Memory lapses during menopause can have troubling effects on a woman who experiences them. She may even feel as though she's losing her mind. Generally, menopausal memory lapses do not indicate a cognitive disorder. Although she may routinely forget where she left her car keys, memory lapses are a completely normal and often treatable symptom of menopause.
One study found that women going through menopause are 95% more likely to experience memory lapses than women who have not yet reached menopause. Continue reading to find out more about the types, functions, and common symptoms of memory lapses.
Definition of Memory Lapses
Memory is defined as the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling facts, events, impressions, or previous experiences. Memory lapses, then, are fleeting periods when a person cannot readily recall information.
Many women between the ages of 45 and 55 often experience memory problems as they approach menopause. These problems generally take the form of blips of forgetfulness, when a woman fails to recall information such as names and dates, especially details she just learned.
Because memory is an extremely complex mental function, researches are still trying to determine exactly how it works. Read below to learn the different types of memory and which ones are affected by menopausal memory lapses.
Types of memory and their functions
How Memory Works
Acquisition. Information is imprinted on short-term memory.
Retention. Information is fixed in long-term memory (typically during sleep).
Retrieval. Information is recalled from long-term memory (such as when reminiscing on a childhood memory).
Memory is often simplified into only two categories: short-term and long-term memory. In fact, there are several types that comprise the extremely complex function of a person's memory. The different types of memory shown below will give a better idea of the different functions memory serves.
Short-term memory, also called working memory, is the ability to remember information for brief moments, such as a telephone number for the time it takes to dial it. These memories are discarded after the function is completed. Otherwise, the mind would be full of trivial facts.
Recent memory is the ability to recall day-to-day events and is involved in learning new information.
Sensory memory is the ability to recognize smells, sounds, and sights.
Long-term memory, also known as remote memory, is related to the more distant past, life events such as childhood incidents, past vacations, or even things that happened as recently as a week ago.
Declarative memory is the ability to remember the meaning of words, facts, and general knowledge of the world, and autobiographical memories.
Procedural memory is the ability to remember motor skills - knowing how to do things - such as how to walk, ride a bike, and eat.
Memory Lapses and Menopause
Two types of memory are affected in women who experience memory lapses: short-term memory and recent memory.
Women who suffer from memory lapses typically report that they have "brain fog" when trying to remember where they left their reading glasses, or when they walk into a room to retrieve something they've completely forgotten what they went in the room for. Recollections of names, dates, and addresses can also elude a woman experiencing memory lapses during menopause, especially when she just received that information. Continue reading to learn the symptoms of memory lapses.
Symptoms of Memory Lapses
The primary symptom of memory lapses is the inability to recall information at will. However, there are other secondary symptoms of memory lapses as well, including:
- Forgetting a recent event and remembering it later (for example, spacing an appointment, but remembering it afterwards)
- "Fuzzy thinking"
- Trouble concentrating
With a better understanding of what memory lapses are, it is now time to learn what causes them. Click on the following link to read about the causes of memory lapses.
- Greendale, G.A. , Derby, C.A. & Maki, P.M. (2012). Perimenopause and Cognition. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America, 38(3), 519-535. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.007
- Henderson, V.W. (2008). Cognitive Changes after Menopause: Influence of Estrogen. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 51(3), 614-626. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10