Can Trauma Affect Memory?


Many people experience some form of trauma at some point in their lives. Exposure to trauma begins as early as childhood and can continue into adulthood. Trauma affects many different parts of our lives, including relationships, mental health, and the ability to trust or connect with others. Many people question the effect trauma can have on memory as well. Trauma, no matter how big or small, can affect memory. Luckily, trauma-informed therapy can help with these effects on memory.

Types of Trauma

Trauma is a psychological response to distressing life situations. The body will respond in several different ways, but trauma can generally be sorted into three different categories: acute, chronic, and complex trauma.

#1. Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is the result of a single extreme incident like a natural disaster, assault, or accident. The event is so disturbing that it completely changes a person’s thoughts and actions or causes increased feelings of anxiety, irritation, or a complete disconnect from life.

#2. Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma occurs when someone experiences constant trauma over a period of time. Some may experience a long-term illness or long-term sexual or domestic abuse. This trauma can occur for years and culminates in the manifestation of anxiety, irritable or emotional outbursts, and severe physical symptoms.

#3. Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is the third category of trauma. It refers to multiple exposures to trauma between people. Complex trauma is common amongst those who’ve experienced childhood abuse, frequent family fights, or neglect.

Symptoms of Trauma

The body responds to trauma in many emotional and physical ways. There is no right or wrong way to respond to trauma; we don’t even have control over these natural responses. People commonly go into shock, living in denial of the trauma they’ve experienced. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some become increasingly angry, experiencing fits of range that can turn violent.

Another reaction that is experienced frequently after trauma is feeling guilt or shame about the event. Some people may feel that they had a hand in what happened to them or that they provoked it. This feeling can lead people down a path of withdrawal, hopelessness, and severe depression. 

While every feeling and response is valid, it’s important to remember that this trauma is not your fault. No one should be blamed for things that happen to them and are entirely out of their control. If untreated, the symptoms of trauma can wreak havoc on mental and physical health, which is why early intervention and treatment for trauma are so crucial.

The Connection Between Trauma and Memory Loss

If the body responds to trauma in unexpected ways, it’s understandable that memory loss may be one of those responses. Our brains, in particular, do a lot of odd things to protect us. Parts of the brain are directly connected to memory function. When trauma affects these parts of the brain, it either distorts the memory or makes us completely forget.

Research also indicates that the brain hides traumatic events from our memory. Unfortunately, when this happens with long-term memories, it can cause more emotional distress later. Individuals experience anxiety or develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or dissociative disorder in more severe circumstances. 

When seeking treatment for trauma and related disorders, mental health professionals can often hit a roadblock. Therapy focuses on the root cause of emotional distress. If you can’t recall the root cause, it can be slightly more complicated and take to experience the full effects of trauma therapy. However, there is always hope and multiple treatment opportunities to try.

Seeking Trauma-Informed Therapy

Trauma-induced memory loss can be unpredictable. Memories can come back shortly or be gone for years at a time. Regardless of the circumstance, trauma-informed therapy can help significantly improve symptoms of trauma and potentially help with memory restoration.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the key ingredients for successful trauma-informed care should include organizational and clinical practices. These practices reflect trauma-informed principles which include:

  • Client empowerment

  • Educating clients on the treatment options they can choose

  • Collaborating with healthcare professionals, clients, and families

  • Creating safe spaces for clients to seek treatment 

  • Developing rapport between clients and healthcare professionals so that trust is established pre-treatment

Through trauma-informed therapy, clients can learn to function again in their everyday lives, turn their negative emotions into positive outcomes, develop various coping skills, and focus on moving forward instead of looking to the past.

Healing From the Trauma of Your Past

Some may not want to recall the trauma of their past. The brain locked those memories away for a reason, and unearthing them can be a traumatic event in itself. However, remembering is the first step in healing. Trauma-informed therapists are trained to help with memory loss and they have the tools to help you understand and cope with what you’ve experienced.

Your mental health and wellness are of the utmost importance to us here at SokyaHealth. Our goal is to provide holistic mental health and wellness to you from a safe telehealth platform, where you can seek treatment for your trauma and memory loss. We can connect with the right professional to help with your trauma. Make today the day you choose wellness.

People experience trauma in all different ways. Many begin experiencing several traumatic events during early childhood, while others only experience a single event in adulthood. However trauma occurs, it can have a devastating impact on you. One effect commonly experienced due to trauma is memory loss. Certain parts of our brains are directly responsible for memory function. Traumatic events can be so severe that they impact these parts of the brain. While many may not want to relive or recall these traumatic memories, remembering is an essential step toward healing. Trauma-informed therapy with SokyaHealth can help you on this path to healing safely and securely. With our therapists, you can work to understand your trauma and learn tools helpful for coping with its long-term effects. To learn more about our trauma-informed therapy options and the other services we provide, call SokyaHealth at (877) 840-6956 today.

More than 50% of Americans struggle with mental health.

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