Memory impairment and loss are usually associated with older women and men, but in some cases younger people can also present these symptoms or side effects.
Although memory impairment and loss are not very common in youth, especially memory loss, it’s important to be aware of what the underlying causes could be.
Dr. Sudeepta Varma, a clinical assistant professor at New York University, explained some possible causes of memory loss and impairment in young women.
“It’s not very common, and usually when it occurs it’s in the context, at least from a psychiatric point of view, of mental health issues,” Varma said.
Some mental disorders and issues associated with memory loss and impairment are mood disorder, anxiety disorders (like post-traumatic stress disorder), trauma, ADD and substance abuse.
“If people are having impairment in memory, it’s often associated with impairment in attention and/or concentration as well,” Varma said.
Memory loss or impairment are not the main problems – usually there are other causes.
“There’s really no one common cause of memory loss per se,” Varma said. “Often you uncover that there are disturbances in memory, but it’s related to something else. Depression is one of the most common causes of memory loss.”
She added that depression is a common cause of memory loss when accounting for dementia-related memory loss and when focusing on psychiatric causes.
“The cause of the problem is not totally clear. We know that serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters … that affects our mood, but it also affects our concentration,” Varma said.
Although rare, there is a possibility for early-onset Alzheimer’s, but that’s generally more common in 40 to 50-year-olds, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website. Pregnancy, poor diet and menopause can also cause memory loss, according to a few studies.
Varma suggests going to a doctor first to “rule out any medical causes” of memory loss or impairment, which can include hypothyroidism, lupus and diabetes. After that, she suggests seeing a psychiatrist.
Emotional and sexual abuse victims, as well as victims of trauma, could see some memory loss as well as those with psychiatric disorders. Dissociative episodes, which can involve forgetting where one is and what happened, can be linked to personality disorders like borderline personality disorder.
For some psychiatric disorders, like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, there can be changes, like shrinking, in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain that’s important in memory.
A natural cause of memory impairment is lack of sleep, and Varma added that more sleep and exercise can sometimes help with memory impairment issues. However, the more severe issues are generally linked to psychiatric disorders, medical issues or brain trauma.
“It’s rare that memory impairment occurs in isolation,” Varma said. “It’s a symptom usually of an underlying issue … If we’re talking about an older population, I would say look at dementia and the causes of dementia. In a younger population, I would say look at medical and psychiatric illnesses.”
Have you ever had any issues with memory loss or impairment and are in your late teens to early 30s? How have you dealt with memory loss or impairment?