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Sudden memory loss in 40-year-old woman

My girlfriend, who is 40, had a recent incident in which she lost much of her memory for about 8 hours.   She thinks this may have happened before but she was alone at that time and slept for a few days until she got better.  I was with her for most of the incident this time.  I stayed with her until she went to sleep; after about five hours, she woke up remembering most of what she had fogotten.  Though I have known her only 8 months, she says she has gone from being able to digest and process information fairly rapidly to having significant problems focusing on complex information (she deals with accounting, project management, detail-oriented matters).

She does not want to go to the doctor as she has been diagnosed in the past as "depressed" and given anti-depressants.  Though she may have a mild case of depression, she primarily exhibits symptoms of stress.  Before this incident three days ago, she had a few anxiety attacks.  Upon trying to return to work yesterday (against my recommendation), she suffered another anxiety attack and never made it in.  She had forgotten a few things and then got disoriented driving to work.  She later realized that though she knew where to go (a long drive she does twice a week), she had no idea how to get there, nor could she remember how to do some of the complex accounting work she would have done once there. So she turned around and went home.

I have been urging her to see a general practitioner who can refer her to a good local neurologist.  Do you have any recommendations?  During her recent "attack," she said time was "jumping around" and she was totally disoriented.  She was extremely sound-sensitive and intensely focused on just a few things.  She knew I was her boyfriend but couldn't remember my name or things we'd done together.  She didn't remember her children being 19 and 17 and instead said they were young.  

She has been complaining of "missing time" for some time and knows she sometimes can't account for small amounts of time (a handful of minutes).  This last incident, however, was more serious and worrisome.  It lasted fully 6-10 hours where she had significant memory loss.  I am worried about her and want her to get the best help.  Finally, she has never been in a serious auto accident, hasn't used drugs and has drunk some alcohol but has not done so recently.  She cannot remember any trauma to the head other than having been punched in the eye about 10 years ago.

Thanks and God bless you!
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Avatar universal

I suggest you visit the neurologist. An MRI of the brain may help. The memory loss and disorientation spells are quite specific for cortical damage, which will show on the MRI.


Avatar universal
Thank you.  Not quite sure what you mean by "quite specific for cortical damage" -- do you mean that cortical damage often manifests memory loss and disorientation spells; or something different?

Does anyone else have any experience in dealing with this kind of situation?  She's been to doctors in the past and has had CT scans, etc., but they've not turned up anything of substance and she's ended up getting treated with antidepressants that haven't helped because it's not really a full-blown depression.

We're both praying about it now and seeking The Lord's guidance.  Would appreciate feedback from anyone who's dealt with this type of situation.

Thanks and God bless!
Avatar universal
Hi again.

Yes. Cortical damage manifests with memory loss, especially of the verbal kind, Like ... forgetting names. And it also manifests as disorientation.


Avatar universal
Your account reminded me of something I read about Transient Global Amnesia.
Click on the links to articles near the bottom for more.

149081 tn?1242401432
  I sympathize with what your girlfriend is going through and thankfully she has some great support in you! I have struggled  for roughly just over 2 yrs. I could have written that post myself!
First it was found to be a problem due to my enlarged thyroid. I had surgery a year ago. I felt wonderful for approx. 6 months then i slid backwards again. Forgetting where I'm driving to, forgetting simple tasks such as how to work my answering machine, putting milk away, etc.  I now too have lapses of time that go by and have no clue that 15 minutes passed while i was drying the same glass!! I too was prescribed an anti depressant- the only improvement has been the disappearance of PMS symptoms!!!

     I am now seeing a sleep specialist to see if I have a sleeping disorder. I have been through tons of lab work, mri's, cat scans, etc. too. According to my sleep doc( a great doc- thank god!), when all tests come back normal and you still have memory issues it most likely is a sleep issue. So I am scheduled to have a 2 part sleep study- one is night time for Upper Airway Restriction ( UAR )  and a daytime study to check for Narcolepsy ( N ). I'm sure if you check out a site called talk about sleep dot com you will find tons of info that may be of some sort of help.

Please keep us posted as to the progress- and best wishes for some speedy answers.
  god bless-
Avatar universal
Dr. Abhijeet, thanks for the advice!  Lord willing, she will get to a neurologist and get those tests.

