What are the Causes of Short-Term Memory Loss?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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There are a wide variety of conditions which may result in short-term memory loss. Some are treatable and even curable, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, hormonal imbalance, blood sugar issues, and stress. Others are more serious and will eventually lead to a drastic decrease in cognitive function. These can include disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, serious injury to the brain, cancer or tumors, and natural aging.

Patients who suffer from short-term memory loss generally begin having trouble remembering things they were just speaking or thinking about. For instance, they may hear someone introduce themselves and almost immediately forget the person’s name. Sometimes this is a totally benign and short-lived problem, such as when a person is overly stressed, overworked, or fatigued. Other times, this may indicate an underlying medical condition.

When experienced with other symptoms of an emotional disorder, short-term memory loss can be a sign of depression, anxiety, and stress. Other signs of these disorders include sadness, lack of motivation, or the sensation of living “in a fog.” Individuals may experience mood swings, panic attacks, rapid heart rate, and insomnia. These symptoms often compound one another and lead to even further declined short-term memory. Patients can often be treated with medication, and symptoms often lessen or subside with treatment.


There also a correlation between menopause, pregnancy, and severe premenstrual syndrome and short-term memory loss. Sudden or drastic surges in hormones, especially estrogen, have been linked to trouble remembering things. Another cause is low blood sugar, which can be attributed to either lack of food intake or Type 1 diabetes. These conditions can be remedied with medication, careful monitoring, or hormonal substitutes or supplements.

Sometimes short-term memory loss is caused by a serious health condition, such as a brain tumor or injury. Occasionally these can be cured or slowed down with early detection and treatment. At other times the condition may worsen, even with treatment. Cancers of the brain are often very hard to treat, and certain injuries can cause lasting damage to the brain tissues.

Dementia, caused by natural aging or a condition like Alzheimer’s disease, is a condition in which cognitive function gradually declines over time. Short-term memory loss is one of the first symptoms in most patients. This eventually declines further and patients begin to lose long-term memory. They may also experience personality changes, trouble recalling people or events, and problems doing normal activities. Medications may help slow down the progression of mental decline, but there is no cure for dementia.


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Post 3

My mother suffers from this whenever she's stressed and it only makes her more stressed. Even as a kid I can remember going on searches through the house for missing car keys or remotes, because she would put them down and then completely forget where they were and then would panic.

I find the only way to help improve her memory is to just get her into the habit of putting things in the same place every day, like hanging the keys on a hook.

Post 2

@Mor - Unfortunately, it's a fine line for children to tread in that kind of situation because too much coaching might make them walk on eggshells when spending time with their loved one, and that can make the time even more uncomfortable.

I had a great aunt who had depression from her memory loss and she seemed happiest when everyone was just going about their business, rather than catering specifically to her. It was when her daughters began to fuss around her that she started getting upset, because she didn't understand what they thought was wrong.

Post 1

My grandfather had a stroke when I was a kid and I remember it was very strange that he didn't seem to recognize us afterwards. Luckily, he still remembered his own children, so dad would just introduce us again, but I think it might have helped if we'd been coached a little bit beforehand.

Even if someone has forgotten some memories, or lost the ability to make new ones well, they can still sense is something is wrong, or if a social situation is awkward. And it must have been upsetting for him as much as for us that we expected him to know us and he didn't.

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