Forgetfulness in 20s and 30s isn’t always a cause for concern. People forget things every day. No matter how responsible you may be, it’s human nature to forget things. Sometimes it slips our mind, we weren’t listening, or it’s right on the tip of our tongues. Whatever the case, memory problems in 20s and 30s can be normal or a sign of something more serious. As we grow older, the effects of age creeps up behind us like a looming threat. Many adults fear their skin aging, their hair falling out, or their lessening physical abilities. However, one of the most feared among these is memory loss.
Everything that defines us like our personalities, attitudes, and abilities, are dependent on the memories we build. Starting from when our brains have formed, we’ve stored our experiences in it. They’ve helped form the persons we are now. So, what happens when it feels like this is taken away at such an early age?
Memory Loss and Forgetfulness in 20S and 30S
As we grow older, our brains change a lot. So, many older people will notice that they have a hard time remembering thing. For example, where they’ve placed things or what words to use. Some people even forget parts of their life that are important to them. However, all this is a normal part of aging. Our brain tissue shrinks, the blood flow decreases, and there can be some accumulated damage to it in the years we’ve been alive.
So, what if you’re not aging? What if you’re in your 20s or 30s? What does that mean?
“Normal” Forgetfulness in Your 20S and 30S
“Normal” forgetfulness at a young age is usually a result of external factors. Not everyone has the same ability to memorize details. Not everyone has the same attention span. Much of the time, even our own ability to remember things varies. Much of this is affected by what we do and how we feel. What makes it “normal” is that it’s temporary and reversible. Here are some reasons why you might be having memory problems in your 20s and 30s:
Forgetting over time
Memory is a very use-it-or-lose-it concept. If you don’t make the effort to focus and you don’t apply it, you will forget it. That’s why many say that practice and experience are the best ways to learn. People may think forgetting over time is memory loss, but it’s not. Instead, it’s just your brain getting rid of useless info, to make room for more useful ones.
This is one of the most common causes of forgetfulness. Being stressed tends to decrease your ability to think straight. As a result, you lose your focus. When you don’t focus, most information doesn’t even process through your brain. So, it’s important to stop and take a break. People who are burnt out tend to forget a lot easier than those who aren’t.
Failure to connect concepts
How do you make memories? They’re made by forming connections between concepts. In fact, that’s the easiest way to learn. Even learning someone’s name involves attributing it to a feature of that person. So it follows that failing to connect concepts can make it seem like you have memory loss. In reality, it’s simply hard to recall things when you can’t make strong associations between them.
Physical illnesses can cause memory loss. This includes thyroid disease, head trauma, and pain. Many people with chronic diseases can experience temporary memory loss, too. That’s why they need to be treated for their underlying causes to improve their memory.
Many people may have nagged you to drink responsibly, and for good reason. If you drink too much alcohol, it can cause short-term memory even after it wears off. There are limits to how much alcohol you can take before it causes any symptoms. One of the ways to avoid it is to control your alcohol intake. Drink responsibly.
People with depression are more likely to experience memory problems in 20s and 30s. Some of the signs of depression are extreme sadness, apathy, and forgetfulness. When your thoughts are preoccupied with other things, it’ll be hard to focus. As a result, your ability to retain information is affected. Depression can happen at any age. So, forgetfulness in 20s and 30s can happen with an underlying mental condition.
When Is It Not “Normal”?
A person might one day find themselves having a hard time talking at first. Maybe they find it hard to find the right words. Maybe they start using inappropriate words to express what they mean. Then, they might gradually start forgetting to do chores. Incidences can happen one after the other until eventually they find it hard to even change clothes or take a bath.
While there are many reasons for forgetfulness in 20s and 30s, there are also warning signs to keep an eye out for. Many people who suffer from early onset memory loss fear the worst. What happens when the memory problems in 20s and 30s is progressive and irreversible?
We need to talk about dementia. This is the first fear that young people consider when they find themselves forgetting things. Memory problems are one of the most noticeable signs of dementia. It can be terrifying to have it at an early age. As a progressive disease, dementia is hard to curb once it starts. However, it is not impossible.
Dementia is defined by memory loss and the inability to function normally due to skills that they used to have being lost. One of the most common causes is Alzheimer’s disease, which is known to be familial. This means that if you have a relative or parent who has it, it’s more likely to happen to you.
While it is a scary experience, there are early signs you can recognize in yourself or others you care about so that treatment can be started as soon as possible. However, it is unlikely to have forgetfulness in 20s and 30s due to dementia.
