Can Anxiety Disorders Cause Memory Loss?

Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there in the first place? This happens countless times to most of us. But if you have chronic bouts of forgetfulness it could be your anxiety causing the mental miscues. This is because stress, anxiety, and even depression, can cause memory loss and mental haze.

Too much stress over long periods of time can hinder brain function in a major way. One of the reasons for this is because when you become stressed your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol . This hormone, which is also known for causing excess belly fat and therefore increased risk of heart disease, affects your ability to remember things and think straight.

When we become stressed or anxious, our bodies also release adrenaline into the bloodstream, which in turn causes the body to release cortisol. The two compounds are an essential part of your fight or flight response but are very different. One of the major differences is that cortisol remains in your body much longer than adrenaline does. This gives the cortisol the time it needs to adversely affect your brain cells (watch how stress triggers adrenaline and cortisol ).

While in the brain cortisol disrupts the normal function of neurotransmitters, which are the brains “communication towers.” Neurotransmitters are the chemicals used by brain cells to carry information and if they are disrupted by cortisol your brain has a difficult time sorting things out.

In addition to memory loss, this is also why you experience the anxiety gaze (staring blankly) and brain fog from time to time. Your brain’s ability to transmit information, like memories, is temporarily affected by the stress hormones you release when you are feeling high anxiety or prolonged stress. The brain is simply bogged down by all the anxiety juice released into the bloodstream.

Here it is again, anxiety unmasked for what it really is. Anxiety is really high levels of stress over a long period of time, which is sustained by ‘bad’ thoughts. I was tempted in the past to put a magical circle of light around my anxiety disorder for its ability to do nasty and seemingly mysterious things to me. But now I see it for what it is and in a lot of ways it makes it a lot less imposing to view it as just a physiological response to stress and not some ‘crazy’ disorder.

The moral of the story is that you must lower your stress level. In the long run stress will not just eat at your memory but also at your physical health. Stress can cause you to become so anxious that you start to imagine sickness and before long you have accomplished this goal via a psychosomatic effect . In other words, you stress so much and it makes you feel so bad that you assume and start to believe that you are sick and eventually this will be the case.

Don’t chalk up all your bad sensations to anxiety. Realize that while your feeling anxious you are also under a great deal of stress. Try to tone down your stress levels by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. The exercise will help to burn off that “excess” adrenaline and hopefully prevent the release of excessive amounts of cortisol. Relax as much as you can, it’s for your own good.

For more information on how stress affects the brain click here .

Recommended reading:The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook

Comments

  1. godawgs says

    Someone please help me!! I have anxiety and was put on cymbalta xr 60 milligrams when I was 18… I took them until I was 22 (almost 23). About a month after being off of them, I got this “out of it” feeling, and it has continued to get worse. It has officially been going on for a year now and it is killing me. I can still function, but I don’t know how. It’s like I’m pretending all the time. My eyes are SO blurry its like i can’t focus. The feel almost shaky. My head has this heavy feeling. It’s like I can’t FEEL anything. My hands and legs sometimes feel like I can’t feel them, they’re extra heavy, and tingly. Ultimately out of all the problems, the out of it is the worst… constant brain fog. It’s like i’m a walking zombie, nothing ever feels real or enjoyable.

    I have been put back onto antidepressants, tried every kind out there and NOTHING is helping. B vitamins, fish oil? Tried all of it. I’ve had MRIs, Cat Scans, thyroid test, and NUMEROUS other tests and they all come back normal. Somebody please help me find a cure! I’m supposed to be enjoying my life more than ever- I just got engaged 2 1/2 months ago, we found an awesome house to rent, I got my dream job a month ago, etc. Yet I’m so incredibly tired, confused, out of it, blurry eyed, and just blah that its like I couldn’t care less. I can’t think straight enough to care. :( this is not like me, I am not this person. I want my life to be normal again.

    SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME, I AM DESPERATE!!!