Carol, thank you; you're right, some of the symptoms sound similar, though she's never used one of the statin drugs.  Interesting!

Scarlet37, please keep us posted as to your sleep tests.  When I showed Paula (girlfriend) your post last night, she said she feels sleep is definitely involved; she's been working until real late on and off the past few months (as in 1 o'clock, sometimes even 2) and I'm sure it's decreased her seratonin level (and created other problems).  Thanks again and May The Creator of the Universe shed His Glorious Grace upon you and your family!
Avatar universal
As I read the accounts listed above, I see many of the same symptoms in my sister.  My 49 year old sister has been suffering from memory loss for the past two years. We have visited neurologist, family practice dr, psych/neurologist and many others.  She had several inclusive tests MRI, CT scan and neuro psych tests. Her symptoms seem to improve sporadically but nothing sustainable. Her current neuro pshycologist is treating her for anxiety which again does not get to the root cause of her problem.... memory loss. The therapist is helpful is some areas but in others she is not.  For instance the therapist told her that she should start driving to overcome the fear...this despite that she can't remember simple things she does on a regular basis and is very disoriented (peripheral vision is very poor).  My sister is very disoriented. I have been through so many aggrevations with the depression and anxiety therapists.  They do not seem to understand the severity of my sister's illness.  They come across as if we could simply turn on a switch. They tell her to do unrealistic task such as go for a walk alone, go for a walk with my 6yr old daughter and get back to driving.  How is this possible when she can't remember where the bathroom is in the house, she struggles reading and writing, does not remember how to use a phone, she doesn't know how to get to the second floor even though the staircase is in front of her.  My sister has attempted suicide, physically attacked her family members and can be very aggressive at times.  She does not live with her husband and kids anymore because they can not/ will not help her anymore.  I have made the commitment to help her but, each time I think we have an answer, it turns out negative.  I want to know what is wrong with my sister..... what is her illness and who can help her.  She can't live this way anymore..... I can not and refuse to give up on her.  I need help.... what is the root cause of her memory loss? where do I turn now?  

Is there anyone out there willing to help... I am desparate!

Thank you,
Loving little sister
Avatar universal
Although American doctors haven't figured it out yet, all of you are describing what i am going through with my 46 yr old wife to one extent or another. In England and Australia, they have realized that these symptoms are the same as in older people. it is called early on set dementia. God bless you all.
144586 tn?1284669764
She requires both an MRI and an MRA immediately.

The fact she "had a CT scan in the past" is meaningless information.

When this first happened she should have gone to an ER instead of "going to sleep".

There is the possibility she has a structural growth or a slow bleed that will result in further degradation of both mental capacity and mobility. This could include paralysis and blindness.
1556984 tn?1294552093
hi my name is rudy and i have a problem with my spine that has damaged my central nervous system and i find myself forgetting a whole lot of stuff even sudden thoughts would disapear dont trust doctors because they really dont know exactly whats going on in a single individuall. but i do hope the best for you and yours let me know if any thing is helpful i would appreciate it very much oh i forgot im 45 years old sorry forgot to mention lol.
1831414 tn?1318862548
Hi my daughter is going thru similiar symptoms progressing for the past 2 years and she is a 26 year old previously healthy only a sever migraine disorder but never with neurological or cognitive problems, just loss of vision with sever pain and nausea. These new progressive symptoms are soo scary I don't know what to do. She keeps telling ke she doesn't know who she is anymore? And her neck has been increasingly stiff and getting worse since all of these symptoms began. Any help would be appreciated?
Avatar universal
She should get checked out. My mom suffered a blackout like that as i called it due to having high cholesterol which caused her a mini stroke. I had noticed the symptoms one day afterbtalking to her via phone that day an hour later my stepdad called me back and asked what i said to mom cus she was repeating herself and had forgotten somethings that day. My mom is great with numbers, birthdays, phone numbers. I called her backvshe hadnt remembered speaking with me an hour before but then i asked her mom whats your phone number she couldnt remember and my bday or her birthday. I realized quickly my mom was at that very second going thru a stroke. Thankfully i reacted quickly and took her to emergency they did a CT brain scan determined she had suffered 2 mini strokes. Please get to a Dr or ER quickly.
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