Does Trauma Cause Memory Loss?

trauma and memory loss

Does Trauma Cause Memory Loss?

Across the world, millions of people have dealt with trauma in their lives. Up to 70% of people worldwide have experienced a traumatic event, with 30.5% of them being exposed to four or more.[1]

While trauma is incredibly common, that does not make it any less difficult to deal with. If you have dealt with trauma in your life, you might find yourself wondering how it affects you. Many people who have experienced trauma have gaps in their memory, leading them to ask the question of whether trauma causes memory loss. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma is the emotional response someone has to a distressing event, like an accident, assault, or natural disaster. While trauma often occurs after a terrible event like sexual assault or abuse, people can develop trauma from other life-altering situations like the divorce of their parents. Because emotional distress tolerance is different for everyone, the perceived severity of an event does not matter.

Common events that can lead to trauma include:

  • The death of a loved one
  • Experiencing significant health issues 
  • Being a victim of a violent crime or witnessing one 
  • Sexual or physical assault 
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse 
  • Being on active duty during a war 
  • Witnessing or being a part of violence in school 
  • Witnessing or being affected by a natural disaster 
  • A messy divorce or custody battle 

While not everyone who experiences a distressing event will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes untreated trauma can lead to the condition. While many people experience trauma, only 6 out of every 100 people have PTSD.[2]

Can Trauma Lead to Memory Loss?

Have you experienced gaps in your memory? Does your memory loss seem to start around the same time that you experienced a traumatic event? If so, your memory loss could be caused by trauma.

Memory loss can be caused by a variety of things, including:[3]

  • Brain injury 
  • Chronic illnesses or viral infections
  • High fevers 
  • Lack of sleep
  • Aging 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Seizures 
  • Using anesthetics 
  • Strokes 
  • Mental health conditions
  • Traumatic events 

When you experience memory loss from a traumatic event, sometimes the memories become hidden in your brain. If the memories are too stressful for you to handle, your brain stores them away to prevent you from thinking about them. As a result, you can have gaps in your memory right before, during, or after a particularly traumatic time in your life.

How Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Memory Loss are Connected 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that develops when you experience a traumatic event that you cannot recover from. PTSD can last months or even years and will not go away unless you receive professional treatment that involves trauma therapy.[4] When someone has PTSD, they will experience a wide range of symptoms such as changes in mood, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and more.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can also cause memory loss in a variety of different ways. In some cases, memory loss is caused by your brain attempting to hide away painful memories that you are not emotionally prepared to cope with. 

However, PTSD can also cause memory issues related to dissociation.[5] To explain, dissociation is a disconnection from your environment, the people around you, and your own body. People with PTSD may dissociate when they are exposed to a trigger that reminds them of their trauma, causing them to have no memory of the moment when they were dissociated.

Signs You Need Treatment for PTSD 

If you are experiencing memory loss from a traumatic event, you could have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Untreated, trauma and PTSD can severely impact your relationships and your daily life. It can lead to isolation, depression, substance abuse, and addiction. Common signs of PTSD include:[6]

  • Experiencing flashbacks associated with a traumatic event 
  • Recurring memories or dreams related to a traumatic event 
  • Distressing thoughts about the trauma you experienced 
  • Displaying the physical signs of stress 
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of a traumatic event 
  • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to a traumatic event 
  • Being easily startled or feeling tense 
  • Having difficulty concentrating or remembering things 
  • Experiencing insomnia
  • Feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger 
  • Engaging in risky or destructive behavior 
  • Negative thoughts about yourself or the world around you
  • Social isolation
  • Ongoing negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, guilt, or shame 
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions 
  • Trouble remembering key features of a traumatic event 

If you experience the above-mentioned symptoms, a professional mental health treatment center like Florida Recovery Group can help you overcome your PTSD with evidence-based therapy and trauma-informed care.

Find Help for Trauma and Memory Loss 

If you or a loved one suffers from memory loss after experiencing a traumatic event, it’s time to seek help. Whether you are diagnosed with PTSD or are simply having a hard time processing your trauma, Florida Recovery Group is here to help.

When you first arrive at Florida Recovery Group, you will meet with our mental health team to help create a treatment program that meets your needs. This will include an initial psychiatric and medical evaluation by one of our nurses or physicians and a detailed evaluation and history from a mental health counselor. From there, our team will work with you to choose treatments and therapy modalities that will best serve your mental health goals. 

To learn more about our mental health treatment program, contact us today. 


  1. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): The epidemiology of traumatic event exposure worldwide: results from the World Mental Health Survey Consortium, Retrieved November 2023 From
  2. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): How Common is PTSD in Adults, Retrieved November 2023 From
  3. Forbes: 12 Most Common Causes of Memory Loss, Retrieved November 2023 From
  4. The American Psychiatric Association (APA): What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Retrieved November 2023 From
  5. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Dissociative Subtype of PTSD, Retrieved November 2023 From
  6. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Retrieved November 2023 From