Cognition is a general concept, having to do with the way humans or other sentient beings think, concentrate upon, remember, plan, perceive, and understand. Cognitive problems, then, are any problems where any of these actions are impaired. Given the vast scope of things that involves cognition, it can thus be understood why listing the most common problems with cognition is extremely difficult. So many things can briefly or permanently impair cognition that it might be hard to judge exactly which of these things is most common. At the very least, it’s useful to discuss some of the more common cognitive issues.
Since part of cognition is “concentration,” it’s little wonder that conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD) could be among the most common cognitive problems. Almost 5% of American adults suffer from this condition, and it may affect about the same percentage in school children. In classroom settings, that’s about one to two kids per class that may have ADHD. This disorder illustrates an important point regarding cognition; it is clearly not associated with intelligence, since many of these kids are very smart. Yet ADD/ADHD can have a huge effect on performance and easily convince children or adults that they are not intelligent because they must try to compete with the work of others while lacking an important cognitive skill.
Another of the problems with cognition that is discussed frequently is the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The disease gradually or quickly deteriorates memory and affects other cognitive areas, too. As people hit their mid-60s, they have about a 10% chance of getting this disease, and this percentage increases with age, so that by the age of 85, there is about a 50% chance of being affected by Alzheimer’s. It is not only this disease that may affect memory; people may suffer from memory loss due to stroke, because of medications they take, and due to conditions like chemo brain, which affects people with cancer.
In fact a variety of illnesses, conditions or medications may result in cognitive problems. Women undergoing menopause, for instance, often report impaired cognition. People with mental illnesses, even when treated by medication, may have difficulty in one or more cognitive areas, and chronic stress affects ability to do things like effectively plan or remember. Those who suffer strokes may have significant impact in speech/language processing, memory, concentration, and in other areas. Insomnia and other sleep disorders play a role in creating cognitive problems like lack of concentration, reduced memory, and inability to effectively plan.
What these examples say about cognitive problems is that many people are likely to encounter them, for short or long term. Cognition at fullest capacity is a fragile thing that can easily be reduced by a wide variety of factors. More study in this area is clearly needed to understand how humans can better live with deficits in cognition or find methods for restoring function.