Ever felt like you can’t seem to remember anything? It is a common problem among many people, especially during pressure and stressful times. But is forgetfulness a sign of anxiety? Anxiety is a mental health disorder that is characterized by an individual’s inability to control their worries and agitations and is often associated with fear and restlessness.
That said, it is only natural to wonder if forgetfulness is one of its symptoms. In this article, we’ll look at how anxiety affects memory and whether or not being forgetful is a sign of mental distress. So, come join us on our journey as we explore this important question.
Is Forgetfulness A Sign Of Anxiety
The short answer is yes, forgetfulness can be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety can cause difficulty with memory and concentration, leading to poor performance in areas such as school or work. When someone experiences high levels of anxiety, it can be difficult to focus on a task and remember details and instructions. This type of forgetfulness may also manifest itself in other ways, such as not being able to recall the name of someone they just met.
People who experience severe anxiety may also experience more severe types of forgetfulness.
In some cases, individuals may be unable to recall events from their past or even recent information that has been told to them. Additionally, anxious individuals often struggle with word-finding tasks because their minds are too preoccupied with worry and fear to focus on the task at hand.
Anxiety can also lead to a distorted sense of time, making it difficult to remember when something occurred or is due. People who are struggling with anxiety may also find themselves spacing out more often than usual, which can make them forgetful during conversations and other tasks.
So, it is clear that forgetfulness can be a sign of anxiety.
If someone is experiencing frequent and intense episodes of forgetfulness, they should talk to their doctor or mental health professional about possible treatments. Everyone experiences occasional forgetfulness but if it starts to interfere with your life on a daily basis, then it could be an indication of an underlying anxiety disorder. Taking steps to manage your anxiety can help reduce the symptoms of forgetfulness and improve your overall quality of life.
Anxiety And Memory Blackouts
Anxiety can cause more severe forms of forgetfulness, known as memory blackouts. Memory blackouts are a complete loss of memory during a period of time in which the individual experiences extreme levels of anxiety.
During these episodes, an individual may be unable to recall events or conversations prior to or while they were experiencing the anxiety. Memory blackouts can occur suddenly and last for a few seconds or minutes, resulting in gaps in one’s memory that are difficult to fill back up.
Here are some common characteristics of memory blackouts due to anxiety:
- A sudden and total loss of conscious recollection for several minutes at a time.
- Difficulty recalling events prior to or during the episode.
- High levels of stress and anxiety before or during the event.
- Difficulty recalling conversations, instructions, or details.
- Difficulty filling in gaps of memory after the event.
- Fear or confusion at not being able to remember what happened.
- A sense that time has been distorted.
- An inability to recall events from long ago or the recent past.
- Spacing out more often than usual.
It is important to note that memory blackouts due to anxiety are not the same as seizures or dissociative amnesia, and should be treated separately. If you think you may be experiencing a memory blackout due to anxiety, it is important to speak with your doctor or mental health professional about treatment options.
- Impact On Short-Term Memory: Anxiety can have a negative impact on short-term memory. People who suffer from anxiety often have difficulty concentrating, making it hard to remember things that have been discussed or recently learned. Anxious individuals may also experience “memory blackouts” where they cannot recall events that occurred only moments before.
- Impact On Long-Term Memory: Anxiety and fear can greatly impair an individual’s ability to retain information for long periods of time. This type of forgetfulness can make it difficult for people to recall facts, names, dates, and details from the past. Additionally, anxious individuals are more likely to misinterpret memories as being extremely negative or overly worrisome.
- Impact On Memory Recall: Anxiety can also impact an individual’s ability to recall memories. People suffering from anxiety may have difficulty retrieving information or remembering details of past events. Additionally, they may be unable to make connections between memories due to their cognitive impairment from the disorder.
- Memory Loss: Anxiety can cause memory loss in several ways. It can affect the ability to form new memories, recall past ones, and remember details about current events. This can lead to difficulty studying for tests or completing tasks that require critical thinking. Additionally, those with anxiety often have difficulty concentrating on tasks and retaining information due to their racing thoughts and worries.
- Distorted Sense of Time: Anxiety can also distort a person’s sense of time, making it difficult to remember when something occurred or is due. Those who are anxious may find themselves spacing out more often than usual or having trouble keeping track of their daily schedule.
- Word-Finding Difficulties: Anxious individuals often struggle with word-finding tasks because their minds are too preoccupied with worry and fear to focus on the task at hand. This can make conversations difficult, as they may forget familiar words or not be able to recall the names of people they have just met.
