Memories are constantly processing, defining all past and present experiences. Certain injuries and illnesses can alter or completely erase memories, creating distress for the victims and their loved ones. The National Institutes of Health finds memory impairment the most common symptom of severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Concepts essential for understanding memory loss focus how the brain recalls memory. Immediate memory storage lasts minutes and involves recalling something just heard or seen. For example, immediate memory is responsible for remembering a previous sentence while reading an article. Most TBI injuries don’t impact this kind of recall as much as they threaten short-term memory.
Dr. Glen Johnson, a clinical neuropsychologist, defines short-term memory as recalling from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Those with short-term memory problems have trouble “spitting back out” information heard in a recent time frame. For example, if a person goes to the store and forgets to get the milk even though he or she was told an hour ago to get some, that’s a failure of short-term memory. Dr. Johnson says short-term memory is the most common function impacted by severe TBIs.
He also notes that long-term memory tends to persevere through injury fairly well. Suffering short-term memory and thriving long-term memory tends to create a feeling of life “flying by” as the small events fade while a sense of nostalgia presents constant points for comparison.
Dr. Johnson discusses two types of amnesia: retrograde and anterior grade amnesia. The former means losing memories of events prior to the cause of the injury cause, extending to minutes, days or even years. The latter presents with memory loss after the accident as the brain is too injured to form new memories, although Dr. Johnson finds the ability often returns with time.
Meanwhile, memory loss can present mental and physical health considerations for the patient and his or her family and friends. For example, forgetting names is especially common among amnesia patients as is forgetting topics of conversations. These issues can test the patience of loved ones, not to mention the emotional state of the patient. In times like these, professional help is best.
Fortunately, Sovereign Health Group is a mental health provider ready to help patients dealing with a variety of family problems, including TBIs or other kinds of injuries disrupting daily life. Don’t hesitate to call us for a referral to a provider nearest you.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer