Stress and Memory

Stress has been proven to have a significant effect on the brain. Sufferers of chronic stress are also victims of lack of concentration, and may become inefficient and accident-prone both at home and on-the-job. Patients who suffer from chronic stress also tend to look for relief through alcohol or drug abuse, overeating, and spending time in activities that require no concentration. Children with chronic stress were found to have psychological problems that hindered their capacity to learn.

Short Term

Stress can also affect short-term memory. Memory loss does come with increased age but studies also prove that stress can affect memory, especially verbal memory. In a study done in 2000, test subjects were given a placebo or a cortisone pill. Cortisone is a major stress hormone.

The subjects who took cortisone had memory problems especially on memorization tests. The researchers did find that memory came back after the subjects stopped taking the hormone cortisone. Stress was also reduced before memory function returned.

Cortisone and Stress

Chronic stress causes the worse cases of memory loss. Long-term exposure to cortisone causes shrinkage in the hippocampus. This is the center of memory. This was noticed mainly in victims of posttraumatic stress disorder and of childhood sexual abuse. The two groups who were studied, Viet Nam veterans and women who were abused as children were found to have eight percent shrinkage of the hippocampus.

Studies done with elderly patients found that cortisone levels were higher. As a person ages, the cortisone levels rise. After following elderly subjects over five years, researchers found the elderly patients who didnt have a social support system had more marked memory loss. This study also showed that memory loss can be reversed in some patients. Finding a balance in the amount of cortisone is necessary as this hormone is also necessary to life.

Excess Stress

Although we need some stress in our life to help us function in the every-day world but an excess of stress is the real culprit. It is possible that in the future a drug may be developed to balance the levels of cortisone and improving memory function.

Researchers do point out that environment may be the key to improving memory and reducing stress. The patients who had the highest cortisone level had the least amount of family and social support. It has been a known fact that social support is important in dealing with stress.

Social isolation is more common in the elderly. Could improving memory loss be as simple as improving the social environment of people? Stress is relieved by a great social structure. Having family and friends to help you through the hard times will relieve stress and reduce your chances for memory loss.

If you find yourself at a loss for words, cant think of what you ate last night for dinner, and sometimes search for a name you should know like your own, you might be under too much stress! Reduce your stress levels and improve your memory.