“Can PTSD cause memory loss?” is a common question because it’s one of the most prevalent symptoms sufferers experience.
With recurrent flashbacks and reliving the traumatic experience, short-term and long-term memory loss often happens.
Knowing the symptoms of PTSD and how to alleviate some of the burdens can greatly assist with the healing process.
- What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
- Can PTSD Cause Memory Loss?
- How to Live with PTSD-Induced Memory Loss
- PTSD and Memory Loss
What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD episodes can manifest in different ways from person to person.
However, they typically involve several symptoms, including heart palpitations, severe anxiety, flashbacks, and distressing dreams.
During an episode, you may experience some of the following events:
- Unwanted flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Severe physical reactions reminiscent of the traumatic event
- Avoidance behaviors of activities, places, or people
- Memory loss
- Thoughts and feelings of hopelessness
- Negative thoughts about oneself
- Irritability and aggressive behavior
- Self-destructive behaviors
As you can expect, PTSD can be an incredibly challenging thing to live with daily.
It is particularly true if you’re continually surrounded by triggers that make your brain remember your trauma.
Another concerning aspect of PTSD is that many individuals can’t predict when their episodes will occur.
Can PTSD Cause Memory Loss?
It’s commonly accepted that PTSD can cause considerable short-term memory loss, especially when dealing with continual episodes.
However, it can also significantly affect your long-term memory, particularly declarative memory.
Declarative memory is a type of long-term memory related to recalling a specific event’s facts.
When memory loss occurs with PTSD, sufferers often take the experiences of an event and fold them into their memory differently.
This process is referred to as pattern separation. With pattern separation, an individual may recall specific points of a traumatic event, forgetting other aspects.
According to Rene Hen, a Columbia University Medical Center researcher, the hippocampus could be responsible for this issue.
By further understanding how pattern separation occurs, psychologists can create potential treatments for PTSD and related disorders.
PTSD and the Hippocampus
The hippocampus is one of the essential parts of the human brain that’s responsible for regulating emotion.
Another important job of this region is storing long-term memories while assisting our minds in separating old from new memories.
Further studies into the hippocampus have found PTSD can damage this region.
The studies suggest that with PTSD, the hippocampal region can decrease an average of eight percent in volume.
As a result, you may experience disjointed memories of traumatic events and difficulty regulating emotions.
Another massive symptom is the inability to transfer short-term memories into long-term storage.
PTSD and SSRI Therapies
Another critical area of study researchers are looking into relates to using SSRIs when treating PTSD.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for patients with PTSD.
Unfortunately, memory loss is one of the largest side effects of these medications.
Although SSRIs have shown some promise in assisting the brain at the start of behavioral therapy, their long-term effects vary.
According to a study, nearly 20% of respondents noted they experienced memory loss after six months of being on SSRIs.
Although this can help to blunt the feelings of PTSD, it’s ineffective for recalling events to alleviate trauma.
That said, mental health professionals highly recommend combining SSRI therapy with mental health intervention.
By working through your PTSD with a professional, you can work on the foundation of your trauma with the positive effects of SSRI therapies.
How to Live with PTSD-Induced Memory Loss
Losing your short-term and long-term memory can be equally as scary as it is challenging to live with.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can work towards improving your memory outside of therapy.
Stress can be one of the most damaging factors contributing to the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder.
You’ll want to work towards eliminating as many stressors from your daily life as possible, especially at home.
By reducing stress, you can increase your focus, greatly assisting with memory retention.
Having less stressful pressure can reduce your chances of sparking an episode throughout the day.
If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, separate yourself from the situation.
Once the stress is reduced, you can go back to focusing on your original task.
Keep Regular Notes
Although it takes a little extra time, writing down important details can help with intrusive memories.
It can be beneficial to carry a small journal around so you can jot down items throughout the day.
You can work towards improving your memory by keeping an organized list of things to remember.
This is a tip that works even for people without PTSD.
If you have a journal with everything you need to remember, you’ll complete your daily tasks effortlessly.
It can be an incredible help and reduces the stress around traumatic memories.
Equally as damaging to your everyday memory issues as stress, distractions are a sure-fire way to forget what you’re doing.
For example, if the TV is on while heading to the kitchen for water, you may forget you need water.
Spend special attention on the task, not allowing yourself to be led astray by things around you.
Improve Your Sleeping Patterns
One of the most commonly experienced symptoms of PTSD is insomnia, which can lead to considerable mental and physical health issues.
Many trauma survivors deal with regular nightmares and develop sleep-related conditions such as sleep apnea.
That said, improving your sleep patterns can be a great way to combat many PTSD symptoms.
Regarding the effects of memory loss, sleep can significantly improve your concentration during the day.
You’ll feel less fogginess and be prone to higher levels of mental acuity.
It can also assist with the attentiveness required for daily functioning.
If you feel like you have chronic insomnia, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
They can refer you to a sleep specialist that can assist with techniques to improve your sleep.
You may also be prescribed medications to help alleviate mental discomfort at night while you work through your trauma.
Do Mindfulness Exercises
The benefits of mindfulness exercises are often overlooked, but they are something everyone should do daily.
They are accommodating for those suffering from unwanted memories due to PTSD.
Mindfulness focuses on being present and the here and now, which helps to reduce overwhelming stress.
It can also help remove mental distractions, ensuring your brain can retain more information.
With the use of meditative practices, you can assist your brain with maintaining control.
Another massive benefit of mindfulness exercises for PTSD is they can help with emotional regulation.
When you encounter a triggering situation, centering your mind can help alleviate the likelihood of negatively expressed emotions.
You could find it can assist with managing your anger and irritability and reducing fear responses.
Practice Neuro-Linguistic Programming Therapies
At its core, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a helpful therapy for reprogramming your unconscious thought and behavior patterns.
Through this practice, you can refine psychological processes to alleviate the burden of trauma.
It’s also a recommended practice to work through PTSD and other trauma-related mental disorders.
Through NLP therapies, individuals can look outside how they perceive and filter information.
You’ll be able to analyze your brain’s map to understand better how you process stimuli.
As such, this practice is highly recommended for targeting the foundation of many stressors and traumas.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming requires the assistance of medical professionals to get the most effective results.
However, you can also do at-home exercises to explore your unconscious mind.
A few of the top resources you can use to help you get started include:
- Meditation Interventions to Rewire the Brain – Jeff Tarrant
Meditation Interventions to Rewire the Brain is a helpful guide to working through traumatic experiences using meditative practices.
This book explores concepts beyond standard meditation to help alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
There are over 50 worksheets, tips, and exercises to explore within its pages.
- How to Break Your Identification with Emotional Trauma in 10 Days – Johanna C Bassols
Emotional trauma is one of the fundamental elements explored in NLP therapy. How to Break Your Identification with Emotional Trauma in 10 Days can give you a headstart.
With this guide, you’ll work through different emotional techniques such as meditation, breathing, and neuro-linguistic programming exercises.
- PTSD FREE – The NLP Thought Experiments – Twenty Twenty, John Wingert
PTSD FREE – The NLP Thought Experiments offers a first-hand approach to managing PTSD.
Not only will you read about the author’s personal experience, but also tips that you can implement in your daily life.
It’s a great read to help accommodate your NLP therapy and learn more about how the brain processes trauma.
PTSD and Memory Loss
If you’re asking, “Can PTSD cause memory loss?” it’s one of the most commonly experienced symptoms.
With the help of mindfulness exercises, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and therapy, you can begin to work on your trauma.
You can alleviate much of the burden associated with post-traumatic stress disorder with treatment and dedication.