. How well did you grasp the facts the first time you saw or heard them?

We talked in a past post (Why you can’t forget the painful past) about how pain is burned into us and happy memories take time to sink in. But there is more than just your emotional state at work in how well you remember.

That forgetting things, it may not be about old age or the beginning of Alzheimer’s. An example may help explain this.

You attend a social function over the weekend and meet some new people. On your way in past a hoard of noisy people trying to find their dinner table you are introduced to a couple and you shake hands just before you are whisked away to your table. You think that their names are Jane and Tom. Later when you say something to your partner over dinner about meeting Jane and Tom, they say who? You mean Janet and Tim?

Not what were their names?  You are not real sure. Two weeks later you start work at a new company.  The boss, you suddenly recognize him, you met him at the dinner meeting, but what was his name?

The problem here is not that you forgot his name. It is not even that you did not try to remember all those people who you met that night for the first time.

The problem is not in the retrieval part of memory. You never really learned this person’s name in the first place and clearly, you can’t remember something you never knew. You have just learned an important lesson.

How well you remember depends on the first impression something makes on you and on your brain. Hear a name clearly, get a chance to repeat it a few times, maybe even write it down and you will probably remember it. But hear it once, over a lot of noise in a hurried situation and it may well never get stored away in your memory.

Much of what we call forgetting is really a failure to learn things in the first place.

Remember that chemicals in your bloodstream can affect recording, processing or retrieval of information. To remember something you need to be able to do all three functions. We have talked in the past about how chemicals in the bloodstream can alter the storage and retrieval of information.

If you need the same chemical in your bloodstream to remember as was there when you learned something this is called State Dependent Learning. We also talked about Marijuana and how it may interfere both with the storage and the retrieval of information. And of course, alcohol can cause blackouts, the total failure to record information even while you are talking and moving about. See “Do people really forget what happens when drinking.”

You now know that another major source of memory failure is not slowing down and learning things thoroughly enough in the first place.

A good memory is important in life and we could all use some help in improving our memory and our ability to make use of that thing we call our brain. Over the posts to come I will talk more about how to get the best use and mileage out of that thing we call our brain. Better and clear thinking is a skill that can be learned. It does not benefit from the use of self-prescribed street drugs to boost its functioning.

Oh yes, some memory problems can be organic health problems. If there is a chance of that or you are concerned that this forgetting may be excessive, if you worry about having or getting Alzheimer’s, please see a doctor.

But also in the future work on improving your memory by, slowing it down, letting it sink in, and you will find the things you fully learned you will remember better.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Binge drinking, memory loss, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s

By David Joel Miller.

Binge drinking your way to Memory loss, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking.
Photo courtesy of Flickr (stopalcoholdeaths)

Once you get past age sixty-five, it doesn’t take much in the way of binge drinking to impair your cognitive abilities. A recent study by Dr. Lang of the University of Exeter reports that the threshold for memory loss as a result of binge drinking is a lot lower in senior citizens than previously thought.

Seniors who binge drank TWO times per MONTH were 250% more likely to have memory loss and cognitive decline than those who did not binge drink.

The study defined binge drinking in seniors as four or more drinks on one drinking occasion. Given what other studies have found about the declining tolerance of seniors for alcohol, that four drink figure sounds awfully high. See a previous post on binge drinking for more on the effects of substances on the elderly.

This study does not draw a conclusion about any connection between binge drinking and either dementia or Alzheimer’s. But the conclusion that even occasional episodes of four drinks by seniors can impair the memory makes me question the safety of these promotions trying to get seniors to drink a little for their heart.

This study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. A second study presented at the same conference examined the effects of “moderate” drinking on older women. In this one over 1,300 women age 65 and up were studied for twenty years. The result?

Moderate alcohol consumption did not protect memory in older women.

We also suspect that binge drinking coupled with prescription medications increases the risk of blackouts in Seniors.

The drinking by seniors conclusion?

Alcohol consumption by seniors does not protect the memory and even occasional binge drinking, as few as four drinks in one day, maybe less, can result in memory loss for those in the senior community.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.