What Kind Of Anxiety Causes Forgetfulness?
Anxiety can cause forgetfulness in a variety of ways, impacting both short-term and long-term memory. Anxiety can interfere with the ability to form new memories, recall old ones, and remember details about current events.
This type of memory loss is often caused by an overwhelming feeling of fear or worry that takes up most of an individual’s thoughts and attention. Here are some common types of anxiety that can lead to forgetfulness:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is characterized by excessive worrying and difficulty controlling one’s worries. It can lead to memory impairment due to preoccupation with anxious thoughts.
- Panic Disorder: Panic disorder causes intense and disabling episodes of fear, which can lead to difficulty concentrating and recalling information.
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is often associated with intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares. These types of intense mental images can interfere with memory recall and concentration.
- Social Anxiety: Social anxiety involves an overwhelming fear of social situations that can affect one’s ability to remember details or conversations from the event.
- Separation Anxiety: Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by an excessive fear of being away from home or loved ones. This fear can interfere with one’s ability to concentrate, leading to memory problems.
All of these types of anxiety can have a serious and detrimental effect on a person’s memory recall, making it difficult to remember important facts or details. It is important for those with anxiety to seek professional help in order to manage the disorder and improve their memory.
Role Of Stress And Anxiety In Forgetfulness
Stress and anxiety can have a profound effect on our memory. Let’s take a closer look at the role these emotions play in forgetfulness.
- Impact on Short-Term Memory: When we are feeling stressed or anxious, our short-term memory is affected the most. This can make it difficult to remember simple things like where you put your car keys or what you were about to say. The reason for this is that stress and anxiety interfere with our focus, which is key to keeping the information in our short-term memories.
- Impact on Long-Term Memory: Stress and anxiety can also impact our long-term memories as well. When we’re dealing with high levels of stress and/or anxiety, it can become harder to recall past events or experiences. This could be due to difficulty accessing the part of the brain that stores long-term memories, as well as other areas that help us retrieve them.
- Interference From Negative Thoughts & Emotions: Negative thoughts and emotions can also interfere with our ability to store and retrieve memories as well. When we’re feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxious about something, our brains tend to focus more on these emotions instead of focusing on forming new memories or retrieving older ones from storage.
- Decreases in Cognitive Performance: High levels of stress and/or anxiety can lead to decreases in cognitive performance as well. This means that when we’re feeling overwhelmed, it becomes more difficult for us to think clearly and process information correctly, making it harder for us to remember things even after we’ve heard them or experienced them firsthand.
- Effects On Sleep Quality & Quantity: Finally, stress and anxiety can have an impact on both the quality and quantity of sleep we get each night as well. Poor sleep quality makes it more difficult for us to form new memories while poor sleep quantity means that there isn’t enough time for these memories to be properly processed into long-term storage — leading to forgetfulness later down the line.
Forgetfulness And Panic Attacks: What Is The Connection?
Forgetfulness is often linked with anxiety and panic attacks. Many people with the panic disorder report memory problems, including difficulty concentrating and recalling information.
While the exact cause of forgetfulness in these cases is not fully understood, there are certain things that can be done to help manage the symptoms. Below are some key points regarding panic attacks and how they affect forgetfulness:
- Panic attacks interfere with concentration and focus, making it difficult to remember details or events.
- When a person experiences a panic attack, their body releases hormones such as cortisol which can impair memory by blocking off access to certain parts of the brain that store memories.
- The fear associated with a panic attack can make it challenging for one to recall past events or experiences due to the negative emotions overriding their ability to access those memories.
- The physical and mental exhaustion that often follows a panic attack can leave one feeling too tired to engage in tasks that require memory recall, such as studying for exams.
- Sleep disturbances caused by panic attacks can also contribute to forgetfulness, as it is during sleep that our brains process information from the day and form new memories.
- Cognitive performance is often impacted by high levels of stress or anxiousness, making it difficult to remember facts or details.
- Finally, anxiety medications may have an effect on memory, so it’s important to consult with your doctor about any potential side effects of the medication you are taking.
8 Common Causes Of Forgetfulness Related To Anxiety
Everyone experiences forgetfulness from time to time. However, for some, it can become a persistent issue due to underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. When these issues are present, there can be multiple causes of the forgetfulness that people experience.
