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Strange Memory Loss Issues
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Strange Memory Loss Issues

So, I'm 25, and make a pretty good living as a research scientist.  I would say I have above average observation and association skills, and my long term memory is even pretty good.

For some reason, I have never had good short term memory.  If I don't make a conscious effort to memorize something, it will vaporize almost immediately.  Recently, it seems to have gotten worse.  It's at the point now where I can be in the middle of a conversation, hear a loud noise, and instantly have absolutely no idea what I was just talking about.  As you can imagine, this is super frustrating.  I also have a hard time remembering people's names, but for some reason, if I put them in my phone, I remember them easily forever (I think that has something to do with seeing their name in writing).

I am not medicated, I don't drink or smoke anything, I sleep 6-8 hours a night, I've got an awesome job, and a great girlfriend.  I've got a good set of friends I hang out with on a regular basis, and no childhood trauma etc that I am aware of.  During my undergrad work, I talked with a doctor who told me I have some slight OCD and ADD issues, but nothing that required medication.

My memory is fine for certain tasks, I just don't understand how it can be so bad in other situations.  A few years back I started carrying around a notebook to help me keep track of things I am thinking of, and it seems to help.

Am I just overreacting?  Could it be some vitamin deficiency?  Is there some magical food that will make it all better?  Should I play more tetris or sudoku?  I tend to already be pretty good at those card flipping memory games.  I really don't want to medicate.  Is this something I should see a doctor about?  It would cost around 100 dollars, and they normally just try to sell me pills.  I mostly just want to understand what's going on, if there is a name for this type of condition, and if I should be worried etc.  If it's degenerative, I want to make sure I take care of it now etc.
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Hello,
   you sound like a person whose life is going well in many ways, though I can certainly see why the symptoms you mention would be an annoyance. One of the best cues to determining if an adult has ADHD is to determine if he experiences underachievement (missing deadlines, getting fired from jobs, making foolish mistakes with big consequences etc). Often adults with ADHD complain of not being able to meet their goals, such as wanting to get out an important proposal or finish a dissertation. Working memory deficits are considered to be one of what researcher Russell Barkley has called the 'core deficits' of ADHD.  If these problems have been part of your day to day existence since childhood, you may meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD. You can check out my Medhelp article on adult ADHD to learn more and find other sources of information.

While I certainly can not rule out anything degenerative based on a posting, it would be unusual for you to be experiencing onset of a degenerative illness that only presented with working memory problems at this time in your life. However, if you are detecting (or more importantly if others around you are pointing out problems) a decline in functioning than it would be wise to seek a medical consult. Thinking of the more likely scenarios than a degenerative illness, I would be inclined to consider ADHD, sleep disturbance, mild depression or an anxiety disorder (such as OCD) as the more likely culprits. The only way to really know would be to consult a clinician, despite the expense.

I wish there was a vitamin or diet treatment that would resolve symptoms of ADHD. While the data indicate that some people are sensitive to food dyes, which may be associated with hyperactivity in particular, there is no diet to date that has been shown to have a significant effect size across studies. Of course, if you notice that your symptoms worsen after eating particular foods, try avoiding them for a while and asking your friends and family if they note any difference in your functioning. Aside from specific diets, eating healthy and getting lots of exercise are associated with benefits that can approach the efficacy of psychotropics. Puzzles and mental challenges have been shown to be somewhat protective against loss of mental function, however this has been studied in seniors, less so in people your age who should be at the peak of their cognitive functioning.

So if you want to avoid doctors or medications, you may wish to look into ways of living healthy and compensating for your symptoms. Yoga and martial arts can be good ways to learn to focus your mind. We also live in the age of excellent technologies such as Google calendar, blackberrys and the Motivaider, all of which can support working memory and organizational deficits. You can also hire a person called an ADHD coach who can help you figure out ways to avoid letting your symptoms interfere with your success.

I would recommend you consult with a psychologist to learn more about your condition. You may be able to access psychological care at a reduced fee (check out my Medhelp article on this topic for ideas), perhaps even through your university/company human resources department.

Best Wishes to you
Rebecca Resnik

Disclaimer: This post was written for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace face to face medical or psychological care. This post is not intended to create a patient-clinician relationship, nor to give or rule-out a diagnosis.
3 Comments
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Give focus fast a shot - it may just be a deficiency in some nutrients...

http://www.focusfast.com
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I took part in a two-year double-blind study concerning short-term memory loss (which I suffered from rather badly). The results for me were amazing and I passed all the memory tests with flying colors. The herb concerned was ginko biloba. I tuned out I was not taking the placebo, which was no surprise to me or the medical staff running the study. Try ginko biloba. It won't hurt and just might work for you.
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