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Childhood trauma/abuse and young-middle adulthood memory loss. A connection?


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I'm here to ask about childhood trauma and adult memory loss. I have read a bit about how those who have suffered from PTSD can also experience memory loss. But the scholarly articles I have found, they are often restricted to specific cases of memory loss in late adulthood, or in individuals with diagnoses of other sever mental disorders like schizophrenia. I am asking this forum if anyone has personal experience, either in yourself or with someone you are close to, related to this. Specifically, I wondered if anyone experienced (either in yourself or observed in others) childhood trauma in the form of abuse from a parent or other authoritarian figure, and also memory problems not in late adulthood but in young and middle adulthood (like in ages 20s-40s). I have been close to a few people who experienced pervasive childhood abuse at home, who explain that they have trouble remembering their childhood, as compared to others who seem to be able to recall a lot of details about their childhood. But I haven't really spoken to a ton of people about this because, obviously, it's a very personal and subjective thing to talk about.

 

I have had many conversations with people about happy childhood memories, with people who never experienced trauma or abuse, and I myself can recall a lot of detail about my childhood. I have had some conversations with a couple of people who didn't have happy childhoods due to abuse at home, and it seemed that they explained that they couldn't remember their childhoods very well, even though they wanted to, and tried to. And I know that part of it could be people not wanting to talk about it, but in one particular case, I know the person I was speaking to wanted to tell me all the details he could remember, and did try to remember things, and spent time talking to other people who were around him as a child, trying to put together more memories. But he was frustrated in how little he remembered. I should specify that the abuse and trauma experienced in these people was pervasive throughout childhood, in the home life, and not a single instance of abuse, or not restricted to preschool years (an age very few people can remember, anyway).

 

There's a theory that it's a sort of self-preservation mechanism, blocking out unpleasant memories. I've read about traumatic amnesia but it seemed like, and I could be wrong, that these studies focused on people who could not remember a single traumatic event, or could not remember the traumatic events themselves, but otherwise could remember the past events that were not traumatic. And a lot of these studies focused on sexual abuse but didn't seem to talk about cases of pervasive physical or verbal abuse, or neglect, and later memory loss that affected longer periods of time including positive events that were not traumatic. I'm just seeking more information from people here. Thanks.

Edited by Rihannon
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Seraphim,

 

Do you have trouble remembering a lot from whole periods of time, both good and bad events, or do you think the memory loss is specific about bad things happening?

 

I have a lot of trouble remembering good and bad and whole sections of time and specifics. For instance I have no memory whatsoever of my first counselling at 14. None whatsoever. Sequencing my childhood is difficult. If I get into a situation even now that sets off my PTSD I can disassociate and forget details.

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Why? Is this a survey or research? Is there a library where you get on data bases for accurate studies and research on this? What is your stake in this? Are you a therapist in training? Why do you want people to dig up old wounds as a form of chitchat?

I'm just seeking more information from people here.
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Why? Is this a survey or research? Is there a library where you get on data bases for accurate studies and research on this? What is your stake in this? Are you a therapist in training? Why do you want people to dig up old wounds as a form of chitchat?

 

If someone doesn't want to share their experiences, they don't have to. Are these forums idle chitchat to you? Is that how you see them?

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I suffered through many forms of abuse as a child. I can't recall any memories other than partial snippets of time. The weird thing for me, is that most of the memories that I can remember are the instances where the abuse was happening. All of the rest has just disappeared and faded away, which never really bothered me until this past June when my younger brother died. I wish I could remember any fun we had together growing up

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I don't have trouble remembering anything. However, my brain automatically blocks it out, hence those bad memories become more distant as years pass by which is a good thing. I don't have nightmares or anything like that, thank heavens.

 

What also matters is 'a happily ever after.' If I had a miserable life from birth to death, yes, I'd ruminate and continue to be haunted from bad memories but since I've been very happily married for a long time, happiness, stability, financial security and overall contentment now preoccupy my brain.

