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How Anxiety Can Cause Forgetfulness

Anxiety has a fairly profound effect on your body, and causes a lot of strange and surprising symptoms. One symptom that often surprises people is that anxiety can cause forgetfulness.

There are issues related to anxiety that can lead to memory loss and a general inability to remember things, and unfortunately as long as you live with anxiety you put yourself at risk for this forgetfulness to get worse.

Forgetfulness = Anxiety?

If you're finding that anxiety is causing you to feel like you're forgetting things, make sure that you take my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test examines your symptoms to come up with possible ways to cure anxiety in the future.

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Causes of Forgetfulness From Anxiety

Your memory is actually very fragile. Your ability to create and recall memories is related to a variety of different factors, including little things like nutrition and sleep. Did you know that most memories are actually created while you sleep? If you're not sleeping because of anxiety, it's possible that that's one of the reasons that you are becoming more forgetful. Make sure you take my anxiety test to learn more.

However, there are many other potential causes of forgetfulness as well. These include:

  • Cortisol - Cortisol is the hormone your body releases during stress. Cortisol is known specifically to prevent the formation of memories and cause memory loss. When you have anxiety, you're essentially putting your body under long term stress and increasing the amount of cortisol in your system all throughout the day. That can have many potential repercussions, one of which is forgetfulness.
  • Distractions Anxiety is also very distracting. It tends to overwhelm the brain and the senses, and that makes it very hard to generate the mental energy necessary to recall memories. At any given time, there are only so many things you can remember. When you're dealing with anxiety, trying to focus on anything else becomes almost impossible.
  • Focus Similarly, that focus can make it harder to even pay attention to the world around you. People with anxiety are often "in their own head." When they hold a conversation with someone else, it's much harder for them to find that their heart is in the conversation. They often find that they simply cannot seem to pay close attention, and that makes it harder for the mind to turn that information into memories.
  • General Forgetfulness Finally, it's important to remember that people forget things all the time for no reason. When you have anxiety, there's a tendency to assume that your forgetfulness "means" something. As in - "I'm forgetting things, does that mean I'm getting older? Does that mean I have a brain disease? Is my anxiety causing memory loss?" It may be as simple as you forgot. Lots of people forget things all the time. But if you have anxiety it's so easy to worry that your forgetfulness means something more.

Anxiety causes numerous changes to happen to your brain and the way you think, and all of them can lead to issues that may contribute to forgetfulness.

How to Improve Your Memory with Anxiety

The key to making sure you're not as forgetful is simply acknowledging to yourself that you're forgetful and performing behaviors that are designed to account for that. For example, if you know you're forgetful, then when someone tells you the date of something important, you immediately take out a calendar or your smartphone and write all the information down in full.

People tend to test their memories when they have anxiety or decide that they don't need to make changes because "this time" they won't forget. There's simply no reason to take that risk, and unfortunately forgetfulness can actually contribute to further anxiety. Write everything down in a place you'll refer to.

Another strategy you may want to try is starting a blog or journal, and using it to write down all of your thoughts. Your blog - like a journal - can be made private so only you can read it, but you can use it to take note of anything you want to remember - such as what you did that day, the conversations you had, who you talked to, etc.

Writing it down will help ensure you don't feel that you're going to forget it. In addition, you can then try to re-read it often and remind yourself everything you hoped to remember. This is a valuable way to train your brain to remember things easier.

But in the end, the only true way to get rid of your forgetfulness is to combat your anxiety. I've helped thousands of people control their anxiety forever. Start with my free anxiety test now, and get an anxiety profile that will help you learn a great deal about how to stop anxiety from coming back.

Start the test here.


Small, Gary W. What we need to know about age related memory loss. BMJ: British Medical Journal 324.7352 (2002): 1502.

Greendale, Gail A., et al. Higher basal cortisol predicts verbal memory loss in postmenopausal women: Rancho Bernardo Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 48.12 (2000): 1655.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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