What Are the Symptoms of Short-Term Memory Loss?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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Short-term memory loss is a condition in which a person is completely or partially unable to form and hold short-term memories. Symptoms of short-term memory loss, then, involve a decrease in the person's ability to remember information for a few seconds or minutes. In some cases, symptoms only involve a decrease in what the individual can remember in the short-term and have little to do with long-term memory. In other cases, as in anterograde amnesia, the person is unable to form any new memories at all, thereby also affecting long- term memory. In either case, short-term memory loss tends to be a seriously debilitating condition that negatively affects all aspects of life.

People who experience short-term memory loss typically have a reduction in the "capacity" of their short-term memory. This type of memory can generally hold between five and nine pieces of distinct information, such as numbers or words. An individual with short-term memory loss, then, may be unable to remember as many different pieces of information or may be unable to remember them for as long as someone with a completely functional memory. It is possible, though, that he will still be able, over time, to transfer items from short-term memory to long-term memory. While it may be difficult to cope with such reduced memory, it is still possible to function in work and personal life, especially through the use of memory aides like writing frequent notes about things to remember.


In some cases, short-term memory loss means that new memories are, quite simply, "lost" and cannot be transferred to long-term memory. This is referred to as anterograde amnesia and is characterized by an inability to form new memories. Information, such as names, faces, phone numbers, and dates, enter the short-term memory but are lost over time as new pieces of information replace them. It can be much more difficult to live with memory loss of this type, as it is essentially impossible to learn new information or to retain memories.

These different symptoms of short-term memory loss can arise from a variety of different sources. Head trauma, as from car crashes or falling, can cause such effects on memory. A variety of diseases can also cause memory problems. Some drugs also affect memory, though their affects tend to be acute and may pass over time.


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Post 9

When an elderly woman cannot remember the name of the street she lives on, but is able to find her way home from the store, how would you explain this based on your knowledge of long term memory?

Post 8

@Sneakers41 - You know I read that children that suffer from short term memory loss could be a result of a brain tumor or a concussion.

I was watching television the other day and the doctor on the show said that anytime a child hits their head they should be rushed to the hospital and have their head checked out because not only could they suffer short term memory loss, but they could also have internal bleeding which could be fatal if not treated.

Some doctors also say that a lower score on a working memory test in a child’s IQ test also shows problems with short term memory and might indicate a learning disability. I read that this

type of short term memory problem can be corrected in children. There is a computer program called Jungle Memory that actually helps the child develop stronger recall skills which will make it easier for them to remember directions especially when the directions take multiple steps.

This is probably one of the best short term memory loss treatments available because it is fun.

Post 7

@Moldova - I remember when my dad got into his eighties, and he really started to develop some short term memory loss symptoms. He would often repeat stories forgetting that he just finished telling me the same story a few minutes ago.

He would also forget people’s names. The doctor’s said that this type of memory loss in the elderly was a form of dementia. The doctor explained that this condition is preventable and people that are physically active and use their minds by taking a class or learning a new skills are less likely to develop this condition.

I think that when people develop this condition it is really important to show them scrapbooks that show them with

other people so that they could be reminded of their past.

Some of these pictures might trigger a memory. When my dad was alive he would have moments where he could remember things it wasn’t all bad but these moments were few and far between.

Post 6

@Bhutan - Wow, what a story. I can’t believe that no one reported him missing. I think that it is so sad when people develop amnesia like that because they are robbed of their memories.

There was a case that I read about in which this lady was given a drug and went into a coma and survived. She had no long term memory or short term memory. She had to write down the directions to help herself get home.

She always had to have lists with her but one of the things that she started doing was video taping all of her family events. She also took a lot of pictures so that she would not forget these memories.

This has helped her cope with her depression regarding her memory loss, but at least she had a family that supported her which I think made the condition manageable.

Post 5

@Cloudel - That must have been really hard for him. I am glad that he is getting better.

I just wanted to say that causes for short term memory loss can also be blunt trauma to the head. I was watching a story on television about a man that was brutally beaten and robbed and his head injury was so severe that had had complete memory loss.

He had no short term or long term memory. In fact, he did not even know who he was because his wallet was stolen and his identity was taken from him. The police tried to find out who he was and even looked through their criminal database through his fingerprints but since

he didn’t have a criminal record they could identify him.

Finally a nurse offered to help him and he began living with her, but he is still trying to figure out his past.

One of the memory loss treatments that they were going to do on him involved hypnosis. I think that this could be really effective because we all have a lot of suppressed memories that are often brought out with hypnosis because that is when we access our subconscious mind. I really felt bad for him.

Post 4

My boyfriend developed short-term memory loss, and it caused problems at his job and in our relationship. Not only could he not remember where and when we had agreed to meet; he often forgot important deadlines at work. His boss suggested he see a doctor.

He did, and he found out that his poor diet had caused the memory troubles. He ate way too much saturated fat and red meat, plus he consumed alcohol nightly. All of these are known to increase memory loss.

His doctor told him to start eating more fish, leafy vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fruit. He also told him to work on puzzles for mental exercise. These things really helped, and the quality of his memory, as well as his life, improved.

Post 3

I suffered from severe depression before I got help, and I discovered that it is one of the main memory loss causes. I became forgetful in addition to having trouble making decisions, future plans, and organizing my thoughts. My doctor told me that I had an imbalance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that let my brain cells communicate and form new memories.

Well, the memories that I did manage to form were not happy ones. People tend to recall sad events when they are in a sad state of mind, so I could only recall the negative. My friends thought that maybe I had bumped my head somehow without remembering and that brought on the memory loss. They were wrong, but at least they got me to go to my doctor and seek help.

Post 2

My sister injured her head when she fell on a concrete basketball court. It took quite some time for her to recover, and her short-term memory suffered as a result.

She could keep several things in her head, but not for long, and not too many at once. A couple of months after her fall, I saw her talking to a cute guy. She came up to me all bubbly and told me a few of the things he said to her. When I asked her what his name was, she said she didn’t know. I asked if he told her his number, and she said she couldn’t remember. All she could remember were the first few lines of

conversation between the two of them.

She burst into tears, because she might have made a date with her dream guy and didn’t even know it. I ran down the street after him and explained her situation. They had, in fact, made a date for Friday night, so I took down his information on my phone to save it for her.

Post 1

After a head-on collision, my brother developed short-term memory loss. He remembered everything before the accident, but he could not keep things in his head that happened after it.

As a result, he has to keep lots of post-it notes on his desk at work. Every time someone gives him a deadline or needs something, he has to write a detailed note and post it to the edge of his computer screen. His supervisor is very understanding and sympathetic to his situation. Other places would have fired him in a blink, but he has a good work environment there.

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