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I have a really good memory for details from the past, the good, the bad, the ugly. But your question comes across as seeking expert/professional advice - I am neither so for example if I had a bad memory as you described I wouldn't feel comfortable linking it to a bad childhood experience. Also I bet accessibility to photos/videos/past accounts of childhood affect memory - like my son who is 10 has a decent memory of his early childhood but some of that might be because of the photos we have in the house (no, no traumatic "abuse" situations in the least and yes there were some painful/scary experiences cause, well "life"). I wonder about whether the people who post floods of photos and videos of their kids all over social media and their phone ( we do not and allow only limited photos of our child on social media on certain sites related to his school/extracurricular activities) will or have affected their kids' memories, good and bad.

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I have a really good memory for details from the past, the good, the bad, the ugly. But your question comes across as seeking expert/professional advice - I am neither so for example if I had a bad memory as you described I wouldn't feel comfortable linking it to a bad childhood experience. Also I bet accessibility to photos/videos/past accounts of childhood affect memory - like my son who is 10 has a decent memory of his early childhood but some of that might be because of the photos we have in the house (no, no traumatic "abuse" situations in the least and yes there were some painful/scary experiences cause, well "life"). I wonder about whether the people who post floods of photos and videos of their kids all over social media and their phone ( we do not and allow only limited photos of our child on social media on certain sites related to his school/extracurricular activities) will or have affected their kids' memories, good and bad.

 

Absolutely 100% PTSD affects memory. PTSD is an actual physical brain injury. Child abuse causes the brain not to grow properly. It can also physically and chemically alter the adult brain.

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Absolutely 100% PTSD affects memory. PTSD is an actual physical brain injury. Child abuse causes the brain not to grow properly. It can also physically and chemically alter the adult brain.

 

Child abuse is horrible. I don't agree about all child abuse causing all children's brains not to grow properly. Especially if it’s one incident where the child is let’s say hit in an abusive way. Which of course is horrible but I doubt all such incidents have that result. From my knowledge, it sounds like that is a possibility based on certain studies, not a fact in all cases. Having written that I am not an expert and if you are a scientist or medical professional in this specific area you have more knowledge than me of course. Not at all interested in debating and the OP didn't ask if child abuse causes the brain not to grow properly - it was a very specific question about memory which may or may not be related to the proper growth of the brain. Lots of conditions can affect memory.

Edited by Batya33
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I believe Seraphim is right in the way that Trauma as a child causes the brain to not form the same way as 99% of the population.

 

Research has shown that certain areas of the brain are different physically from people with PTSD than those without. This difference is prevalent in the majority of cases.

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I believe Seraphim is right in the way that Trauma as a child causes the brain to not form the same way as 99% of the population.

 

Research has shown that certain areas of the brain are different physically from people with PTSD than those without. This difference is prevalent in the majority of cases.

 

Yes - I can certainly believe that certain trauma to certain children can cause the brain not to form the same way. I don't agree with how broadly she put it - that doesn't seem to be accurate but again if she is an expert in this specific area I defer. It's not what I know from my knowledge on the subject.

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Yes - I can certainly believe that certain trauma to certain children can cause the brain not to form the same way. I don't agree with how broadly she put it - that doesn't seem to be accurate but again if she is an expert in this specific area I defer. It's not what I know from my knowledge on the subject.

 

On PTSD which of course can happen to people of all ages I don't have any knowledge -was referring to the child abuse comment.

 

Separately, I personally am a little uncomfortable with this thread - I tend to agree with Wiseman -it seems to be a general research question and not about a specific situation and because of that it's going into these unrelated and sensitive areas -highly sensitive for certain people. OP is there some specific reason you are asking this really broad question? Child abuse and PTSD are hot button issues. On the other hand many adults have memory related issues for various reasons - sometimes mild/annoying, sometimes severe, sometimes situational like the blocking out Cherlyn recommended. Many many reasons. I am particularly sensitive to memory issues because I'm 53, perimenopausal (which I understand can lead to foggy brain at times), multitask far too much and have a child who is great at distracting me and then I'm not sure if I forgot things because of distraction or some other reason. But no it's not to my knowledge related to PTSD or abuse because to my knowledge none of those ever occurred to me -and of course I'm very fortunate.

 

I also know of people who probably have undiagnosed PTSD or suffered trauma and actually have no memory of it nor the resources to delve into their pasts (or maybe the motivations).

 

So again your question is hypothetically interesting to you and perhaps others but..... why do you ask?

