PTSD and Memory Loss
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many people, but not all symptoms are well-recognized. PTSD and memory loss are not often put together, but they are most definitely linked. Forgetting why you walked into a room, asking the same question multiple times or forgetting where you put your keys are all examples of the short-term memory loss caused by PTSD.
Why PTSD affects the memory
The hippocampus is a part of the brain that regulates emotions and deals with memories. Studies have shown that PTSD actually shrinks the hippocampus and causes it not to function as well. Disjointed memories and flashbacks happen because the memory storing function has been damaged. It is also harder for your brain to convert short-term memories into long-term memories.
Should I be concerned?
Memory loss is, at best, frustrating and, at worst, frightening. If you don’t realize that PTSD and memory loss are related, you may wonder if you are having early Alzheimer’s or dementia. The difference between short-term memory loss from PTSD is that it truly is short-term things that you forget. These things often come back to you later. A serious memory problem like Alzheimer’s or dementia will affect long-term memories (like the names of your children or simple activities like buttoning a shirt).
What you can do to improve your memory:
- Leave notes for yourself
You might not be able to overcome your brain’s response to PTSD and memory loss but you can plan ahead. Leaving yourself notes can help you remember to do important things.
- Make patterns
Try to do things consistently, like always hanging your keys near your front door or always feeding your dog when you eat breakfast. These patterns will ensure that you get things done as well as give you a consistent schedule.
- Take a break
If you notice that you are having more memory problems than usual, it is time to rest. Do something relaxing that you enjoy to relieve stress. This will help your brain catch up with you.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to people with PTSD and may help with short-term memory loss. There is no conclusive evidence (some studies say they do, some say they don’t) but could be worth a try if you are struggling with PTSD and memory loss. Talk to your doctor and find out whether SSRIs could help you.
We are here to help. Please reach out to us if you or a loved one is suffering, we can help get you the support you need.