Why Do I Remember Everything? (Hyperthymesia Explained!) | Iris Reading
Why Do I Remember Everything?

Why Do I Remember Everything? (Hyperthymesia Explained!)

Why Do I Remember Everything?

If you can remember every little detail about things that happened in your life, you may have something called Hyperthymesia. This condition causes you to recall several decades. Only a few people have it, and they have reported the ability to remember an abnormally large number of previous events.

Scientists have not fully understood Hyperthymesia as it is a rare condition. However, studies are ongoing, and researchers are always trying to understand how our brains process memories. 

In this post, we’ll discuss Hyperthymesia and how it helps you remember everything that happens in your life.

Let’s get to it!

What is hyperthymesia?

Also referred to as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM), Hyperthymesia is a very rare condition that causes people to recall an abnormally large amount of details about the happenings in their life. As of 2021, only about 60 people have been diagnosed with Hyperthymesia worldwide.

People with this condition can remember details such as exact dates and a vast number of intricate details about past experiences. Studies show that this ability is autobiographical, meaning that a person who has it will only remember personal details and previous life experiences.

HSAM first came to light in the early 2000s when a woman named Jill Price reported that she could remember every day of her life since age 12. She wrote this in her email to the neuroscientist and memory researcher Jim McGaugh who invited her to his lab for testing. 

You can retain information as short-term or long-term memories. People with Hyperthymesia often process short-term memories like everyone else. But studies show that such individuals process long-term memory better.

It is worth knowing that Hyperthymesia is different from having a good memory. Someone with HSAM won’t require mnemonic devices to recall long strings of information.

Signs of Hyperthymesia

The few people who have been diagnosed with Hyperthymesia come from different ages, walks of life, and levels of intelligence. 

Here are a few common traits they present:

  • They can concentrate deeply even amidst distractions. These individuals can block out any distractions in the environment around them.
  • They often spend too much time thinking about past events.
  • Their memories distract them, and they easily lose focus on the happenings around them. They often find themselves daydreaming and fantasizing.
  • Many people with Hyperthymesia have well-organized and cataloged collections, which may evolve into compulsive behavior.

What causes hyperthymesia?

Scientists have not been able to fully understand what causes Hyperthymesia. However, this condition could be biological, genetic, or psychological. Research suggests that people with HSAM have parts of their brain structure that are different from people with typical memory functions.

But there isn’t enough evidence to prove that these differences resulted from Hyperthymesia. It could be due to greater use of parts of the brain associated with memory. Only a few people have been diagnosed with HSAM worldwide, and scientists have still not figured out exactly how it works. 

Some researchers believe that people with the condition have variations in the structure of their brains. On the other hand, there are scientists who argue that Hyperthymesia might have behavioral components. The condition isn’t easy to study because only a few people have it.

Here are a few theories about the causes of HSAM.


There is some evidence that HSAM may have a genetic cause. The brain structure is different in people with superior autobiographical memory.


Some scientists believe that Hyperthymesia is biological. Studies suggest that people with this condition may have hyperactivity in some areas of their brain, such as the amygdala. Also, some researchers believe that people with Hyperthymesia have increased activity in different areas of the brain, including the inferior and superior parietal lobes.


Another theory suggests that HSAM may have psychological causes. That’s because people with this condition obsessively think about things that happened in the past. When you frequently think about previous events, it strengthens your ability to recall them. 

Thus, people with HSAM can preserve their memories.

Diagnosing hyperthymesia

Scientists use several methods, such as electroencephalograms and MRIs, to study and diagnose people with HSAM. The purpose of these brain imaging tests is to measure memory. One of the most common tests used is the autobiographical memory test. 

This cued recall test requires participants to receive positive and negative cue words that prompt a memory. Once done, they will write down the emotional and contextual details that come to mind, count, and score them. 

In a different version of this test, participants can skip the cues. They will receive minimal instructions. However, they will also write down the emotional and contextual details that come to mind, count, and score them. People diagnosed with HSAM work with their doctors to develop a management plan.

Hyperthymesia does not come with any complications or physical side effects. But absorbing and storing so much information can be mentally exhausting. Doctors can provide you with tips and answer any questions you may have.

How does the brain of a hyperthymesiac work?

People with Hyperthymesia process short-term memories like everyone else. But the detail and accuracy of memories improve with time, thanks to their condition. They can recall intricate details of events that happened several years ago.

The human brain stores experiences as short-term memory. Memories such as the shirt you wore yesterday are easy to recall but fade away rapidly. For most people, only meaningful experiences get stored indefinitely as long-term memory. 

For example, you’re likely to recall where you had your first kiss or where your marriage proposal happened. Short-term memory isn’t stored in the same part of the brain as long-term memory.

What is it like to live with hyperthymesia?

Jill Price can remember the day of the week and everything she did on almost any day of the last three decades of her life. Price experiences continuous, automatic playback of events whether she likes it or not. She told researchers that her superior memory skills were not helpful in school.

One of her biggest challenges in school was rote memorization. According to Price, her memory doesn’t work that way. She studies hard to pass her examinations.

