BEYOND LOCATION: why can you "go black" when you're anxious


It happens to the best of us.

During a job interview or a first date, you get so nervous it's hard to think. And then, when someone asks how it was, you really can not remember.

It may seem that you are losing your memory, but according to Dr. Ira Fischler, this "blackout" is probably not a loss. It is more likely that you did not even create the memory in the first place.

Fischler is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Florida, specializing in cognition, learning and memory.

"When the memories of specific events charged with emotion seem to be lost, it is more common because our attention during the event was not in the interaction itself," he told Global News.

Instead, it is common for a person to focus on how they are performing or their inner emotional state during the interaction – especially during times of stress.

This would explain why some people struggle to remember the questions asked during a job interview, for example.

They are focused on how they are presenting to the employer at the moment.

According to Fischler, this memory lag – commonly called a "gun focus" in the field of eyewitness memory – can be a major problem for criminal cases.

"If you are being robbed, you can focus on the weapon (or the danger you are in) instead of the dress or face of the aggressor," he said.

"In these cases, the critical information you're trying to remember has never been" stored "in the first place."

Many people can probably relate to meeting someone new and immediately forgetting their name. Fischler says it is a perfect example of a "focus on weapons".

"We are not paying attention to [the name] and [we] It's unlikely to give a little rehearsal that will make it memorable later, "he said, which explains why the name is" forgotten "in seconds.

How the Brain Works

"Our brains begin to act in certain ways as a result of trauma and anxiety," said Laura Bloom.

She works as a psychotherapist and social worker, specializing in neuropsychological anxiety and education.

When we are in a situation that causes nervousness or anxiety, a "fight or flight" reaction is triggered, which sends certain hormones into the body.

It can cause several side effects, such as feeling dizzy and dizzy, and can affect "how our brains remember the situations we've been in," Bloom said.

She thinks of the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memory) as the brain library and each memory as a card with all the information about what happened in it.

"When we have something [scary] happens, the experience of trauma [means] that our brain does not necessarily keep all the details properly, "she said.

Strong feelings of anxiety can cause the information to be saved incorrectly, which in turn may appear as white space in memory.

However, there is still a debate among psychologists about whether your brain "represses" memory or whether there was any memory created in the first place.

"Animal and human research suggests that, in general, intense emotions or excitement tends to improve – rather than hinder – the memory of the event," Fischler said.

"This can occur both because of increased attention to experience (a cognitive level effect) and the release of certain" stress "hormones … which seem to enhance the" consolidation "of memories.

"Consolidation" as the transformation from a short-term event to a more stable and long-term memory, says Fischler.

The memory loss is real, but in this situation you are more likely to be unable to remember because there was a problem with how you went through the event, such as the "gun focus."

Other ways your body responds to anxiety

According to Jim Folk, founder and president of Calgary-based, the sympathetic nervous system in our bodies responds to the stressful thoughts or moods we may have, including anger, worry or fear.

"Rapid heart rate is one of the most common because the stimulus makes the heart," he said.

"People can experience jumped beats when the heart is shaken by the stress response."

Demian Brown, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and registered clinical social worker, previously said that Global News's contraction in the face and body is a common symptom of anxiety.

"When you are under stress, physiological things begin to happen to the body," Brown said. "Your levels of adrenaline and norepinephrine increase as if your body is preparing for some kind of danger."

Brown added this type of response to increase muscle tone and prepares the body for what is perceived as a path.

A desire to pee, sweat, throat tightness, diarrhea and constipation are just a few of the side effects that stress can have on the body, although it varies from person to person.

How to deal

If it seems like you are constantly suffering from "blackouts," you may be putting yourself in many stressful situations.

This can have long-term impacts on the health of your brain.

A recent study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has determined a clear link between high levels of cortisol, a hormone released during periods of stress and memory loss.

Researchers interviewed more than 2,000 people without signs of dementia and gave them several psychological tests to measure cognitive ability.

"Higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, seem to predict brain function, brain size, and performance on cognitive tests," said study author Dr. Sudha Seshadri in an interview with Reuters. CNN.

"We found memory loss and brain shrinkage in relatively young people long before any symptoms could be seen," he added.

When confronted with anxiety, Bloom says his motto is "turn your mood back on, reconnect your life."

For her, it is crucial that you replace the fight or flight response with a calmer, healthier approach to life-threatening situations.

The first step in doing this is to understand what triggers your fight or flight response.

"First, let's work on identifying these beliefs and coping strategies [the patient] have grown with or have had influence throughout life. Why are they feeling this way? What is it coming from? "She said.

Bloom also recommends working with a psychologist or psychotherapist to learn calming techniques.

"Doing things like deep breathing really helps calm your nervous system after these fight or flight reactions," she said.

She says that deep breathing, or the breathing of the diaphragm, can slow down your system and, by extension, your panic reaction.

Laughter, anchoring statements and visualization are other techniques that can also delay the fight or flight response.

The goal is to "activate the logical brain instead of the fear-driven brain," Bloom said. "That way, your brain is not acting for you … [and] you can discover things logically. "

– With archives by Laura Hensley and Arti Patel

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