Lethologica is a condition in which someone cannot remember words, key phrases, and names. This results in an inability to express or articulate thoughts, which can be extremely frustrating for the patient. This condition is believed to be psychological in origin, although there is some evidence that there is a neurological component as well. There are no treatments, although some patients can develop coping skills which help them manage their memory loss.
The key feature of this condition is that it is temporary. The patient has not forgotten the information forever, experiencing instead momentary forgetting and confusion which make it hard to speak or convey key information. The duration of the temporary memory loss can vary, depending on the patient and the setting. Bouts of lethologica seem to be brought on by stress, including stress from being in a tense social situation, as well as intense physical exercise.
Some people may experience secondary symptoms in addition to lethologica. As they try to remember the thing that they cannot bring to mind, they may smack their lips or make other movements with the mouth. Likewise, some patients experience trouble swallowing. Different triggers can lead to a spell of forgetfulness, depending on the patient.
The temporal lobe is the area of the brain which appears to be involved in lethologica. Responding to stress is a psychological aspect; responding to exercise, however, is physiological, suggesting that multiple systems may be at play. Some patients also experience neurological impairment, as for example in the cranial nerves.
For many patients, forgetting words for a few moment is not a major concern, especially if friends and family are aware and they know to be patient while they wait. In other cases, patients may want to develop alternate communication systems so that they can express their thoughts even when they lack the specific words they need. Some people with conditions which may inhibit expression find it useful to carry cards which they can hand to people to quickly familiarize them with the issue.
Friends and family of someone with lethologica may want to ask about how she or he wants to be accommodated. Some people, for example, may be receptive if people attempt to fill in their sentences or find the word they are looking for. Other people may prefer to be allowed to find the word on their own, without assistance, and to be able to signal when they do want help.