Mental Health Monday–About Amnesia

Okay, so a few commentors on my Mental Health Monday post about amnesia asked some great follow up questions. I’d like to address one by Indigo and Linda Gray.

Paraphrased, their questions gets to the following point:

What causes amnesia?

There are a lot of causes of amnesia.

Brain injury, for instance, causes many cases of amnesia. Whether it be blunt injury (as caused in accidents or falls…or physical assault) or a penetrating injury (such as a gunshot wound or stabbing), the brain tissue itself becomes injured. There is swelling of the brain and shearing of the neurons (the cells of the brain). Once the connection between cells is lost, signals get wonky and a whole host of signs and symptoms occur.

Some injuries also cause bleeding in the brain, which can be life threatening.

To sum up, brain injury can have temporary symptoms (such as short duration memory loss, headaches, and loss of consciousness) or long term and sometimes permanent symptoms (such as permanent memory loss, seizures, movement disorders, mood changes, and personality changes).

Excessive and chronic alcohol use can also lead to amnesia by affecting certain areas of the brain and by reducing the amount of available thiamine (a nutrient the body needs for good functioning and memory).

Other causes of amnesia include: Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hypoxia (lack of oxygen; can include carbon monoxide poisoning), multiple sclerosis, seizures, brain tumors, vascular disease (where the blood vessels are damaged and don’t work well to deliver oxygen), and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain tissue, caused by various bacteria and viruses). These conditions can and tend to affect the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that keeps our memories.

Dementia and delirium (change in consciousness and awareness that flucutates and has many causes) also afffect memory, as do certain drugs, such as benzodiazepines.

Hippocampus in the brain:


Not to be confused with what the word means:  (link)

Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah’s psych related post. It’s good stuff, I tells ya’s, good stuff!

16 comments on “Mental Health Monday–About Amnesia

  1. Ciara Knight says:

    Love these Medical Monday posts. I worked Geriatrics at the VA Hospital and saw a lot of dementia. It was sad.

  2. Very insightful post! The moment I saw amnesia I thought of brain injuries and such. Hadn’t thought much about outside factors like alcohol and its affects in these cases. Interesting.

  3. Sarah says:

    Very informative post, Laura! Did you and Lydia collaborate today? You’ve both offered great info on TBI-related topics.

  4. Great post. Writers love amnesia, but so many don’t understand it and manipulate the truth to fit their plot. 😛

  5. Lydia K says:

    Hey, our posts go hand in hand! I did one on TBI and briefly touched on amnesia.

    Hey, I’ve always loved what hippocampus meant. It’s so cool. I’m such a geek.

  6. Kendall Grey says:

    I love these posts too. If they don’t touch on a topic related to my WIP, they often give me ideas for what I can do to my characters. *Rubs hands together* 🙂

  7. Does the word amnesia include any form of memory loss? What about short-term memory loss? Is short-term memory loss considered to be amnesia? Or does amnesia involve only long-term memory loss?

    Thank you for your post on the causes of amnesia. Creating a character affected by amnesia could definitely add some color to a story. Blessings to you…

    • lbdiamond says:

      amnesia itself means loss of memory, so short-term memory loss could be called amnesia; in other words, it doesn’t only have to mean long-term memory loss. For instance, someone suffering from a concussion (from a blow to the head, with or without loss of consciousness) likely won’t remember the time surrounding the injury to his or her head. That would be amnesia.

  8. I’m glad to know all this about amnesia. As yet I haven’t written about it, but I might one day.

  9. Linda Gray says:

    Thank you, Laura! I’m bookmarking this post for reference. I wondered about short-term memory loss, too. (When I was pregnant, I lost my short-term memory for a couple of weeks in the second trimester. Talk about upsetting! It felt more like what I imagine dementia to be than amnesia, but would love it if you can clarify. I found out pregnancy affects brain chemistry. hmmmm, there are SO many things they don’t tell you ahead of time!)

  10. roguemutt says:

    What about if you’ve fallen through a hole in time? That’s what I used in one story.

  11. Danyelle says:

    Love these posts! And *adores* both types of hippocamuses. O:)

  12. Kari Marie says:

    This is a great series. How could I have missed this before? I’ve been toying with an MC with amnesia. This will come in handy – thanks!

  13. Trisha says:

    Very useful info in these posts LB – thank you!

  14. ketmakkura says:

    Hm. Not sure if this is amnesia, per se, but is there anything that can cause you to not remember clearly? Most of my childhood is a blur to me.

    My mother suggested it’s because of emotional trauma, but I was wondering about your take on it.

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