Memory Problems

Symptoms of PTSD – Post-Traumatic Amnesia (PTA)

Part of the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder is problems remembering all of the details of the traumatic event. Memory is affected by a trauma in different ways between individuals. Often, people who were involved in the same event may recall it differently or remember different aspects of it.

Sometimes, aspects of a traumatic event will be recalled with exceptional clarity; however, there may be significant gaps in the recall of the event in its entirety. Alternatively, may become confused with the sequence of events from which the traumatic experience occurred. Sometimes people diagnosed with PTSD will be unable to recall the trauma in the aftermath of the event but may remember at a later date, in some cases this may be a number of years after the incident. Post Traumatic Amnesia is used to refer to the memory problems that arise as a result of a traumatic event.

Amnesia may also arise after the traumatic event. Retrograde amnesia refers to the condition of not being able to remember the series of events before the trauma. Anterograde amnesia refers to the problems in storing new memories after the trauma has occurred, this may not arise for a number of hours after the event.

Witnessing or experiencing trauma causes tremendous stress that can have lasting effects on the parts of the brain that are involved in emotion, memory and learning. The hippocampus is one such region that is particularly susceptible to stress related damage.

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that aids learning as it has the capacity to produce new nerve cells (neurogenesis) that store new information and learned memories. Stress has been found to inhibit the function of the hippocampus and in some cases cause neuronal death. Specifically, people who have been subjected to traumatic stress are likely to show a decrease in the actual size of the hippocampus this has especially found to be the case in research examining the brain functioning and memory capacity of combat personnel.

People with Post Traumatic stress Disorder will often report having repetitive thoughts and images as well as flashbacks to the event. This has been regarded as an indication that the individual needs to process the traumatic event and surrender it to the long-term memory. This process should be done with adequate stability and support.

By having adequate stress management techniques and treating post traumatic stress disorder should re-establish the role of the hippocampus and the regeneration of neurones.

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