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10 Ways to Heal Memory Loss from PTSD and Trauma

memory loss Apr 17, 2023
Frustrated woman with PTSD memory loss standing outside with hands up by face.

If you are living with the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and memory loss, it can be hard to know where to turn. This blog post is here to provide you with 10 ways to heal memory problems from PTSD and trauma so that you can start reclaiming your mental energy. Read on to learn more about the impact of PTSD on your memory function and the steps to begin healing.

Can PTSD cause memory loss?

Let’s start by defining PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and learning how it relates to memory impairments.

PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event. It is characterized by intense and persistent feelings of fear, anxiety, and distress.

Memory loss can be a symptom of PTSD, where the person has difficulty remembering certain details of the trauma or certain periods of their life. It can also manifest as forgetting recent events or conversations. Memory loss can range from mild to severe, and it can be very distressing for those affected.

The impact of PTSD and memory loss can be significant enough to affect a person’s ability to function in everyday life. It can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. It can also cause difficulties in relationships, work, and school.

It is important to remember that although these symptoms can be overwhelming, they are often treatable and with the right resources, you can reclaim your mental energy and recall and start feeling better.

What You Need to Know About PTSD

About 3.6% of adults in the United States suffer from PTSD. That means 1 in just 11 people will have it at some point in their lives.

Most people think PTSD only affects people like combat veterans or first responders, but anyone can get it, no matter their nationality, job, or age. It can affect both adults and children as well as males and females. Girls and women are more likely to have PTSD than males and it tends to happen to them at a younger age. 

Causes of PTSD

The development of PTSD can happen after a single event that was or felt dangerous, whether it's emotional or physical trauma. Examples include being in a war, natural disasters, a bad car accident, or being sexually assaulted. Complex PTSD (or CPTSD) happens when psychological trauma persists over a long period of time, like child abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse. Read more about emotional trauma and memory problems.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Recurrent bad dreams or distressing thoughts about an event or series of events.
  • Fear, panic, or anxiety when something reminds you of a negative experience.
  • Avoidance of situations or activities that remind you of the traumatic events.
  • Experiencing ruminating thoughts on past events.
  • Memory loss surrounding a traumatic experience.
  • Difficulty focusing, creating new memories, or learning new skills.
  • Feeling detached or isolating yourself from others.
  • Demonstrating less interest in previously enjoyed tasks/hobbies.
  • Frequent sleep disturbances.

If you're experiencing any of these signs, it's important that you speak with a doctor to get the appropriate treatment. PTSD is a serious condition that can make you more vulnerable to other conditions such as substance abuse or depression.

PTSD and Memory Problems

In addition to the symptoms listed above, short and long-term memory problems can be prevalent and persistent symptoms for someone with PTSD.

There are many reasons these memory problems arise. First, people with PTSD may suffer from intrusive memories, which are involuntary, recurring memories of traumatic events. These memories can be very distressing and can lead to problems focusing on other things. 

PTSD Memory Loss

Alternatively, many people with PTSD will experience dissociative amnesia, a condition that blocks out traumatic memories and can make it difficult to remember other important pieces of your life or background. Dissociative amnesia symptoms can be mild, or severe enough in nature to impact your work, relationships, or general ability to focus and function.

While it's clear that PTSD may cause memory problems surrounding the traumatic event, either from intrusive memories, memory distortion, or an inability to recall details of the experience, it can also lead to difficulty from short-term memory problems. 

General PTSD symptoms can impact your sleep, focus, and stress hormones which all play a role in how your brain will receive and store new information. Over time, these symptoms can lead to physical changes in areas of the brain (like the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus) that are responsible for memory, problem-solving, and new learning. 

While these symptoms can be frustrating, it is possible to improve your memory after PTSD. 

PTSD and Dementia Risk

People with PTSD have a higher risk of dementia.

A 2019 meta-analysis study indicated that people with PTSD are more than 2x more likely to develop dementia than those without PTSD. One potential explanation for this increased risk is that PTSD can cause long-term changes in the brain, which can lead to cognitive decline over time.

