Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do I recognize but not remember faces?"
I have always wondered why this happens to be and if it is normal or not. I, since I can remember, haven't been able to draw/describe a persons face without seeing them infront of me. I have extreme difficulty actually remembering what someone looks like facially, for example, eye color, and lips are near-impossible for me (I don't even know my parents' eye colors). The thing that diferenciates me from agnostic people, is the fact that I can instantly recognize someone if I see them. I know who somebody is by seeing them, even people I havent seen in years. But when it comes to actually making up an image in my head of them, I can't. I was wondering if this is something that many people experience, because I am not sure if its normal, being able to recognize but not remember faces.
Thanks for your question. Some of what you seem to be describing is a common finding for many different people, in that it can be difficult to remember and then describe exactly what you have seen in the past--even the recent past. Determining whether or not you are significantly different from other people would require further questioning, which can best be done by either a neurologist or a psychiatrist, either of which would bring a different point of view into the conversation. Either would be entirely capable of helping you to understand if there are things that could be done to help improve your memory, and can also help you to know if you are outside of the norm. He or she would likely ask if you have had a history of brain trauma that could explain your concerns, and would also ask about potential other reasons for brain injury such as a stroke or a vascular problem. If they remain in doubt after appropriate questioning and testing, it may be appropriate to obtain imaging, although that may be less likely if you have no other symptoms beyond what you describe. Please speak with your doctor about this question.
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