Possible causes of memory loss in young adults

Updated February 21, 2017

Memory loss, also referred to as amnesia, in young people can be caused by a number of things. The causes of memory loss in young people occurs when the area of the brain that stores memories becomes compromised. Memory is placed into two different categories, including short-term memory and long-term memory. Short-term memory is defined as the type of memory that stores information that will be needed within a few hours. Long-term memory is defined as the type of memory responsible for remembering procedures and relationships. Depending on the cause of memory loss in young people, one or both types of memory may become compromised.

Psychogenic Causes

Some causes of memory loss in young people are classified as psychogenic; also referred to as psychogenic amnesia. This type of memory loss is most often due to depression, schizophrenia or criminal behaviour. Psychogenic memory loss occurs most often after a stressful and life-threatening event. Much of the memory loss associated with these causes is short-term, but it can also be long-term in some people.

Brain Infections

Brain infections can cause memory loss in young people. The most common brain infections include encephalitis (acute inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (occurs when the covering that protects the spinal cord and brain becomes inflamed). Brain infections interfere with the brain and can do permanent damage. The memory loss associated with a brain infection can be short-term, long-term or both depending on several factors such as extent of damage, age and severity of infection.

Head Trauma

Head trauma can cause memory loss in young people. Head trauma, also referred to as a traumatic brain injury, causes some type of trauma to the brain. This can result in many different impairments and symptoms and some type of memory loss typically occurs. Many head trauma patients suffer short-term memory loss and cannot remember the accident that caused their head injury. Depending on the severity of the injury and the extent of the damage, long-term memory loss may also occur.

Vitamin B1 Deficiency

Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause memory loss in young people. Vitamin B1 deficiency, also referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, is caused by chronic malnourishment or alcoholism. If not treated, severe cases can lead to dementia. People with a vitamin B1 deficiency may not recover completely and may experience episodes of short-term and long-term memory loss throughout their lives.


Certain drugs can cause memory loss in young people. Those with drug-induced memory loss often experience an improvement in their memory once they stop taking the drug. Recreational drugs that can cause memory loss in young people include PCP, LSD and cocaine. Prescription drugs that may cause memory loss in young people include aminophylline, tricyclic antidepressants, barbiturates, methyldopa, bromide, isoniazid, diuretics and digoxin.

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About the Author

Rose Kitchen is a freelance medical writer pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology and education. She has a nursing background and is going back to nursing school in September 2011 for her R.N. Kitchen holds a certificate in anatomy and physiology and English and is pursuing certificates in natural and alternative medicine, fitness and nutrition and sports nutrition.