Early onset memory problems
There are some signs of memory loss that can signal you to seek professional help. These are some of the signs you need to look out for. However, if most of these symptoms don’t ring any bells, it’s likely that the forgetfulness you have is “normal”. It’s unlikely that you’ll have early onset dementia, but not impossible in your 30s. Here are some symptoms that, when coupled with memory problems, should be brought up with a doctor:
When should you seek help for forgetfulness in 20s and 30s
- Short-term memory loss. Usually, it’s subtle but it gets worse over time. You may remember some childhood memories but have a hard time remembering what you did this morning. Another sign is that you might leave things behind or forget where you left them.
- Word finding difficulty. Language is an important function of the brain. This is different from being at a loss for words. Instead, it’s the feeling of knowing how you feel, but having a hard time finding words to express it. It’s like that feeling when what you want to say is on the tip of your tongue.
- Mood swings. People with early memory loss can find it hard to control their emotions. A red flag would be your friends and family pointing out a drastic change in how you act. This means your personality may have experienced a significant change.
- Apathy. This is when you lose interest in things you used to enjoy. It can also be that feeling that you no longer care as much about your loved ones. If you find it hard to show emotion or empathize with people you care about, that is a problem.
- Difficulty doing normal tasks. You might gradually find it harder and harder to do everyday activities. This can include bathing, eating, and dressing up. The more simple a task, the more likely there might be a problem.
- Struggling to adjust. Humans are naturally flexible. While adjustments can be hard for some people, new experiences for people with early onset memory disorders can be scary. You might not remember where you are or why you’re there. You might even get lost in unfamiliar places. Routine becomes ideal and change becomes a new fear.
How to Deal With Forgetfulness in 20S and 30S
The brain is like a muscle. It needs some exercise to improve. In the case of normal forgetfulness, you need to train your brain in a way that works for you. Not everyone has the same motivation to think. So you should find a memory strategy that tailored to you. If you often have forgetfulness in 20s and 30s, or it’s just one of those days you can’t focus, there are some things you can do to make life easier:
Follow a routine
List down activities that you need to do every day. Set a time for these throughout the day. While you may sometimes deviate from your schedule, you can still look forward to activities that are constant and familiar.
Place your important items in the same area all the time
Apart from always saying “keys, wallet, phone”, you must have a designated spot in your house. This place should be convenient and easy to see. For example, near the door or in the bedroom. What matters is that you manage to find your important items with ease.
Use a journal
It seems tedious but many people find organizers, to-do lists, and calendars useful. Some people even find them therapeutic. Try writing down the things you need to do for today and tomorrow. You can even use different colors and formats to let you get creative. Place reminders in places you’ll easily find them. The more creative, the easier it is to remember.
Get enough sleep
Not sleeping enough can affect your memory. Normally, people need at least 8 hours of sleep a day. Any more or any less than that can leave you feel disoriented and confused.
Take a break
Since memory problems in 20s and 30s usually happens when you’re stressed, decreasing your stress can help you remember things better. Take a break if you need to. Do things you enjoy doing or things that need less brain work. You’ll get more things done when you’re more focused, not burnt out.
Early onset dementia
Having early onset dementia can be scary, on the off chance you do have it. However, there are ways to curb the progression of memory problems in 20s and 30s. Treating dementia is more than medications. A lot of care is required to ensure they have better lives. The severity of the disease and the impact it has on your life can be decreased with:
- Seeking professional help. This should be one of the first things you need to do. Get an expert’s opinion on what might be going on with you. Let them know your concerns and they should be able to get to the bottom of your memory problems.
- Learn a new skill. New experiences can be scary when you have a memory problem. However, new experiences can make your brain make more connections. Especially when you find the skill fun, your motivation to learn and make these connections are better.
- Stay physically active. Another part of dementia is the loss of functioning. Usual tasks become hard to do and you become uncoordinated. Staying physically healthy helps curb these symptoms. It may not stop them completely, but they will be less severe because your body will be used to doing your baseline activities.
- Stay mentally active. There are many games in mobile applications and board games. Try to play those that make you think. The more your brain forms connections and exercises, your brain is less likely to deteriorate as fast.
- Find a support network. A support network matters for people with early dementia. It’s scary, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Let them know what you have and how they can best help you. It won’t be easy for you or them, but what matters is that they’re dedicated to helping you.