Depending on the underlying cause, memory loss could last for a short time or may last longer or even for a lifetime (in extremely rare cases). While there are some chances of developing short-term memory loss in teenagers, long-term memory loss is uncommon since it is caused by medical illnesses, such as dementia and Alzheimer'siXA brain disorder that gradually causes memory, thinking, learning, and organizing skills to decline disease, which usually affect the older population. This problem is common as we get older, but it may also be a problem among teens for many reasons (1) (2). Continue reading this post to know the various causes of short-term memory loss in adolescents and how to deal with them.
What Is Short-Term Memory Loss?
Skipping minor details is normal. But if your teenager is often having a hard time remembering recent events and important information, they may be dealing with what is called short-term memory loss or memory lapses.
For example, if your child does not remember what they did during the day at school or if they often try hard to remember names or places they visit regularly, then they may be having short-term memory issues.
Next, we list a few symptoms to help you know if the teen has a memory loss problem.
Symptoms Of Short-Term Memory Loss In Teens
- Asking the same questions repeatedly
- Forgetting recent events and information
- Unable to recall information that they heard or shared recently
- Often misplacing things and spending time searching for them
- Failing at school because they cannot recall what was taught
If such behavior is affecting your child’s day-to-day activities, or the child is lagging in school due to poor memory issues, you should find out the reasons behind it. Dana Hall, a licensed clinical professional counselor from Orland Park, Illinois, says, “It is normal to expect teens to lose focus and be forgetful at times. Keep in mind the average 15-year-old has about a 30-minute attention span. If your teens’ grades are falling, they are losing friends, and they struggle to stay on task, it may be time to consult your pediatrician.”
Possible Causes For Memory Loss In Teenagers
Causes for poor memory retention could vary from one teen to another. Some common causes are mentioned here.
- Slow learning ability: Some teenagers might be slow learners by nature, which could be the reason for their poor memory and average school performance when compared to their peers.
Other characteristics of slow learners include:
- Lack of concentration
- Poor imagination
- Inability to express their ideas verbally
- Poor social skills
Note that slow learners need not always have mental disorders. They may just need more time than others to process and understand the concepts.
With improved teaching techniques and extra attention from parents and teachers, memory issues could be resolved among slow learners (3).
- Medications: Certain medications may also interfere with the memory of your teenager. Tranquilizers, antidepressantsiXDrugs used to treat or manage anxiety and depression , and blood pressure medications could affect memory. These medications produce a sedativeiXA medication or drug that induces sleep and reduces anxiety and restlessness effect, which could make it difficult for them to concentrate and remember information.
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency: A study on 3,156 children between the ages of five and 12 found that vitamin B12 deficiency was associated with grade repetition and absenteeism among children (4). Another study has found that low levels of vitamin B12 could be associated with neurocognitive disordersiXA general phrase for reduced mental abilities caused by injury, diseases, and other health complications . So, vitamin deficiency could also be a reason for sudden memory loss in your teenager.
Other symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
- Numbness and tingling feeling in hands and legs
- Inflamed tongue (5)
- Substance abuse: Studies found that substance abuse, such as alcohol and drug abuse, could lead to alteration of the brain structure and functioning. Heavy consumption of alcohol and smoking marijuana could also be related to a decrease in memory in adolescents (6).
- Stress and anxiety: The amygdala and hippocampus regions of the brain are important for processing emotions and retaining them as memories. These are also involved in learning and conditioning. Studies found that children who were exposed to stress and anxiety during their childhood showed alterations in the development of the amygdala and hippocampus, which could be the reason for memory loss during adolescence (7).
- Excess gadget usage: Although there is a need for further investigation, available studies suggest that prolonged usage of smartphones could affect memory functioning in teenagers (8).
- Head injury: After a concussion, a brief loss of memory of the events before or after injury might occur. Other symptoms of a concussion include:
- Attention deficiency
- Depression and anxiety
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting (9)
- Thyroid malfunctioning: Sudden memory loss could also be an indication of thyroid malfunctioning. The thyroid hormones are vital for the functioning of the central nervous system, which includes intelligence, memory, and cognitive behaviors. Studies found that hypothyroidism might affect memory-retaining ability. Other signs of thyroid malfunctioning include:
- Sleeplessness: Both human and animal studies found that sleep helps in the formation of long-term memories. Studies also found that sleep deprivation damages the signaling pathways in the hippocampus, which can lead to memory impairment (11).
So, if your teenager is neglecting sleep and has short-term memory loss, then you may connect these two. Other symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty in concentration
- Depression: Studies that examined neurocognitive functioning in adults with depression, found a link between depression and impairment of executive function, short-term memory, and attention (12). Additionally, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration data, it is estimated that 17.0% of US adolescents aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2020. Depression in teenagers could happen due to various reasons such as medical conditions, the stress in daily life, substance abuse, and the start of menstruation in girls (13).
- Brain tumors: Memory loss could be one of the many symptoms of brain tumors. Other symptoms include:
- Severe headaches
- SeizuresiXIrregular electrical activity in the brain
- Vomiting and dizziness
- Behavioral changes
- Speech problems
- Progressive paralysisiXThe inability to move any or all body parts due to brain, nerve, or spinal cord damage or diseases. of one side of the body (14).
A diagnosis by a medical practitioner is essential to determine the actual cause of memory loss in teenagers.
Hall opines, “The prefrontal cortex, where executive functioning is housed, doesn’t fully develop until our early 20s. Add into the mix an influx of hormones during puberty that impacts mood, growth, and sleep, and we can see teen bodies are ripe with changes.”
Diagnosis Of Short-Term Memory Loss
Your child’s doctor would diagnose short-term memory loss through a series of examinations and tests.