  2. Rahul says

    I can understand what you are feeling now .
    Anxiety is not a simple problem that can be solved just by using some medicines .
    You have to make some decisions to change your life-style.
    I can suggest you do the following things :
    1. Meditation is the most important thing you should add in your life if you want to recover from anxiety.
    2. Use Self Hypnosis recordings . I recommend Paul scheele’s Anxiety Free paraliminal CD.
    3. Listen Life-Flow by Michael Mackenzie (While listening it gets our mind to some specific brainwave frequency stat) .
    4. Do exercise at every morning regularly if you don’t do.
    5. Never get frustrated with results of the above things. Results will surely come out but with It will take some time usually few months .
    6. In your lifestyle make everything regular , from waking up in the morning to going to the bad for sleep.
    7. Everyday do some tasks that at the end of your day you can think that “Today was successfull” , Anything about your job-tasks , learning something , meeting your old friends, relatives ,or doing some shopping or enything else.
    …. for example – In the morning I make my day target like completing my college assignements and if I can complete it than at the end of the day I feel “wohh, today was successful :)

    and at last Join Project meditation forum to know how to meditate and lifeflow if you don’t know.

  3. hey says

    yes, i have noticed since i have anixety that i dont remember things like i use too. and i had a very good memory. could remember almost all the details of an event from what they said to what they wore, where it was etc. and now since i have this i cant even remember a simple convo that happened a few mins ago. it makes me stressed even more because one thing that use to get on my nerves was bad memory. and now look

  4. Steven Hawkings says

    General anxiety disorder greatly affects 5% of the total American population. It is more prevalent in women than men and in the young than the old. People who have general anxiety disorder have symptoms like tension, restlessness, hyperactivity, fear, rumination, worrying and inconsistency.

    Steven Hawkings
    Anxiety-drugstore.net

  5. Kelly says

    I have been on depression and anxiety meds for a couple years now and am coming to realize that I can’t remember events from 4 years ago like my baby’s birth (where did we live?) we moved in Sept but he was born in May everyone tells me that he was brought home to the older house but I “remember” going into labor at the new house. I am suddenly so emotional over this that I can’t stop crying about it. I was afraid maybe I had a stroke or something but I don’t know anymore. I feel lost and depressed because I can’t remember anything right before or after my little boy’s birth. I remember in the hospital… wow I feel so lost!

  6. Yosafe says

    Hey @godawgs
    Well I cant tell you much , but to calm down , this out of it feeling you have is depersonalization , its when your thinking so much your brain just emotionally disconnects you and makes you feel out of reality or as if your in a dream and you cant feel , I know how its its very scary but you have to understand worrying about the future is not gonna help at all , teach yourself how to relax and be calm, look up meditation and try your best to concentrate on anything your doing , all this depression , feeling out of reality , blurry eyes is just the symptoms of anxiety, Just slow down do things one at a time ……It very hard at first but it’s so much worth it

    to make it simple
    1. Teach yourself to relax
    2. All these feelings of unreality will go away once you learn to relax
    3. Tell somebody about what your going through

    I wouldn’t recommend medication but it helps some people

    Good Luck !
    It seems hard at first but you’ll get through it

  7. SlowlyLosingHope says

    I’m really starting to lose hope. I’ve had much of the same issues as Kelly above. I have like a fog over my memories. My friends get together with me and talk about things that happened in college, and I have foggy or no recollection of them taking place. It’s terrible. It has recently affected my ability to learn things, as my poor memory makes it impossible to remember what I recently read or what someone has recently told me. As a result, I was recently fired from my job–which I thought was my dream job. I don’t know what to do right now…I’m feeling so helplessly depressed, and if it wasn’t for my girlfriend, I don’t know what I would do. I recently had a physical where they took blood work, and the doctor apparently called me about an abnormal thyroid? That couldn’t be affecting me so significantly, could it?

  8. Kelly says

    Slowlylosinghope I don’t think the Thyroid can do that much for forgetting but maybe it is helping. When they did my workup they found I am abnormally low in my Vitamin D levels but my Thyroid is fine. So it is all hard to explain, hang in there I still have not gotten my memories back but can laugh at them a little or joke about not remembering now. Also I found out that the combination of medications can cause a lot of problems. Hope things are looking up for you soon!