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I'm not an expert by any means. I've just done a lot of reading and researching PTSD on my own.

It's still relatively new to be studied and there is so much still not known. They have found correlations with trauma and memory loss. There have been correlations found as well to a disruption in spatial processing. Also, to disruption with emotional regulation, concentration issues and in some cases, changes to the prefrontal cortex.

It's more complex than that though as PTSD impacts a person as a whole, and very often is untreated. There then can be a whole new host of medical and physiological issues from living with chronic PTSD. Severe sleep disruption, hyper arousal and terror are common - this all impacts things like being able to recall as well!

 

Take all that, then add in childhood abuse, which can have wide and varied impacts, it's so complicated. There may have been neglect of important formative needs like nutrition. There may be medical damage from neglect. There may be medical damage from abuse. On and on, and that doesn't even touch on the psychological aspects.

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I'm not an expert by any means. I've just done a lot of reading and researching PTSD on my own.

It's still relatively new to be studied and there is so much still not known. They have found correlations with trauma and memory loss. There have been correlations found as well to a disruption in spatial processing. Also, to disruption with emotional regulation, concentration issues and in some cases, changes to the prefrontal cortex.

It's more complex than that though as PTSD impacts a person as a whole, and very often is untreated. There then can be a whole new host of medical and physiological issues from living with chronic PTSD. Severe sleep disruption, hyper arousal and terror are common - this all impacts things like being able to recall as well!

 

Take all that, then add in childhood abuse, which can have wide and varied impacts, it's so complicated. There may have been neglect of important formative needs like nutrition. There may be medical damage from neglect. There may be medical damage from abuse. On and on, and that doesn't even touch on the psychological aspects.

 

Thank you, yes. Also not an expert but I do suffer from complex multi decade PTSD. I have suffered severe neglect and abuses. It DEFINITELY affects my memory, how I process and my physical health.

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Thank you, yes. Also not an expert but I do suffer from complex multi decade PTSD. I have suffered severe neglect and abuses. It DEFINITELY affects my memory, how I process and my physical health.

 

I'm sorry that happened to you and had that effect! My father was bipolar and from what I understood his parents were emotionally abusive - certainly bipolar is a chemical imbalance but I'm sure it made it worse. He happened to have the most excellent memory (until he got dementia/alzheimers in his early 80s)

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I'm sorry that happened to you and had that effect! My father was bipolar and from what I understood his parents were emotionally abusive - certainly bipolar is a chemical imbalance but I'm sure it made it worse. He happened to have the most excellent memory (until he got dementia/alzheimers in his early 80s)

 

My father is also bipolar and was abused mentally and physically and emotionally which also made his condition much worse and gave him a personality disorder as well. That made him very abusive partner and parent. My dad I am pretty sure also has PTSD. And he takes the same medication I do to control it. And I’m never sure what my dad remembers because he’s a pathological liar.

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My father is also bipolar and was abused mentally and physically and emotionally which also made his condition much worse and gave him a personality disorder as well. That made him very abusive partner and parent. My dad I am pretty sure also has PTSD. And he takes the same medication I do to control it. And I’m never sure what my dad remembers because he’s a pathological liar.

 

Mine loved us so much and was so so hard to be around and live with. But he did love is. He worked so darn hard and for so many years suffered when it was so very stigmatized. Luckily he complied with therapy and meds thanks to my awesome mother.

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Mine loved us so much and was so so hard to be around and live with. But he did love is. He worked so darn hard and for so many years suffered when it was so very stigmatized. Luckily he complied with therapy and meds thanks to my awesome mother.

My father never complied with anything ever and still doesn’t. My mom tried for 30 years to help him and is in extremely bad shape now due to it. I just thank Jesus she left almost 30 years ago or she would be dead now. My dad and his family are pure toxic evil.

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My father never complied with anything ever and still doesn’t. My mom tried for 30 years to help him and is in extremely bad shape now due to it. I just thank Jesus she left almost 30 years ago or she would be dead now. My dad and his family are pure toxic evil.

 

My dad's family is great. I loved my grandmother (his dad died when I was very young). But my mother was so stable, so normal, so steadfast and he was willing to comply. It helped a lot. He had a great career, too.

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