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Do stress and anxiety cause memory loss?

stress and anxiety

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Everyone has moments of forgetfulness, some much more than others, and generally it isn’t anything to worry about. But if you are concerned that memory loss is affecting your life take some time to reflect on why this might be the case. Memory loss is a common symptom of stress and anxiety and if you have been feeling particularly stressed recently, that could well be the cause.

Stress and anxiety can be normal

Stress and anxiety are normal responses to the things that happen in life. Often they are associated with big changes like death, divorce, moving house or changing jobs but day-to-day living can be just as stressful.  How many of us ever see the bottom of our to-do lists?  The combination of raising kids, pressure at work, running a household and dealing with money worries can really affect stress levels and potentially lead to bouts of memory loss.


Brain cells use neurotransmitters to channel information.  The stress hormone cortisol can disrupt these hampering concentration and attention span, in turn making it difficult to digest information.  If your mind is busy flitting around between different things and tension is causing you to be distracted then you’ll find it difficult to focus.  Obviously if you don’t take things in well, you will have trouble when you try to recall them later.

Diet is important

By reducing stress levels, you’ll be less likely to suffer from memory loss caused by anxiety.  While you might crave comfort food and be tempted to reach for ready meals that need little preparation, eating a healthy diet is vital to combating mental health problems.  Planning the week’s meals before you go shopping not only makes is easier to eat a balanced diet, it also helps to reduce stress levels by making you feel more organised.  Regular exercise is one of the best ways to relieve tension and reduce anxiety levels by burning stress hormones like cortisol and boosting the body’s natural mood enhancing chemicals.  Getting active is also great for beating the negative effects stress can have on sleeping patterns.  Tiring yourself out and clearing your head in the process makes it much easier to fall asleep at night.


Not all cases of memory loss will be brought on by stress and anxiety and feeling stressed won’t always result in difficulty remembering things. However, if you do feel that memory loss is having an adverse effect on your everyday life then make an appointment to see your GP.  Your doctor will do some tests and ask you questions to try to get to the root cause of the problem.  It may be useful to take your partner or a close friend along to help you answer them through their own observations. Memory loss triggered by stress, anxiety or depression is usually temporary and the solution may be as simple as changing medication or making some simple lifestyle changes. But if the cause does turn out to be something more serious it is always best to be diagnosed sooner rather than later.



About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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