Help! I’m Already Forgetting Words

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

My memory isn’t so hot these days. I used to be a walking dictionary, but now I keep forgetting words. It happens every few days: I’ll be having a conversation, then stop because a word is on the tip of my tongue. Sometimes I’ll find it after an awkward pause. Other times I stammer through a few synonyms until the person offers the word for me.

I can’t see any rhyme or reason to the words I forget. They don’t have a theme or anything. They aren’t always difficult words, either. If I’m tired or nervous, I can forget basic words like “umbrella.” Once, when I took my partner to a nice restaurant, I couldn’t remember the name for “pepper.” I had to ask her to pass “the spicy salt.”

Should I be worried about this? My family does have a history of Alzheimer’s, but I’m only 32. Is becoming forgetful part of the aging process? Or am I just bad at conversation? I’m already self-conscious when talking to people, so I’d like to improve my memory if I can. —Freaking Out About Forgetfulness

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Dear Freaking Out,

Thank you for writing in with this question. It sounds like this issue is creating a good deal of discomfort for you. I hear you saying there is some social anxiety associated with the issue but also anxiety around what it could suggest about future cognitive declines. That seems like a lot for you to hold. You don’t have to hold it alone.

Working with a therapist on increasing your self-confidence and belief in your ability to navigate social situations might help to decrease the incidents simply by decreasing social anxiety.

I wonder if scheduling a consult with a neuropsychologist or neurologist could be helpful to you. If you chose to schedule such a consult, it might be valuable to consider some of the following questions and have some notes to bring in. Was there a particular event, transition, or injury that occurred just before you became aware of this issue? Is the forgetfulness limited to word selection or do you find that you are forgetting other things as well? Do you find this is likely to come up in certain situations and not in others? If so, are there common themes in the situations where it does come up? Having answers to these questions will allow you to offer a thorough presentation of your concern.

Certainly, the professional you see will also have some questions and may or may not find it necessary to recommend further evaluation. If there is an underlying condition causing the forgetfulness, it will likely be diagnosed. If no diagnosis is made, then hopefully your anxiety will be alleviated to some extent.

If there is not a neurological explanation for your forgetfulness and you still find it showing up and creating discomfort, it might be valuable to partner with a therapist to explore and deal with the anxiety you have around the issue. The social anxiety could certainly exacerbate the problem—anxiety can impair cognitive functioning. Working with a therapist on increasing your self-confidence and belief in your ability to navigate social situations might help to decrease the incidents simply by decreasing social anxiety. Even if the incidents did not decrease, you might not feel the same level of discomfort if you felt more confident overall.

However you choose to approach this, I hope you will address it in some way. It sounds like it is quite stressful for you, and you deserve to have support in trying to gain a deeper understanding of what is going on and what can be done about it.

Best wishes,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Jess

    Jess

    April 9th, 2018 at 8:41 AM

    If you have a family history of Alzheimers, are you more likely to have difficulty with language recall? I wonder if there is any research about this?

  • dificonsa

    dificonsa

    April 9th, 2018 at 2:44 PM

    Thank you, GOD bless you

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