HSAM is not only about recalling the happenings in your life, but it also involves recalling exactly when they happened. Someone with Hyperthymesia may be able to label the day of the week on which any calendar date fell. For example, HK, a 20-year-old hyperthymesiac, can remember that February 3, 2009, is a Tuesday. 

He can also recall intricate details like the weather conditions on that day and what he did when he woke up and before going to bed. When a researcher asked how he could do this, HK said, “They just come into my mind. I can just picture it as if I was there again especially when anniversaries come around. That day of the anniversary, I just think back to what I was doing, what the weather was like, who I was with, and so-and-so. I just remember it.”

Disadvantages of having hyperthymesia

Having perfect memory doesn’t only yield upsides. Some disadvantages include sleep deprivation, inability to live in the present, and depression. People with this condition can vividly remember bad memories, making them susceptible to depression.

HSAM causes you to overthink. Most overthinkers find it hard to fall asleep at night. Those with Hyperthymesia are usually not the happiest folks around.

Not being able to forget and focus on more important things selectively is a problem. Humans can subconsciously remember more positive memories and dilute the effects of harmful or unwanted memories. 

This is not valid for people with Hyperthymesia, as they can’t forget negative memories. People with Hyperthymesia often find it hard to live in the present and are prone to depression. 

Final thoughts

Living with Hyperthymesia has both upsides and downsides. Many benefits come with superior long-term memory, but it can also cause sleep deprivation, depression, and more.

Highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) is a rare condition that causes you to remember previous events in great detail. The cause of this condition is unknown, but researchers have come up with a few theories. Hyperthymesia may have a genetic, biological, or psychological cause.

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  • Denise

    I will be 65 in a month and a half. I remember things from my childhood all the time. Even remember having colic as a baby, at least one episode. I remember walking to school in grade one, catching a mouse, it bit me, dropped the mouse. I remember embarrassing things from school which still bother me to this day. People think I’m weird because they don’t remember much from their childhood and think I’m just making these things up.

  • Jonas

    asking someone if they remember something is so incredibly annoying as it’s always a no, but thanks for the clarification. a recent example woul have happend 14 years ago, but then i remember it like it happend last summer. they certainly have no idea, saddening

  • Freedom

    I am 28 and I truly believe I have this, I can remember not only everyone I have come in contact with “That matters” but I remember the smells, certain people voices and the way they sound when they laugh, also where we were. I had a very great childhood I wasn’t abused or anything negative which I believe in a way haunts me as an adult because not only will I not physically be able to relive those moments, I wont be able to relive them with most of the people that were around because they are gone… so all I can do now is relive everything in my head which a lot of times causes depression. Since high school I have had trouble sleeping and had no clue why, but after doing some research on Hyperthymesia, I believe I have this and wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

  • Sue

    I have this plus i can remember smells to and what I was thinking at the time to its like iam there but watching a re run

  • Bonnie L Piccone

    Reading all of the comments made me smile. All of your comments were so interesting and I think we are so lucky to have this talent. It’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one.
    A song came on as I was writing. I remember that Billy Joel sees musical notes in color and other people with synesthesia taste notes and images and numbers when they see them and see children’s blocks as being the wrong color because they picture them a different way. I don’t have that but I thought it was interesting.

  • Bonnie L Piccone

    There have to be more than 60 people in the world who have this! Many years ago, I asked my mother what happened to the brown hassock that was in the apartment where we first lived. We left there when I was one year old. I can picture the entire place in detail. I have always had a great memory and when someone mentions a place that I have visited, I see it in my mind’s eye. I was in Rome and I can picture every hotel, every monument, everyone I sat with at meals and basically the entire trip which was in 1983. It’s like watching a movie with a lot of still photos. I recently met with a student that I had in 1972 and I can picture her entire class and where she sat and the names of all the students in her class. I thought everybody could do this. I also have synesthesia. I see conversations in my head, I spell a word by saying it in my mind, I see number charts that go from one to infinity in sections of 10 which enables me to do math in my head. I also see a line for negative and positive numbers so I can add it subtract those. I see a calendar that starts in the upper right and goes to the bottom left of all the months with the summer months smaller and I see the alphabet in my mind from left to right and then just trailing off at the end. I see the days of the week as a curved line of rectangles with Sunday at the end going down through Friday and up again until the following Sunday. When someone asks me what I’m doing on Friday afternoon, I see that day broken up into three parts with a mental image of where I’ll be at each section. If you mention a movie, I picture it in my mind and I picture the cast and the name of the Director and the casting Director because I love movies and the same thing happens with the books that I read. I read online and I also read real books and when I think of them they are overlaid with a color. It could be tan or white or dark gray. For example, Stephanie Plum books are white. PD James books are gray. It’s so easy to remember things this way. Again, I thought everybody did this. I love the way my mind works and I would miss it because my mind is filled with images. I would love to be part of a study.