  9. Greg says

    I am about to write the longest forum response in history. BUT PLEASE READ IT THROUGH. This isn’t copied and pasted, I am writing this all for the first time on December 18th, in hopes that I can help someone. (Probably going to have quite a few grammar mistakes) So this is what I have to say. Anxiety is conniving in that you enable it. Unlike say breast cancer, that is seemingly out of your control, you have brought yourself to this point. I know because I have been at that point. I still am. I think the only people that can understand depression or anxiety are those that have been plagued with it. Everyone’s comments are essentially correct. You need to calm down, you need to relax, you need to change your lifestyle. Amazing how it all sounds so easy. When I hear these comments I wonder whether these people ever had anxiety/depression or have forgotten how it was. I haven’t..I can’t. Their advice is accurate from what I have experienced, but every single piece of advice that I have read has lacked empathy and lacked seriousness in conveying the plan of attack. Well…here is empathy (My story), I have been diagnosed with depression for perhaps 6 or 7 years. I have been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder for 2-3 years. Recently, yep I am in your boat, I have added a lovely side of panic attacks. If you know how anxiety/depression can be, then you know that for some that it be constant and for others they can flow in and out of ones life, terrorizing as they please. I am the latter. Tell me if you have ever said one of these; “Oh for the love of God, any Gods, if you can get me through this, I will commit myself to changing, to beating this. Or, I just need to find the right medicine, and this will all be over. I love this one, “I would take a broken leg, perhaps cancer and trade with my panic attacks.” I have said every plea, and every false promise. (I am going to stop, and make a side note.) I am pouring this all out and realize I sound a lot like this site I read, that was saying all the right things. I mean everything was shoot and score, and I was loving it. Then at the end, after this guy had told me how he knows what I am going through and found the solution, that he is going to charge me to find out what it is. All I can say is SCREW THAT GUY. I am not him. I don’t have a magic fix. Just keep reading please. I am trying to say the things that I would want someone to say to me. They are all true. Right about now I would ask him/her to prove it by telling me the symptoms. So here is the hell I live in. Constant, I mean constant worry, typically the same thoughts that I widdle at every second. That is when it is good. I have had the foggy brain, the memory loss.( That may be one of the scariest things ever). I take Xanax for my attacks. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, XANAX IS THERE. I used to be able to rely on it, for that last tiny bit of comfort. I mean, I would be in the midst of a panic attack, and some how fight to get the thought that, “hey Greg you always have xanax, or you can go to the hospital, I have done that several times. I have beed admitted to an overnight care facility. I have racing thoughts, I mean so bad that my brain can’t process what my eyes are sending because it is so tied up with the millions of thoughts. I can’t grab one, I can’t hold on to one. I try to close my eyes and I see them literally shoot across a dark void. I try to relax and imagine a beach scene. The sand is white, the waves are floeierueieifjfjk, image shakes, thoughts burst in. That is me, That is probably you. Listen I am telling you all this because I know how horrible, and alone and hopeless you feel. I don’t believe this is permanent. I don’t. I am at a point, where enough is enough. Guess what? I have said that before, but this feels different. I can’t live like this any more. And NO, suicide is not what I was thinking. I have though. Sure. Anxiety gets so bad, and suicide is actually comforting. I think later, wow how did I let this(yes I), get so bad that suicide is comforting. That is wrong. I have been through so many horrific moments with anxiety. I promise you I know how bad it is. I don’t know your story and I will never tell anyone with GAD, depression, panic attacks, etc, that I know exactly what they are going through because I don’t. We are similar but far from indentical. The whole reason I am writing this is for what I am about to offer. If you want to get your memory back, if you want to literally smile again, if you want to feel love again ( yeah i have been through depersonalization and looked at my Dad, my Mom, nieces, and felt nothing. I knew logically that I was supposed to feel something, I had felt it before, but nothing. IT SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME.), then YOU have to change. I have to change. I am nearing the end of this and guess what I didn’t write this to reel you in and say now go to this site and by something. I wrote this to tell you that you are not alone. I wrote this small fraction of what I want to say, but it is a start. So what I am offering. I just set up an email account that I want to talk to other people going through Anxiety/Depression and need comfort. It is going to be mutual though. I need support. I am not saying you need to jump on board and declare I am kicking this in the butt. I would love for everyone to have that drive, but that is not easy to come by. I hope I don’t turn you off by this, but I am a Christian. I say I hope I don’t turn you off, not because I am ashamed, but rather you are now going to expect me to say something, to be something, someone. My faith has gotten me through a lot, but I have only recently come to find true value in this suffering. I am reaching out to anyone that wants to talk. Perhaps a revolution of your life or mine will occur. I personally am making a precendent in my life, in that that this is it. I have realized my role in getting me to this horrible place and I don’t want to be here anymore. You want your solution. EFFORT. If you want to change, it is going to take a hell of a lot of effort. Period. I want to be a stepping stone, for myself and for others. So “Kelly”, or “slowlylosinghope”, and anyone else. Here is the email account I set up which I just came up (lame I know), but surprised it is available: “ihateanxiety@gmail.com” I will reply to every single email with love, concern, and again empathy. This may not be the solution for you, everyone is different, but my final piece of advice, “If you are not trying, then you won’t change.” Medicine has it’s place, I fully support it, but putting a pill in your mouth everyday is not trying. You my find yourself fortunate that it works, God willing. I have so much more I want to say, but can’t help, but to plea with you, to try. If you are not comfortable with emailing me then talk to someone, and keep talking. I hope I hear from someone…God Bless Greg

