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All about PTSD and Memory Loss 

Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju
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Sandeep Dhanyamraju MD
Medically reviewed by Sandeep Dhanyamraju

Post-traumatic stress disorder is unique in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That’s because for physicians to diagnose, they need to expose the person to trauma. For this reason, PTSD and memory issues are often called “trauma-related anxiety disorder.” But memory changes represent such a central part of the symptom picture. So some researchers consider PTSD as a disorder of basic memory function.

Recurrent intrusive memories of a traumatic event characterize post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They occur six months after the accident and persist for over a month. Scientists have not fully understood the pathophysiology of this disorder. Symptoms also include:

  • avoidance of stimuli;
  • associated with the traumatic event;
  • nightmares and flashbacks. 

Doctors make a diagnosis based on the history of PTSD effects on memory. Treatment consists of exposure and medication therapy.

PTSD impairs memory. It means that at the slightest hint of memories of trauma, intrusive flashbacks can occur. They can take you back to the worst times of your life. But it can also lead to large memory lapses and short-term memory impairment. Read our article further to learn more about PTSD and short-term memory loss.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Symptoms

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness. It can develop after a person has experienced or seen a traumatic event. PTSD and loss of memory symptoms can vary from person to person. Doctors have grouped them into four main categories: 

  • re-experiencing;
  • avoidance;
  • negative changes in mood;
  • cognition hyperexcitability. 

Here are some common symptoms of PTSD:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms. It occurs due to the triggers can be because of memories. When reminded of the event, they may also experience physical reactions such as:
  • sweating;
  • rapid heartbeat.
  • Avoidance symptoms. People with PTSD may avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event, including:
  • people;
  • places;
  • activities. 

They may also avoid talking about the event or their feelings related to it.

  • Negative changes in mood and cognition. Traumatic memory loss can cause people to feel numbness or detachment from others. Or they may have a persistent negative mood. They may also experience negative thoughts or feelings about themselves or the world, such as:
  • guilt;
  • shame;
  • hopelessness.
  • Hyperarousal symptoms. People with PTSD may constantly feel on edge, irritable, or have difficulty sleeping. They may also experience hypervigilance. It means they are constantly scanning their environment for potential threats.

PTSD symptoms can be severe and disruptive to a person’s daily life. They may last for months or even years after the traumatic event. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PTSD and memory problems. It’s important to seek professional help from a mental health provider. Treatment for PTSD may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

PTSD effects on memory

How does PTSD affect your memory?

PTSD has several effects on memory. People with PTSD may have difficulty recalling specific details about traumatic events. They may also have trouble remembering certain aspects of their lives:

  • before;
  • after the event. 

Sometimes, people with PTSD may have difficulty forming new memories or retaining information.

Here are some ways that PTSD can affect memory:

Name Description
Disrupted encoding Encoding is the process by which information is stored in memory. During a traumatic event, the brain can become overloaded with information. This makes it difficult to process and store memories. This can lead to fragmented or incomplete memories of the traumatic event.
Flashbacks and intrusive memories They are hallmark symptoms of traumatic memory loss. These vivid and distressing memories can intrude on a person’s thoughts. So it will be challenging to focus on other tasks or remember other information.
Avoidance behaviors As we mentioned, people with PTSD may avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. This avoidance can limit their exposure to new experiences and information. They will be suffering to form new memories.
Dissociation It is a common symptom of PTSD with loss of memory. It involves a sense of detachment from oneself or one’s surroundings. This detachment can lead to disconnection from the present moment. So people cannot recall past events.
Hyperarousal Hyperarousal can lead to a state of heightened alertness and vigilance. This is one of the worst PTSD effects on memory, so it can interfere with sleep. Also, it is very difficult for people to focus on tasks or remember information.

Why does PTSD affect short-term memory?

PTSD can affect short-term memory loss. Because of the effects of the brain’s stress response. When a person experiences a traumatic event, the brain’s stress response becomes active. This causes the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help the body respond to an immediate threat. But they can also harm memory.

In particular, cortisol can impair the brain’s ability to form new memories. This is what affects short-term memory. When a person has elevated cortisol levels, the hippocampus becomes damaged or inhibited. This is the part of the brain involved in forming new memories. This can make it difficult to encode new information into long-term memory. This then means that PTSD  can cause difficulties with short-term memory loss.

Also, hypervigilance is a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.  It can interfere with focusing on information or retaining it in short-term memory. People with PTSD may have a heightened state of alertness. They may be easily distracted or overwhelmed.

How to improve your PTSD-related short-term memory problems?

If you are experiencing short-term memory loss due to PTSD, you have to get treatment. Several strategies may help improve your memory function:

1.Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety, improving memory function. It can be:

  • deep breathing;
  • meditation;
  • progressive muscle relaxation.

2. Improve sleep habits. PTSD and memory problems can often lead to sleep disturbances, negatively affecting memory. Good sleep hygiene practices can improve sleep quality and boost memory function. It can be: 

  • maintaining a consistent sleep schedule;
  • avoiding electronic devices before bed;
  • creating a relaxing sleep environment.

3. Engage in cognitive training. Certain cognitive training programs, such as computer-based brain training exercises, may help. They improve short-term memory function.

4. Exercise regularly. Studies have shown that exercises have a positive effect on memory function. As it promotes the release of neurotransmitters and growth factors.

5. Seek professional treatment. Treatment for traumatic memory loss, such as therapy and medication, can help to alleviate symptoms and improve memory function. A mental health provider can work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

6. Use memory aids. Things such as calendars or reminders can help to compensate for memory problems. So they improve day-to-day functioning.

Are you or a loved one struggling with PTSD  and its effects on memory? If so, Lone Star Neurology can help. Our experienced and compassionate neurologists specialize in treating PTSD and associated memory problems using state-of-the-art techniques and therapies. We work with each patient to develop a personalized treatment plan. It addresses their unique needs and goals. Whether you are looking for medication management, psychotherapy, or cognitive rehabilitation, we are here to provide the care and support you need to improve your quality of life. Don’t let PTSD and loss of memory control your life any longer. Contact Lone Star Neurology to schedule a consultation! So you can start your journey toward healing and recovery.


  • Can memory loss from PTSD be reversed?

Memory loss from PTSD can often be improved but may not always be completely reversible, as the extent to which memory can be restored depends on various factors such as the severity and duration of the memory loss and the response to treatment.

  • How long does it take for the brain to recover from PTSD?

The duration of recovery from PTSD can vary for each individual. It is difficult to predict a specific timeline for brain recovery. As it depends on various factors such as the severity and duration of the trauma. The type of treatment and the individual’s health and response are also important.

  • How do people behave when they have PTSD?

People with PTSD may exhibit a range of behaviors such as avoidance of triggers, hyperarousal, re-experiencing traumatic events through flashbacks or nightmares, emotional numbness, and difficulties with concentration and memory.

  • How quickly does PTSD develop?

It develops very quickly, within a few hours or days. This disorder of consciousness, stunting of some kind, can be. However, PTSD can also develop for a long time. Within a month, the PTSD condition is assessed as a pathological stress reaction.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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