Did you know that approximately 8% of Americans have PTSD OR CPTSD? Thats 24.4 million people! One of the most prevailing effects are CPTSD Memory Issues. Creating new memories and recalling past memories is troublesome. And, this topic is often overlooked. However, the truth is that your loved one may find it difficult to remember pre-trauma experiences. They may also develop impaired ability to develope new memories, post trauma. Furthermore, you are most likely aware that someone effected by CPTSD or PTSD will not remember anything that takes place during a full-blown episode. Here I share my experiences with my husband’s CPTSD memory issues.
Cause of CPTSD Memory Issues
Someone suffering from CPTSD or PTSD will have challenges with their long term memory. They also have issues with their short term memory. The part of the brain that stores memories is also the part of the brain damaged (hippocampus) by CPTSD and PTSD.
This is due to a shrinkage in hippocampal mass which is associated with short-term memory loss. As a result of the reduced hippocampus function, CPTSD sufferers experience flashbacks of the event as if they were still occurring in the present moment. Subsequently, this contributes to constant feelings of immediate danger and increased anxiety.
Excess cortisol also shrinks the hippocampus. Explaining further, this area of the brain helps you index, store, and retrieve normal memories. But when you’re under severe stress, the hippocampus is less able to lay down new memories or retrieve them. In addition, excess adrenalin activates the amygdala, an area responsible for negative emotions like terror, rage, and despair. The overactive amygdala increases your sense of fear, ignites your fight or flight response, and aids in the storage and retrieval of traumatic memories.
Low and high levels of noradrenalin (a stress chemical regulating blood pressure) effect the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex in a brain without PTSD or CPTSD memory issues calms down the amygdala. It also inhibits distractions, and helps you pay attention. With a mild increase in noradrenalin, the prefrontal cortex actually works better. But higher levels block it. When stress levels rise so do the levels of nonadrenalin. Consequently you wouldn’t be able to block the amygdala’s negative emotions or other distracting information.
Although it’s not common knowledge, its important to understand stress chemicals. Stress chemicals also activate the amygdala, which increases in size, lays down traumatic memories, and magnifies your negative emotions such as fear, rage, and hopelessness. Stress chemicals are known for causing damage in the cortex part of the brain. The cortex developes recognition and communication of speech. This plus hippocampal damages contributes to someone with PTSD or CPTSD remembering the small details of their life. Additionally, this causes issues with speaking due to the inability to remember a certain word. Reducing stress is cruicial for your recovery.
PTSD & CPTSD Memory Issues
PTSD and CPTSD sufferers often have difficulty remembering the smaller details of their lives. For example, my husband had forgotten his own phone number, and when asked for his address he just couldn’t provide the information.
He has lived in the same home that we moved into after his diagnosis, for the last two years. This kind of memory loss makes it difficult for people to complete even routine tasks like mailing letters or getting to important appointments.
The damage made to the hippocampus also increases the difficulty of retaining new information. Those with PTSD or CPTSD memory issues often spend more time on the minor, irrelevant, or superficial aspects of a problem than on the problem itself. This is one reason many of them cannot be employed. Any form of schooling or vocational training presents similar problems, making it hard to advance in a career or provide significant income contributions to their family.
PTSD & CPTSD Memory Issues Remedied
Help to improve one’s ability to recall long-term memories or to develop new memories is available. The most successful treatment is called “Memory Reconsolidation”. This treatment includes “Exposure Therapy” with the medication propranolol. Propranolol is a prescription drug that acts as a beta-blocker. In other words, it lowers blood pressure. There have been numerous studies of the success of implementing memory reconsolidation therapy. You can read bout the research and development of this therapy here.
Another remedy for PTSD or CPTSD memory issues involve lifestyle strategies:
- Avoid hurrying (rushing). Setting alarms on your phone for 15 minutes prior to the time you need to leave your home will help prevent feeling rushed. Each night check your calendar for anything going on the next day. You can pick out your clothes, set coffee, and gather any necessary items the prior evening. This will save time so that you don’t have to rush around to get ready.
- If possible, be open about memory problems so others will be more patient. Let your friends and family know that you are having real issues with your memory. Then ask for their patience and request they act as a support system.
- Follow a routine. Routine activities strengthen your brain’s memory functions. Be sure not to overwhelm yourself, causing even more stress. Instead, start with a couple activities to build your routine. Once these activities become a habit you can add a few more steps to your routine. Design a routine for morning, daytime hours, and bedtime.
- Label important items and/or their locations (e.g., photographs, pictures, and items in kitchen cupboards and dresser drawers)
- Use memory assistants such as, digital clocks, voicemail, handwritten lists, calendars, pill boxes, and GPS).
What PTSD or CPTSD memory issues have you experienced? Which memory enhancement methods have you found to be successful? Which ones didn’t work so well for You? Please share in the comments below. Your input and opinion matters most to me!
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