These include physiological changes in the brain, interference from negative thoughts and emotions, decreases in cognitive performance, and effects on sleep quality and quantity. It is important to understand these factors so that one can work towards reducing forgetfulness symptoms. Here are some of the common causes:
1. Cortisol Level:
High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone released when we’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, can interfere with our ability to store and recall memories. The hormone cortisol is released during times of stress and anxiety and has been linked with memory loss.
Studies show that when levels of cortisol are too high, the part of the brain responsible for retaining long-term memories can become blocked off or inaccessible. Cortisol blocks off access to areas in the brain that are responsible for forming and retrieving long-term memories, making it difficult to remember even simple information such as dates or people’s names.
Sleep disturbances caused by stress and anxiety can also lead to forgetfulness. Sleep is essential for our bodies to rest and recharge, but it’s also important for the brain to properly process information from the day. During sleep, our brains process information from the day and form new memories.
When we’re not getting enough restful sleep, our brains aren’t able to form or recall memories as well as they should be able to.
Studies show that people who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to experience forgetfulness due to their lack of quality shut-eye. Thus, if we’re not getting enough restful sleep each night due to an anxious mind, our ability to recall information could be affected as a result.
3. Fearing the Unwanted Memories:
People with anxiety disorders often have difficulty remembering past events due to their fear of being overwhelmed by unwanted memories. Those who suffer from panic attacks or other forms of psychological trauma can become especially wary of triggering memories that bring up negative emotions.
To protect themselves from these upsetting recollections, they may intentionally push back on the memory and block it altogether. This act of pushing away unwanted thoughts can have a detrimental effect on their ability to store and retrieve information from their memory banks.
This can lead to a decrease in recall later on, as those memories are no longer readily available for retrieval.
4. Pushing Back Disturbing Memories:
This type of memory avoidance is often seen in people who have experienced trauma or have suffered from panic attacks. In order to protect themselves from the onslaught of negative emotions associated with those unpleasant memories, they attempt to block out the memory altogether.
Those with anxiety may push back on memories of past events in an effort to manage their fear and distress.
The reason for this is that when our brains are overwhelmed by strong feelings, the part responsible for forming new memories gets temporarily shut off in order to protect us from having to process them at that time. This behavior can have a negative impact on memory recall, as the act of pushing down certain information can make it difficult for one to access those memories later on.
In addition, this type of psychological defense mechanism can lead to gaps in one’s memory or difficulty retrieving specific details from past experiences.
Stress and anxiety can also cause us to become easily distracted, which can interfere with our ability to store and retrieve memories. When we’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, it becomes more difficult for us to focus on the task at hand.
Our minds are constantly racing from one thought to another, making it hard for us to concentrate and remember details of what we’re reading or hearing. As a result, we may find it harder to recall information later on due to this lack of concentration while taking in the material.
Stress and anxiety can also make us more prone to distraction due to the heightened levels of cortisol running through our bodies, which further disrupts our ability to form new memories or access old ones.
6. Competing Thoughts:
Anxiety often comes with a barrage of competing and intrusive thoughts that can derail our concentration and make it difficult to focus on the things we’re trying to remember. The thoughts and worries associated with an anxious mind can make it difficult to remember important details.
Our minds are constantly running in overdrive, jumping from one thought to another without any pause for reflection.
This makes it hard for us to stay focused on the task at hand and properly store information in our memory banks. Instead of focusing on what we’re supposed to recall, our minds become preoccupied with anxious worries that take up valuable mental space. This means that when it comes time to access these memories later on, they may not be readily available due to this competing internal dialogue.
7. Cognitive Overload:
When we’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, our brains can become overloaded with information. This means that the process of storing new memories or retrieving old ones becomes more difficult as our mental resources are diverted from forming new connections to dealing with the current stress or anxiety.
This cognitive overload can lead to a decrease in the recall due to the lack of attention given to memorizing and storing this information properly. Furthermore, those who suffer from anxiety may have difficulty focusing on what they need to remember due to their racing thoughts, leading them to struggle with memory retrieval later on.
Dissociation is a defense mechanism that some people with anxiety use to cope with and manage their fear. This involves disconnecting from the present moment, which can lead to difficulty in forming new memories or recalling old ones.
In order to protect themselves from the overwhelming feelings associated with the situation, they distance themselves emotionally, thus impairing their ability to store information in memory. They may also have trouble accessing these memories at a later time due to this detachment from the experience.
Dissociation is a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can often lead to memory loss.
