There are several possible causes of memory loss (including short term memory loss). For the purpose of a discussion on possible causes, memory loss is defined as a loss of ability to form new episodic and semantic memories, or recall fairly recent episodic or semantic memories.
Memory loss is distinct from forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is the occasional lapse of memory, such as misplacing your car keys, forgetting the name of an acquaintance (but not a close friend), or not remembering the title of a recent movie you watched (but having the title “at the tip of your tongue”).
Download this free guide on age related memory changes — what are normal memory lapses, versus potentially more serious problems.
Main Causes of Memory Loss
Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory impairment, mainly with difficulty remembering newly learned information. The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease is often called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an intermediate stage between normal cognitive functioning.. (read more)
Anxiety and Stress
High levels of life stress and anxiety can cause memory loss symptoms. Chronic stress can also impair executive functions, such as short term memory, planning, and attention, and has been shown to act as a trigger for mental illness like depression and general anxiety disorder… (read more)
Concussion/Traumatic Brain Injury
The leading causes of concussions and externally generated brain injuries are falls with head injuries (35%), and motor vehicle accidents (17%). Concussions caused by contact sports (American football, soccer, baseball, etc) also contribute to brain injury rates among school age children. Concussion signs and symptoms include..(read more)
A number of prescription drugs, especially in combination with each other, can cause memory loss symptoms. Common drugs associated with short term memory loss include a certain class of antidepressant medication, benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety, sedative), types of antihistamines..(read more)
Alcohol and brain health is a good news/bad news situation. While a small amount of alcohol can be beneficial, heavy and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to many bad outcomes, including serious memory loss..(read more)
Vitamin B Deficiency
A surprisingly common source of memory loss symptoms among older adults is a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. After about age 50, many people begin to develop an increasing absorbtion resistance to Vitamin B-12 food sources such as clams, mussels, crab, salmon..(read more)
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is an unhealthy increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain’s ventricles, or cavities. This condition occurs if the normal flow of CSF throughout the brain and spinal cord is blocked..(read more)
A stroke is a sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain, usually caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain. Ischemic stroke is by far the most common type of stroke, and it affects more women than men. In older adults, the gradual buildup of cholesterol in arteries supplying the brain..(read more)
Coming soon: additional pages on how chronic stress & depression, thyroid problems, chemotherapy, encephalopathy, brain tumor and subarachnoid hemorahage can also cause memory loss.