Does Stress Cause Memory Problems?

Last Editorial Review: 8/24/2017

Ask the experts

I am a 27-year-old female, and I truly feel something is wrong with my memory. I often get very frustrated because I try so hard to remember and I can't. I have to re-read things many times because I can never remember what I've read. Could stress have something to do with this?

Doctor's response

Stress is not known to have any physical effects on the brain that could lead to impaired memory. There are many different disease processes that can affect the brain and lead to memory loss.

People who are under stress, however, may often experience distraction due to an overly full schedule and multiple demands upon their time and energy. This distraction or emotional disturbance might be one reason that it is difficult to retain information. If you are concerned about memory loss, talk to your doctor. He or she can determine whether you are experiencing true memory loss related to a medical condition.

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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care