Additionally, people with PTSD often engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and drinking, which can also increase dementia risk. It is important to note that proper treatment for PTSD can help to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life.

Read this for important information on the 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia.

PTSD and Prescription Medications that Can Lead to Or Exacerbate Memory Problems

Despite the possible benefits of medication for PTSD, many common prescriptions, like Zoloft, can cause or worsen memory problems. Therefore, holistic lifestyle support is key to aiding your mind and memory, regardless of whether you opt to take medication or not.

Here are 10 holistic ways to support memory function after PTSD and trauma:

1. Exercise Regularly

It's not a secret that exercise is beneficial for both mental and physical health. It can help you reduce stress, improve your sleep quality, and boost your mood. 

But did you know that exercise is also one of your best defenses against depression or dementia? Research has consistently demonstrated the brain benefits of regular exercise for both immediate mood-boosting and stress reduction as well as long-term brain protection. 

Additionally, exercise is a healthful distraction from other events and a powerful tool for improving memory function. Many studies demonstrate that exercise increases the size of your hippocampus, or the memory and learning center of your brain, thereby improving memory function

 2. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is essential for memory consolidation, as well as healing. It is important that those affected by PTSD and memory loss get enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If sleep is a problem for you, or you suffer from sleep disturbances, speak with your doctor.

 3. Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for managing symptoms of PTSD and improving memory function. It can reduce your stress and anxiety while allowing time for daily reflection. It is important to find a practice that works for you and to be consistent with it. 

 4. Seek Professional Help

It is important to seek professional help if you are struggling with the effects of PTSD and memory loss. The right professional can help you to manage your symptoms and to develop coping strategies. 

 5. Connect with Others

Social support is essential for healing and recovery. Connecting with a friend and or family member can help to reduce feelings of isolation and can provide a sense of comfort and security. Socialization is also essential for a healthy memory.

 6. Eat a Balanced Brain Healthy Diet

Eating a balanced diet is important for both physical and mental health alike. Eating a diet rich in fiber and brain-boosting phytonutrients can help to boost your energy levels and it can improve your focus and cognition. Additionally, eating a brain-healthy diet (such as the MIND diet) can significantly reduce your risk of dementia (by up to 54%!)

Check out my favorite Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbooks here!

 7. Seek Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of evidence-based therapy that can help you identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. 

 8. Learning How to Make Brain Healthy Habits A Daily Practice

To protect your brain and promote brain health, it is important to eliminate lifestyle factors that can harm your brain, such as drugs, alcohol, brain injuries, obesity, sleep apnea, hypertension, smoking, excessive sugar intake, and unhealthy fats. 

You can also boost your brain health by eating well and engaging in regular exercise, managing your stress levels, getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night), and participating in activities that are beneficial for your brain. This level of self-care is essential for healing and recovery. 

 9. Participate in Support Groups

Joining a support group of like-minded individuals can help to reduce feelings of isolation and can provide a different level of support and understanding than the general population.

10. Journal Your Experiences

Writing can be a helpful tool for both managing symptoms of PTSD and improving memory. It can also help you process difficult feelings and can provide an opportunity for self-reflection. Additionally, a daily reflection practice can help boost your focus, recall, and overall sense of control. 

In summary, these healing strategies can not only improve your memory moving forward but also decrease your risk factors for future memory complications from mental health problems or dementia. If you're experiencing PTSD, it's important to speak with your doctor and get the support you need. 

Final Words

I hope this article has provided you with helpful information on healing memory loss from PTSD and trauma. Remember, you are not alone and with the right resources and support, you can improve your memory moving forward.

If you want to learn more about memory health coaching for women, head over to my programs page for information or schedule a free consultation to discuss your unique memory concerns and to learn more about how I can help.

Questions? Contact Francine Here

Meet the Coach

Hey there! I'm Francine, a speech-language pathologist turned memory health coach with a passion for helping you overcome your memory problems.

In my practice, I help women just like you trade memory problems for confidence and clarity everyday so you can think clearly and remember easily, without constant self-doubt weighing you down. 

If you're struggling with poor recall and foggy thinking, you're in the right place and I want to help you!


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