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Memory Lapses

Q: I was in charge of planning my family reunion last month, and I practically killed myself making sure everything was perfect. When the big day came, everyone had a great time-except me. I kept blanking on people's names. At one point, I couldn't even recall my cousin's, and I speak to her every week! I've been forgetting little things ever since then. I'm only 36...am I losing my memory already?

Dr. Donnica:
Don't panic!  This is why I have everyone wear name-tags whenever I host a party! Temporary memory lapses are entirely normal, and everyone experiences them from time to time. Stress and multitasking can cause you to lose focus on certain mental tasks so your overwhelmed brain can concentrate on others.  I'm also going to guess that some sleep deprivation was involved in this situation!  So first, relax with the knowledge that you are probably fine. Fretting over such episodes can be self-defeating, since your worries become an additional stressor. Chances are you won't be planning such a major event anytime soon, but there are strategies that can help you think more clearly when your "draw a blank" moments have to do with multitasking.  List-making always helps:  it allows your brain not to have to remember whatever is written down.  Delegating is your best bet:  it's unrealistic to expect yourself to be able to handle every detail.  Always try to get a good night's sleep not only the night before a big event, but two nights before.  To remember names more easily, use nametags or make little pronouncements like "I'm going to let you all introduce yourselves while I check the cake in the kitchen".  And calling relatives by terms of endearment like "Honey" or "Sweetie" always works in a pinch!  Signs that you may need to see a doctor may include forgetting that you've even met someone, rather than being unable to recall their name; forgetting that someone close to you was deceased; forgetting your location or the year; forgetting a basic skill such as how to drive or how to read a clock; or having other signs of neurologic impairment such as visual changes, headaches, loss of balance, or loss of bowel or bladder control. 

Created: 5/30/2006  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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