How generalized anxiety disorder affects memory

If you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you have chronic and persistent anxiety disorder. Your friends and relatives may describe you as “nervous” or “worried.” You may feel anxious about everyday situations, and your concerns may be disproportionate or unreasonable. Anxiety can change your daily life and also affect your memory.

When you are under stress or experiencing some kind of emotional disorder, your memory will be affected. Suffering from severe anxiety disorders (such as GAD) will often produce some of these problems, making your memory function below normal.

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How anxiety affects working memory

There are several different memory systems in the brain. Long-term memory systems help us remember information and events from the distant past, while working memory helps us keep information in mind when actively using it.

Working memory is essential for effective problem solving and management of current information blocks. When this system does not function properly, it can cause errors, difficulty completing tasks correctly, difficulty concentrating, and multitasking problems. Working memory is strongly affected by worry and anxiety.

This may be the main problem in your work and personal life. Worry can hinder your working memory and cause you to forget important tasks or appointments. You may make more mistakes at work or encounter difficulties with all the things you need to do at home. You may encounter the following mistakes:

  • Don’t remember which parking lot you parked in
  • Often lose things, such as your keys or your phone
  • Repeat things in the conversation because you don’t remember if you have said it
  • Difficulty recalling directions or information given to you by others
  • Can’t remember what to buy in the store

Studies dating back to the 1970s have shown that working memory and anxiety are related. Studies consistently show that when people feel anxious, especially when the anxiety level is high—a hallmark of GAD—working memory is affected.Academic/work performance, ability to use complex problem-solving strategies, and decision-making skills may be affected.

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

If you have GAD, especially when you are very worried, you may notice memory and concentration problems. If so, this is a particularly good reason to seek treatment for your GAD. Intervention can be a huge help, especially if you find that your symptoms are interfering with your work, education, or personal life.

Find a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders. They can help you manage anxiety in a healthy and sustainable way. From coping skills to calm yourself down to memory skills to help you remember important details, treatment can be a major tool to help you resume your daily routine.

In some cases, medications may be needed to properly control your anxiety. This can greatly help you deal with symptoms. Learning to control and minimize worry can have a big impact on your working memory.


How generalized anxiety disorder affects memory
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