We’ve all experienced moments of memory loss at work—forgetting someone’s name after an introduction, forgetting where we put our cell phone, forgetting an appointment.
Forgetfulness can be common in the workplace, especially if you work in a high-stress job or are not getting enough sleep, and it’s also a normal part of aging. But how can you recognize when your absent-mindedness is a sign of something more serious?
Here are nine signs to look for if you’re concerned your memory issues may need further attention.
1. Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks at Work
While misplacing your glasses over and over may seem like a big issue in your day-to-day life, it’s not necessarily an oversight to be worried about. On the other hand, if you’re struggling with managing budgets, remembering how to complete forms, working in familiar computer programs, or completing other tasks that you do regularly, that may indicate more serious memory loss.
2. Challenges in Problem Solving or Planning
When project planning is part of your job, you’re used to looking ahead and mapping out processes and timelines. Sudden problems with figuring out team scheduling or solving problems in your department could be good reasons to double-check yourself.
3. Disorientation of Time and Place
How many times have you forgotten a meeting at work? Just a few? That’s probably fine—everyone loses track of time now and again. Losing track of dates or seasons, however, is a more serious issue. If you’re losing blocks of time in your day or you’re not sure how you got somewhere, that’s definitely something to take seriously.
4. Difficulty Finding the Right Words
Repeatedly having language problems—struggling to find the right words to say or substituting the wrong words—is a common sign of a bigger memory loss issue. Communication in the workplace is crucial, so blanking out while talking or frequently losing track of where you were going with a conversation is definitely a reason to look into the problem further.
5. Loss of Initiative
Is your once neat and tidy workspace now a disorganized mess? Are you falling behind on your work? In the past, did you volunteer to take on large projects, but now avoid taking the initiative because you’re worried you’ll do something wrong? Apathy and initiative loss have been linked to more severe memory disorders, so these issues shouldn’t be written off.
6. Decreased Judgement
When your job involves budgeting money or purchasing for your company, pay close attention to the decisions you’re making if you’re concerned about memory issues. Are you overspending on frivolous things? Forgetting proper channels for purchase approvals? Try reaching out to a supervisor or trusted co-worker to get a gut-check on some of the calls you’ve made. They can help you determine whether your judgment was off, making it easier to see if there’s a concerning trend.
7. Constantly Repeating Yourself
When you explain things to your co-workers or tell a story about an event to a colleague, and hear “You already said that” more than a few times, pay attention. Frequently repeating stories or comments is a sign of more acute memory loss and may need attention.
8. Withdrawing from Work or Events
All of us have days when we aren’t in the mood to go to work or attend a work event. But if you find you’re avoiding getting up every day because you feel uneasy about the changes going on with you or your memory, it could be more than just the Monday morning blues.
9. Changes in Personality or Mood
In particularly intense jobs, you may experience moments of frustration or even anger throughout the day; that’s normal. But if you notice yourself often feeling anxious, suspicious, or even fearful, seek out help. Serious memory issues can create feelings of despair and affect your ability to interact with your co-workers, so big changes in interests or moods might indicate that you need some help.
As you’ve probably noticed, a lot of the major signs of concerning memory loss are comparative. If you feel like your current memory capabilities are suddenly or drastically different from what they were in the recent past or if they’re regularly impacting your ability to do your work, seek help from your physician. Your doctor can help you understand if the issues you’re facing are common or if they’re something to be concerned with. Some memory loss can be a natural sign of aging—but if you’re experiencing any of the problems listed above, it’s a good idea to get some help.