My boyfriend sustained a TBI at age 16 and now, at 25, he still struggles with sudden memory loss. He will wake up in the middle of the night and completely forget where he is and who he is. This causes him to start to panic, but eventually he will remember everything. This has also happened to him when driving. This sudden memory loss happens about twice a month. How can I help him?
The sudden intermittent memory loss you describe is not typical of a traumatic brain injury. Memory loss following brain injury is usually for events immediately before or following the incident. Difficulty learning and remembering new information is also common. The individual with TBI does not typically continue to forget who or where he or she is.
There are any number of potential reasons for the symptoms you describe, ranging from stress, fatigue, or medication reactions to transient global amnesia, seizures, or stroke — with other possible causes in between. I strongly suggest that your boyfriend be seen by a physician and/or neurologist for a thorough evaluation, particularly since these episodes are occurring with some regularity.
Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, DC Veterans Administration Medical Center. She has a long history of providing cognitive psychotherapy and developing residential behavioral management programs for children and adults.