Depersonalization and Memory Loss
DP sufferers regularly experience problems with their memory. Is there really a link between depersonalization and memory loss?
In the midst of all the strange symptoms that accompany depersonalization is one that seems to be very common and quite distressing: memory loss.
I hear it from DP sufferers all the time --
“I forget what I’m doing.”
“I forget what I’m saying, mid-sentence…”
“It takes me so long to remember what I was doing yesterday…”
I experienced this myself and it’s very frightening. If it was actually affecting my short term memory, could it affect my long term memory aswell? Was I developing some horrific form of amnesia? That thought on its own is scary enough, but compounded on top of all the other anxieties and fears that come with DP it was almost unbearable.
So, as someone who has recovered 100% from depersonalization and with the benefit of hindsight -- Does depersonalization actually cause memory loss?
The answer is NO.
I had chronic, intense DP for two years and believe me, there are no memories missing for that period of time. I can remember everything that happened. If there were, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write a book about it, documenting what happened to me. Not just that, but if anyone in my friends or family brought up something from that time (a family event, a trip abroad etc), for me there would be a big blank or at least blank spots in the memory -- and that’s absolutely not the case.
So -- How could this be? How is it possible that you have the sensation of memory loss… but it’s not actually happening?
It’s very simple:
The anxiety and depersonalization is not affecting your memory -- it’s affecting your concentration.
Think about it -- Completely outside of the context of depersonalization, what are things that cause inability to concentrate, that affect focus? That’s right -- anxiety and stress. That’s been proven scientifically and anecdotally beyond a shadow of a doubt -- severe anxiety causes an inability to concentrate; feeling like your mind goes blank; and making it almost impossible to pay attention to the tasks at hand.
Now, when you encounter that as part of your normal life, with a healthy baseline level of day-to-day anxiety, you hardly even notice it. Why?
Because you know that it’s a natural part of feeling a bit stressed out. It’s the feeling of being burned out, or frazzled. Maybe you’ve had a tough week at work or in college -- but you’re not in the least bit surprised if you find it tough to keep your head in the game -- finishing that essay, remembering to do the shopping, etc etc --
But you’re not going to start panicking that you’ve suddenly developed amnesia, right?
And that’s the difference when it’s in the context of depersonalization -- It can be such an overwhelming, confusing experience that people often worry, incorrectly, that it’s a much more serious condition.
In that context, the completely normal experience of stress affecting your concentration -- which it no doubt does -- is catastrophized into the crippling worry that you have, out of nowhere, suddenly developed some rare, aggressive form of amnesia.
Of course, that’s not the case.
Depersonalization and memory loss are not connected. DP can temporarily affect your concentration but it has absolutely nothing to do with and cannot affect the memory centres of your brain.
The fear that it’s doing so is no more valid than any of the other fears that come with the condition -- and just like every other fear and symptom, it will dissipate and stop completely as part of your recovery.
It’s that simple!