Feeling anxious is a common and natural response to various stimuli. However, when that response is chronic or severe, such as with an anxiety disorder, an individual may experience various unpleasant and potentially dangerous effects. One of these effects is memory loss. If you have been challenged to remember seemingly simple things, such as a conversation you had yesterday or what you ate for dinner last night, feeling anxious and stressed may be to blame.
While feeling anxious can be uncomfortable, it does not become problematic or unhealthy until it is excessive or so severe that it impacts your ability to function. For example, many people feel anxious speaking in front of a crowd or before a date; these are normal feelings in those situations. However, feeling anxious at the thought of being in a large group of people or a public place can make daily life a challenge and may be a sign of a treatable disorder. Anxiety may be intense and sudden stress, persistent concern, worry, or fear. It can cause extreme discomfort through tension, sweating, inability to focus, and other intense feelings.
When your brain receives stimuli that indicate the possibility of danger, a signal is sent from your brain’s amygdala to the hypothalamus in a fraction of a second. Because of this rapid-fire signal, the body experiences physiological changes, including heightened awareness, faster breathing, higher blood pressure, and more. If the brain continues to sense danger, a stress hormone known as cortisol is released to maintain your heightened state of alert. This will continue until your brain no longer perceives a threat to be present. When your body remains in this state for an extended period of time or when the reaction to perceived danger is severe, there may be mental implications.
The cortisol and adrenaline triggered by the natural fight-or-flight response to stress can aid memory retention in small amounts. In larger doses, however, the opposite is true. In severe cases, it can lead to anxiety blackouts and memory loss. Memory loss may be related to diminished sleep quality and the brain’s ability to process and store memories. This is associated with working memory rather than long-term memory. As a result, you may not recall how to get to a friend’s house, instructions that were recently told to you, information that you recently read, and more. Often, these and other issues can create more stress and anxiety, magnifying the problem.
Once you identify the connection between anxiety and memory loss, you can start to take control of the situation. There are several methods available for managing stressors. For example, if you are anxious about a busy schedule, creating a to-do list with items you can check off is helpful. Deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness, and simply disconnecting from technology are also beneficial. Regular exercise and developing a healthy sleep pattern may mitigate the situation and help you cope with stressors. Some people have also been better able to manage anxiety and memory loss by developing and relying on a solid support network of friends and family members.
In addition to these coping mechanisms, various pharmaceutical treatments are available with a doctor’s prescription. However, you can also explore outpatient treatment and therapy at Mind Body Wellness. Located in Franklin, TN, Mind Body Wellness specializes in whole-body healing by integrating holistic interventions and clinical modalities.