Initially, the doctor might ask questions related to
- Any recent injuries or infections
- Sleep patterns
- General mental health
- Substance abuse
- Diet and general lifestyle
Laboratory tests may be prescribed to detect any deficiencies or infections. A brain X-ray or CT scan might be done if the doctor sees the necessity.
A few tests that check your child’s cognitive abilities could also give vital information about the cause of memory loss.
Such tests include:
- Simple spelling and math tasks
- Basic questions about the date, month, and year
- Tests that gauge the child’s problem-solving abilities
- Questions regarding recent events
Treatment For Short-Term Memory Loss
The treatment depends on the cause of memory loss, which your doctor would determine and prescribe based on the diagnosis.
- Prescribing alternative medications that might have fewer side effects on the nervous system
- RehabilitationiXSupporting an individual who is injured or unwell to recover lost abilities and to become self-reliant in the case of substance abuse
- Surgery or chemotherapyiXChemotherapy for brain tumors
- Counseling and behavioral therapies for depression and anxiety
- Medications and supplements in the case of thyroid and vitamin B12 disturbances
- Closely monitoring the head injury and surgery if necessary
- Monitoring and limiting their screen time and smartphone usage
If the memory loss is due to poor concentration, you may try some remedies to improve your teen’s focus.
Home Remedies To Improve Memory In Teens
Following your doctor’s advice is the best treatment for short-term memory loss. If the underlying cause is treated, your child might get their normal memory capabilities back. To help your child during the treatment, you may consider trying a few home remedies to improve concentration.
- Chewing gum: A study on school children in Germany stated that chewing gum improved performance during tests. Another study at a dental school in New York found that chewing gum resulted in better performance in written examinations, but not in practical exams.
Studies stated that chewing gum leads to an increase in alertness and concentration, which could be the reason behind the better performance. However, this will not treat or address short-term memory tasks (15). It may only enhance your child’s concentration.
- Yoga and meditation: According to a paper published in the European Journal of Physical Education and Sport, yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises might have the following benefits:
- Combined yoga exercises could help in improving the memory, which could increase the academic performance in teenagers.
- Meditation might help attain a higher level of concentration and consciousness.
- Breathing exercises might help in reducing stress and promote better mental health (16).
Encourage your child to practice yoga and meditation regularly, because the above results would be possible with consistent, long-term practice.
- Hard-to-read formatting: Studies found that it takes more concentration and focus to read something that is presented in a difficult-to-read format. Such high levels of concentration might help the child to remember better (17).
Encourage your children to change the font of their study material and practice reading. You may also print instructions and directions in a difficult format so that it could help them remember better.
- Doodling: Though this is considered a sign of inattentiveness, research says that doodling can improve brain health which in turn might help the brain to concentrate and recall the information better. It could also help in relieving stress and help teens who experience issues such as lack of focus.
Introduce the art of doodling and encourage them to follow it while reading or recalling information. However, remember to keep a cap on the amount of time they spend doing this (18).
- Laughing: Dr. Mark Reeves, a surgical oncologist at the Loma Linda Health University, California, says that stress increases the production of cortisol hormone, and excess amounts of this hormone might damage the neurons involving learning and memory. According to Dr. Reeves, laughter helps in decreasing the cortisol levels, which might help improve short-term memory (19).
Encourage your children to laugh and be happy. Let them indulge in activities that can help them relax and have a good laugh.
- Short-term memory loss in teenagers could be reversed when identified in time. Do not blame or shout if your teenager experiences memory difficulties. Instead, sit with them and try to understand the root cause. As a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure your teenager does not get scared of not being able to remember or recollect and is assured there is help at hand when they need it.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can teenagers get dementia?
The probability of teenagers being affected by dementia is less than a 65-year-old person. Those who develop it before age 65 have young-onset dementia (20).
2. What is brain fog for teens?
Brain fog is slow or sluggish thinking, making it difficult for the teen to concentrate and pay attention to tasks. It is used to describe specific cognitive difficulties (21).
3. How do I know when memory loss is serious?
The following signs might indicate your memory loss is getting severe (22):
- Getting lost in well-known places
- Asking the same things repeatedly
- Feeling confused about things such as people or places
- Facing trouble following directions
4. What are the three foods that fight memory loss in teens?
Walnuts, dark green leafy vegetables, including kale and cabbage, and dark berries such as blueberries and blackberries are some foods that help improve memory, fight memory loss, and help treat cognitive impairment (23).
Slow learning abilities or certain medications for a disease might give rise to the symptoms of short-term memory loss in teens. This condition can be cured with the help of rehabilitation and medications. However, if the symptoms cease to decrease, it might be due to some serious underlying cause or trauma that warrants prompt doctor consultation. It is imperative that you support and encourage your child through this period and keep them happy, as it will aid in the recovery process. A few home interventions, such as yoga and meditation, may also help improve the child’s memory.
Infographic: Possible Reasons For Memory Loss In Teenagers
Memory loss in teenagers is a common concern for many parents nowadays. It can be a sudden short-term or long-term memory loss, but knowing the underlying cause can help treat and manage its occurrence effectively. So, check out the infographic below to learn about possible causes that may lead to memory loss in teens.
- Possible causes of memory loss in teenagers: slow learning, medication, vitamin deficiency, substance abuse, stress, excess gadget usage, head injury, thyroid issues, and sleeplessness.
- Symptoms of short-term memory loss in teens: repetitive questions, forgetfulness, misplaced items, and academic failure.
- Anxiety and stress can affect the hippocampus and amygdala regions in the brain, which retain memories.
- Damaged signaling pathways in the hippocampus can lead to memory impairment.
Kids with short-term memory issues may need help to stay on track and not fall behind. The following video provides you with a few suggestions to understand their discomforts and assist them to succeed in school.
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