DPDR sufferers regularly experience problems with their memory. But is there REALLY a link between Derealization / Depersonalization and memory loss?
Of all the strange symptoms that accompany Depersonalization and Derealization, there is one that seems to be particularly common and extremely distressing: memory loss.
I hear it from DPDR 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 try to focus on reading but can't remember the previous paragraph."
I experienced this myself and it’s VERY frightening.
In fact, that last example, of being unable to keep a short-term memory of what I was reading, was absolutely terrifying.
I would attempt to sit down and read a chapter from a book. But I couldn't seem to get past the first page.
Why? Because I would keep stopping and having to re-read the previous paragraph, over and over again.
I couldn't seem to keep anything in my short-term memory. It felt like I was stuck in a loop that I couldn't escape.
This prospect was nothing short of terrifying. If it was actually affecting my short term memory, could it affect my long term memory aswell?
Was I going to start forgetting who I was? Would I be able to remember my friends, my family?
So, as someone who has recovered 100% from DPDR and with the benefit of hindsight -- Does Depersonalization cause memory loss?
The answer is NO.
I had chronic, intense DPDR 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 major gaps or at least blank spots in my memory -- and that’s absolutely not the case.
But how could this be? How is it possible that you have the strong sensation of memory loss… but it’s not actually happening?
It’s very simple.
The anxiety and depersonalization / derealization is not affecting your memory -- it’s affecting your concentration.
Think about it -- Completely outside of the context of depersonalization / derealization, 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.
Because you KNOW that it’s a natural part of feeling 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 / derealization -- 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 always does -- is catastrophized into the crippling worry that you have, out of nowhere, suddenly developed some rare, aggressive form of amnesia.
But of course, that’s not the case.
Depersonalization and memory loss are not connected.
Sure, DPDR 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 can is no more valid than any of the other baseless worries and thoughts that come with DPDR, or any anxiety-based condition.
I know that for the moment, it can be frustrating to be unable to concentrate as clearly as you'd like.
But there is nothing actually WRONG with your memory.
And as your recovery continues, your concentration, focus and memory will get 100% back to normal.