  10. alison morris says

    Hi, I am looking for answers regarding my mother as the doctors seem baffled. My mother is 65 and has regularly drank alcohol (4 cans of fosters) for 13 years. she recently lost her short term memory and has started to think that she is in her childhood and keeps talking about family who have died years ago. the doctors carried out ct scan, blood and urine tests which are all negative. she hasn’t had any trauma. what could have caused this so sudden?

  11. says

    This article really enlightened me. I know I’ve had short bouts of memory loss here and there. I definitely attribute it to high stress. According to the sciences of neuropsychology and psychoneuroimmunology (relationship between mind, body, and immune system), there really is a mind-body-spirit connection. It really is important that we all learn to change our negative thinking, manage our stress, and cultivate more positive and empowering thoughts. Anyone of any age could really benefit from this info.

  12. says

    ive never been on medication or anything but lately my anxiety and depression is getting pretty bad, at one point i was so depressed i actually did not recognise poeple such as my ex boyfriend i dated foir a year, my friends, or even my dad, im not sure if this is normal and it freaked me out.

  13. says

    I have found that I wake up wondering if it is a scheduled work day. I also have vivid dreams.It takes a while to become oriented.
    I am in the process of cleaning and painting an apartment for someone else and working at my job.I am 67 yrs old and cannot slow down. I find that relaxing is something I do not do well.I get this from my mother who is 86 and going strong but I get tired. How does one relax? Work should not be my whole life.
    The memory lapses are as such. I wake up and feel disoriented but it passes. It is an uncomfortable feeling. I look at my work schedule and the date and time. I get coffee. But I do not really relax. not really. What helps is to get out of here.
    I manage the condos here and see many people in a day.
    I actually wear myself out but then my energy comes back and I am reminded that there is much to be done.
    How does one cope in this situation? I wonder too if some of the prescription meds can cause this? Also I feel it could be that since my husband passed away 2 1/2 yrs ago I have to completely take over here.Any suggestions?

  14. Danny C. says

    It is life. Stress is doing this to you. I read post after post people typing for help. Depression and anxiety are typically stress related but are also chemically related…many people asking for help are in late teens and early adulthood. It’s a developed disorder that is treatable and can go into remission. Childhood is a part of it, but so is personality, emotional health, early events in life, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and ability to cope. Medication is a way to help overcome these issues…it’ll be okay.

  15. says

    I have had anxiety since I was in college. Since then I have 3 periods of anxiety episodes. Each episode is characterized by different symptoms and last no more than 6 months. The latest one started last year and is the longest one I had so far. This dominant symptom is almost constant dizziness, followed by memory loss. I would often thought of something, but forget about it as soon as something or somebody distracted me. Through these 3 episodes I never took any medication because I felt like I can overcome on my own, and I have.

    Whether you decide to take meds depend on yourself and the advice of your physician, but what’s important is for you to learn how to cope with stress and lead a healthy life on your own.

    Eric

  16. Lloyd C says

    now it all makes sense! okay so i’m a rapper and i have very very VERY bad social anxiety and whenever i’m alone and i rap my own lyrics by myself i can remember it perfectly but whenever i’m in front a bunch of people i can’t seem to remember anything! and whats worse is that my chest is freaking pounding because i’m rapping in front of people and hoping that i won’t forget anything…but usually i forget :/ i really need to find something to help me with my anxiety because i want to start performing my music live BUT i don’t want to be on stage and forget what i was supposed to say

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