How To Reverse Memory Loss From Stress: 10 Practical Tips
Dealing with memory loss due to stress can be a difficult and trying experience. However, there are steps you can take to help reverse the effects of stress-induced memory loss and better manage your anxiety. Here are 10 practical tips that can help improve both your short-term and long-term memory:
- Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on our ability to form and recall memories, so getting plenty of rest is essential for improving memory function.
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity has been shown to improve cognitive function and boost memory retention, so make sure you’re getting regular exercise.
- Manage stress levels: If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, take some time out for relaxation and try to address the underlying issues causing your distress.
- Use repetition: Repetition is a great way to help store information in long-term memory, so practice repeating important facts until they become firmly embedded in your mind.
- Leverage visual cues: Visual cues can help to jog your memory, so use images, diagrams, or other visuals to help you recall information.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can be a great tool for managing stress and anxiety, and it can also improve memory function by helping us focus on the present moment and become more aware of our thoughts and feelings.
- Get organized: Organization is key for improving concentration, so make sure that all of your study materials are in one place and neatly arranged.
- Break up long-term goals: Long-term goals may seem intimidating at first, but breaking them down into smaller chunks can make them much more manageable to tackle—and easier to remember!
- Take regular breaks: Taking regular breaks from studying can help to clear your mind and improve concentration, so make sure to give yourself a chance to rest throughout the day.
- Have an accountability partner: Having someone who can check in on you regularly is a great way to stay accountable and motivated—which can ultimately lead to better memorization skills!
By being mindful of our mental health and applying these practical tips, we can reduce the effects of stress-induced memory loss and help improve our recall abilities. With persistent effort, we’ll be able to effectively manage stress levels while preserving or even enhancing our memories over time.
How To Stop Anxiety Forgetfulness: 10 Helpful Ways
Anxiety and forgetfulness often go hand in hand. When we’re anxious, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones that can impair our ability to remember things, leading to feelings of frustration or even panic.
Thankfully, there are some steps we can take to reduce anxiety and forgetfulness and strengthen our memory recall abilities. Here are 12 helpful ways to stop anxiety and forgetfulness.
- Get enough rest: Getting adequate sleep is essential for improving memory and preventing anxiety-related forgetfulness. Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night, and avoid naps that are too long or too close to bedtime.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help reduce stress levels, which can in turn improve focus and memory retention. To support better mental health and recall, incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.
- Address racing thoughts: Racing thoughts are a common symptom of anxiety, so it’s important to find ways to address these worries head-on. Take some time out for relaxation or set aside a few minutes each day to write down any concerns you may have.
- Utilize positive affirmations: Positive affirmations are a helpful way to boost mood and reduce anxiety, so make sure you’re surrounding yourself with uplifting messages and reminders.
- Avoid overthinking: Overthinking can lead to rumination and worrying, which can make it difficult to focus on other tasks or retain information. If you find yourself getting caught up in anxious thoughts, try to take some time away from them or practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation.
- Practice meditation: Meditation can help to reduce stress and improve focus, so make sure you’re carving out some “me time” each day for calming activities such as yoga or mindful breathing.
- Focus on the present moment: Anxiety is often rooted in worrying about the future, so try your best to stay grounded in the present moment and be aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
- Use repetition: Repetition is a great way to help store information in long-term memory, so practice repeating important facts until they become firmly embedded in your mind.
- Utilize Mnemonic Devices: Mnemonic devices are helpful tools for improving memorization, so try utilizing strategies such as acronyms, stories, or rhymes to help you recall information.
- Manage stress levels: Stress can lead to forgetfulness, so make sure you’re taking steps to reduce your anxiety by staying organized and disconnecting from electronics every once in a while.
By being mindful of our mental health and incorporating these helpful tips into our day-to-day lives, we can manage our stress levels and reduce the effects of anxiety-related memory loss over time. With consistent effort, we’ll be able to successfully preserve our memories and keep anxiety and forgetfulness to a minimum.
Forgetfulness can be a sign of anxiety, but it doesn’t have to be something we live with forever. By taking the time to address our stress levels and incorporate helpful habits into our daily lives, we can successfully reduce the effects of anxiety-related memory loss. With persistent effort, we’ll be able to effectively manage stress levels while preserving or even enhancing our memories over time.
Lukasik, K. M., Waris, O., Soveri, A., Lehtonen, M., & Laine, M. (2019). The Relationship of Anxiety and Stress With Working Memory Performance in a Large Non-depressed Sample. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00004
Russell, T. (2021, June 9). Anxiety and Memory Loss: When It’s More Than Just Brain Fog. Greatist. https://greatist.com/health/anxiety-and-memory-loss