Help with diagnosis

Paul E

Registered User
Aug 23, 2005
I wonder if anyone can help me.

Over the last year, my step-mother has been suffering from frequent and serious bouts of memory loss and we have no idea what condition she might be suffering from. She is 64 years of age, and had never suffered from any psychiatric disorders before. About a year ago, she started having spells where she would become completely vacant and trance-like for two or three minutes and would not be able to tell where she was or even recognise close relatives. She'd come out of the hypnotic state a few minutes later and would have no recollection of it happening. These spells are now happening once every few weeks.

These spells coincided with the onset of memory loss. This has become progressively worse as well. Whole chapeters of her recent life have become completely erased from her memory. She and my dad can go away for weekends and by the following week, she's forgotten it. She couldn't even recall the death of my grandmother, which happened a few months ago. Last night, she had an important meeting with her boss at work, and by this morning she couldn't remember a single thing about it.

As I say, the bouts of memory loss have coincided with her having the trance-like spells, i.e. within the last twelve months. Ask her about anything that happened in her life more than twelve months ago, and she has no problem recalling it.

My dad has taken her to two specialists, but neither of them have been able to diagnose her condition. The second one felt fairly confident that she wasn't suffering from dementia.

The thing is, she has been drinking heavily for many years (very heavily - like half a bottle of sprits every night), and I am wondering if this is a cause.

She still goes to work and lives a relatively normal life, but the condition is becoming progressively worse. I'm not sure if she will be able to hold down her job for long.

I'd be grateful if anyone has any advice of suggestions.


Registered User
Sep 14, 2004
Hi Paul,

I'm sorry i can't be much help but I wanted to reply.
After the specialists failed to make a diagnosis, did they refer her on any further? I don't think anyone here would be able to make a guess as to what is wrong - even if it is dementia, which it very well may not be, each case is completely different and each person seems to have different symptoms and problems. All I can suggest is to keep talking to her GP - if she's happy to go along with this it will be much easier.
Anyway, good luck, and keep us informed of your progress.



Registered User
Mar 23, 2005
Hi Paul,

Welcome to Talking Point.

I really feel for you and your family - this is a very difficult and frustrating state of affairs if two consultants have not been able to diagnose your step-mother's condition.

Did they do any testing - such as brain scans? Do you think that your step-mother disclosed the true nature of her alcohol consumption to the doctors? This could be an important piece of information in making an accurate diagnosis.

I'm not making any explicit connections here, but you might want to look at the fact sheet for Korsakoff's syndrome, which is a type of memory impairment related to high consumption of alcohol over a prolonged period. You can find it here:

What is striking when you read that fact sheet is that it is specifically short term memory which is affected.

Take care,

Last edited:


Registered User
Jul 25, 2005
If I were in your position I would keep asking for a brain scan.

The good thing about Korsakoff's is that kind of dementia can be reversed if the person stops drinking.

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