Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops in anyone who has experienced or witnessed traumatic events. Individuals with this condition often struggle with pervasive problems of hypervigilance, nightmares, and adverse behavioral changes.
Most of the time, PTSD is closely associated with veterans. But veterans only make up a part of individuals affected by this disorder.
PTSD can affect children and adults, resulting in a strain on coping with everyday activities. This condition could result from any traumatic event, not necessarily a war, with its symptoms and effects staying the same regardless of the cause. And when it kicks in, it can affect all areas of your life without proper treatment. So, does PTSD cause memory loss? Read on to find out!
PTSD And Memory Loss
PTSD has many effects on a person, but one of the overlooked effects is the effect it has on the brain’s function.
One way of identifying if a person has PTSD is through impaired memory surrounding trauma. However, memory is not only affected like this alone. Memory continues to fail even after the event that leads up to a PTSD diagnosis has passed.
Memory can continue to falter and eventually need treatment if the reason behind memory loss, distortion, and faltering is not quickly resolved.
How Does PTSD Affect Your Memory?
Initially, the time and effort it takes to store a traumatic event can make remembering the trauma difficult; it’s a tricky situation. For some, this looks like frequent breaks in remembering the traumatic event. For others, the event’s timing may not align, and the whole affair might seem jumbled and mixed up. Still, for others, the memory of the event might be faint, fuzzy, or hazy, as if they didn’t witness the event themselves. And this makes it hard to remember the event vividly.
Most of the time, PTSD patients only have problems with their memory when they try to remember the traumatic experience that caused the PTSD.
PTSD can also affect your mind’s ability to keep, recall and combine memories received after the traumatic incident. Memories might be faint, fuzzy, or missing spots. Some of these memories might seem insignificant (like, “how do I get to school, again?”), and some might seem significant (like, “when is my dad’s birthday?”).
Alzheimer’s is closely related to PTSD because PTSD patients are very vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s later in their lifetime. The reason for their relationship is still unknown, as some are still speculating that the cause of PTSD is also the cause of Alzheimer’s. In some places, the probability of developing Alzheimer’s is higher in people diagnosed with PTSD. This could mean that the same processes involved in PTSD could also be related to dementia, and memory loss may be similar.
Sometimes, PTSD can develop almost ADHD-like symptoms, making it hard to memorize things while also affecting your ability to learn or take in new things. This process happens in the same part of the brain that controls mood and collects information. This may be why mood, cognition, and memory are affected by PTSD. This discovery could aid the research for the treatment of PTSD and memory loss.
How Does PTSD Treatment Help Stop Memory Loss?
During PTSD treatment, memory loss begins to experience some improvement because many PTSD symptoms are reduced during treatment. The PTSD patient starts to get better sleep as memory is processed, leading to better mental perceptiveness and memorization.
Exposure therapy is another effective way to treat memory loss derived from PTSD. The therapists slowly help the patient delve deeper into the trauma or events that caused the PTSD. The therapist ensures that he walks the patient through this stage in a safe and controlled setting. Sometimes, this process helps to recover fragments of lost memories, and from there, you can recover all the memories regarding that traumatic event.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and other related trauma-based therapy can help restore broken or incomplete memories. EMDR helps the brain to relax and let go of things related to the trauma. As the patient begins to calm down and relax, the mental image of what happened in that event can become more straightforward and transparent, allowing the patient to remember things that were lost or missing in the memory.
Medical practitioners or therapists can treat memory loss through unorthodox means such as meditation and hypnosis. Although these options are unpopular, some practitioners resort to them when other means prove abortive. These options may have been effective in some cases, but professional therapists rarely use them.