Memory Loss (Amnesia) Symptoms

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Memory loss can happen in many different ways, but in any case, it is always a difficult condition. There are several symptoms associated with memory loss, some of which can make it difficult to lead a normal lifestyle. Although memory loss is generally not curable, there are a few treatment options available that can help slow the process of memory loss for some individuals with the condition.


Memory loss, also known as amnesia, is unusual or extreme forgetfulness. It can be associated with the failure to remember either recent events or events of the past or, in some cases, both. Memory loss is often experienced as a symptom associated with a particular disease or condition.

It’s important to note that this condition is separate from the normal memory challenges associated with aging. As people get older, it is considered natural for them to take longer to remember certain facts or information. It’s also common for older individuals to have more trouble learning new material. However, dramatic reductions in memory and recall abilities at any age is considered to be memory loss, a term reserved for more serious cases of memory problems. (To learn how to combat memory loss associated with aging, read Brain Exercises For Memory Improvement To Stay Sharp.)


There are several types of memory loss that an individual can experience. The most common distinction between types of memory loss is whether the condition is temporary or permanent:

  • Short-term memory loss is called transient memory loss.
  • A chronic condition of this sort is called permanent memory loss.

The cause of the memory loss also creates two potential types of amnesia:

  • When memory loss is caused by brain injury or damage, it is called neurological amnesia.
  • Memory loss resulting from emotional shock or trauma is called psychogenic or dissociative amnesia.

There are also different ways in which memory loss can affect an individual. Some experience memory loss associated with words and thoughts, while others have memory loss that affects their motor skills, making it difficult for them to perform certain tasks. There is also partial memory loss, which refers to a failure to remember only certain types of information.

Finally, there is also a difference in the way that memory loss can occur. While some people experience memory loss suddenly (as the result of trauma or surgery, for example), others have memory loss which gradually gets worse over time.


There are several common symptoms of memory loss, including:

  • Impaired ability to learn new information
  • Impaired ability to recall past events and information
  • False recollections, which may be composed of entirely false information or confusions of real memories (such as misplacing an event in time)
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Neurological problems, such as tremors, seizures or uncoordinated movements

Despite the fact that these are generally common symptoms of memory loss, not all of the symptoms described above will necessarily affect every person with the condition. For example, short-term memory loss is the most common form of amnesia, but there are also cases where people have trouble with remembering events and information from years long past.

In addition, there are some symptoms associated with memory loss in popular culture that provide a false picture of the condition. For example, the vast majority of people with memory loss do not have problems with a loss of self-identify (meaning that they know exactly who they are). In addition, sudden head trauma (such as that which may occur in a car accident) may cause some confusion or disorientation, but it rarely leads to amnesia.

Causes And Risk Factors

Brain injuries and damage to the brain are the most common causes of memory loss. A few of the ways in which this injury or damage can occur in the brain are:

  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Lack of oxygen in the brain (from respiratory distress, for example)
  • Brain tumors
  • Brain inflammation from an infection or virus
  • Long-term alcohol abuse
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Some medications (such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates)
  • Dementia
  • Head trauma
  • Neurodegenerative illness (such as Parkinson’s disease)
  • Nutritional problems (such as vitamin deficiencies)
  • Cancer treatment (such as brain radiation)
  • Depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (when symptoms are not well controlled)

Experience with any of these conditions is considered to be a risk factor for memory loss. Other than that, there are no other known risk factors for developing amnesia.

In addition, there are rare cases where an emotional shock or trauma can cause memory loss. For instance, people who have been victims of violent crimes sometimes experience this type of amnesia.


The best way to prevent memory loss is to avoid the potential causes of this condition. That means avoiding excessive alcohol use and getting treatment for any conditions that may lead to brain damage (such as infections, respiratory problems, etc.). In addition, it’s helpful to wear a helmet when doing sports like cycling or snowboarding and to wear a seatbelt in the car.


There are several treatment options which may not cure memory loss but can help slow down the progression of amnesia. These options include:

  • Occupational therapy: Occupational therapists can work with those with memory loss to help them learn and organize new information. In some cases, they may even be able to replace some of the memory which was previously lost.
  • Visual reminders: People with amnesia can benefit from using planners, calendars or notebooks to help them remember events and even to help schedule their daily tasks. Photo albums can also be helpful for remembering people, places and past events.
  • Extended care facilities: For those with significant memory loss, residing in an extended care facility can help them ensure their safety and have their basic needs met.

One of the difficult parts of getting treatment for memory loss is that those who are experiencing amnesia are not always aware that it is happening. If you notice that someone you know is displaying any of the symptoms described above, make sure they get medical attention for their condition to determine is memory loss is the cause.


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