  • Laurie

    I am 76 years old and remember vividly much of my childhood even before I could walk. I guess I must have been about six months old. I can detail my surroundings ,lights, touch and sounds. That carried on throughout my life. Although I’m sure I have forgotten a lot, I can be asked about events and will immediately recall details ,even clothing people wore incl shoes, how their voices sounded. etc. So nice to find I’m not the only one. There is a source of sadness when you are the only one that recalls a crooked tooth, a laugh a favourite old coat someone loved, a source3 of excitement or wonder that even the person you remember it all about has forgotten. From the hiss of my bottle nipple, my first senses of wonder, and early childhood emotions and the people and days that came along, I recall much of it in detail as if I am all alone and watching and feeling it.

  • Pam

    I strongly believe I have it… People that know me or have lived with me are amazed that I recall everything word for word —I hate how a word or tune or something triggers it—and out of my mouth it comes, and I start from the beginning and tell what happened and what this one and that one said till I get to the end of the event—I can’t do a short version of it because I feel like I left things out or that it isn’t the truth—it drives my partner of 33 years up the wall—my cousins will call me to see If I remember so I can verify what happened or If I remember something our grandma cooked—or what someone said —I sometimes like that I have it—but other times not—I remember both the good and the bad—I have a hard time calming my mind at night to go to sleep—I also have other weird quirks that I don’t know if others have to—I can write with both hands at the same time and write forward with one hand and backwards with the other hand… I have a thing for numbers—I often wonder how it will affect me as I age even more…I’m 69 and still have a sharp memory—I can remember back to when I was 2 yrs old.

  • Mandy

    I’ve actually thought that I might have this because I can remember pretty much a lot of the details of my life. My first memories started when I was just 1 years old maybe even a few months old.

  • John

    I am 73 and have vivid memory of being pushed in the carriage by my parents. I recall the dress my mother wore as well as the knitted sweater my father wore. I know exactly where we were located and what the houses to either side looked like.
    My memories become stronger from the age of two or three and am able to recall conversations from that time. It was as though I was running a video of my life. Oddly I had difficulty recalling information seen in school tests

  • C Green

    I remember back to 18 months old. I don’t forget. I remember whole conversations, what people were wearing, where they were standing, everything.
    I’ve learnt to keep it to myself because people think I’m weird or obsessed with them if I mention stuff from years ago.
    It’s hard. My whole life plays out like a film to the side of my conscious, over and over, every day.
    Bad things and good things and they can both be hard to live with.

  • Candice Scheibe

    Im going to be 68 this year, and only found out about the condition recently. I had no name for it, and in fact thought everyone remembered t
    In the same way. My particle form includes olfactory and tactile aspects as well. I have developed some control such as shutting the cabinet doors so the memories can be controlled, and giving myself permission to dump some aspects into a mental garbage can so the amount of information doesn’t get overwhelming. These memories are continuous from about age 3. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is never to refer back to a conversation with someone else. Total disaster. You’d think you were bringing up a national secret. People get defensive and feel threatened for the most part, even if what you refer to in positive. It was interesting to read other comments, and realize it probably is rare since there are a limited number available.

  • Laura

    I can remember things from when i was a baby with many details.

  • Ally

    I’m glad I found this article. I can recall detailed experiences from the age of 2. I can even recall dreams I had when I was that age. I can still see and feel everything vividly, as if it happened a couple of minutes ago. I was able to accurately pin point a house we lived in when I was 2 on Google maps (in a different country). I think in my case it might have something to do with early childhood stress and overactive amygdala, because I also suffered from anxiety disorder in my late teens- early 20s. Remembering too much has created a lot of issues. Aside from feeling like I have lived for too long (even though I’m in my late 30s), I can get overwhelmed by a past traumatic memories (and I have too many) at any moment to the point of not being able to function. PTSD basically. As if my past is co-existing with the present. I have to re-live my past over and over in my present and it turns my present into a traumatic experience as well. I have a lot of “junk memories” that I don’t need and I don’t know why my brain is holding on to them. I remember weeks worth of doing absolutely nothing, but watching tv or reading books as a kid. As soon as I start recalling a specific period in my life – memories just start flooding back and don’t stop.

  • Steve

    I thought I was truly alone! I recall things as far back as 2 years old. I live my life in the past as it is so much more vivid than the present. Thank you for telling me about this. I will surely be a test case… I sleep walk, sleep talk, have sleep paralysis, lucid dream etc. 😂

  • Shirley

    I am 73 years old and remember things in detail from as far back as 3 or 4 years old. I often don’t sleep and find myself thinking about things that happened throughout my life. Sometimes a picture or words will trigger a vivid, detailed picture in color. I decided since I could remember so much, especially about my childhood, that I would write stories about each memory. It’s actually turning in to a book.

  • Martin

    I think I have this condition but not very sure. Sometimes I don’t sleep I see things which happen long time ago in details, I just don’t forget stuff & it’s mind bothering.

  • Joan

    Hi there,

    My name is Joan, I will be 65 on the 17th of May 2023 and I believe I have Hyperthymesia.

    It’s the 1st time in my life I’ve seen the words and read about it but always wondered why I can remember as back as being 3 or 4 years old.

    I remember good things and bad things but in such brilliant detail. I love it to a certain extent but it’s also very, very exhausting and debilitating.

    • Joe

      I’m in the same situation as yourself.. it’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.