Can stress cause Alzheimer's?

7 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

For the past twenty years, since moving to North Carolina, I noticed I will want to say a word and will freeze because I could not remember it and that made me feel embarrassed. Now that I am in my fifties, I am forgetting what I want to tell my daughter from the kitchen to her bedroom, until I retrace my steps and figure it out. I did go through some traumatic times when I was younger. My parents were very strict and I had nightmares of getting beat even when I had my children until age 32, when the nightmares subsided. I also had marital problems before I met my present husband - who is another story to tell. Plus I am going back to college and have a lot of research and by the end of the night I am brain tired. I do have a good long term memory, but I would like to know if moving to another place or past trauma in your life be the underlying cause of Alzheimer's disease?

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

There is no evidence to suggest that psychological trauma or other psychological difficulties cause Alzheimer's Disease or any other dementia. On the other hand, psychological difficulties, most commonly depression or anxiety, can impair memory. These memory effects are fortunately reversible with proper treatment. There are a number of other medical problems, medications and substances that can cause memory problems. The memory difficulties with the vast majority of these problems can be reversed when the cause is understood and treated.

Symptoms of depression include more than problems with mood. It is common that people with serious depression also struggle with their memory, concentration and attention. This can create a syndrome known as "pseudodementia." The depression symptoms can look like dementia, and can be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's Disease or some other form of dementia. This is a very serious mistake, because we know how to treat depression, and when the depression is treated, the memory problems along with the other associated depression symptoms will improve or completely disappear. Similarly, anxiety illnesses including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, can cause problems with memory, concentration and attention. As with depression, if the anxiety is properly treated, the anxiety as well as the problems with memory, concentration and attention will get markedly better or disappear.

I would recommend you explain your difficulties to your primary care physician, and get a thorough evaluation. If that does not identify a cause, I would suggest you get a mental health evaluation. I suspect one of these professionals will be able to help you. If not, you may want to consider working with a neuropsychologist to get testing. This would help you understand the nature of your memory and word finding problems, and likely clarify the diagnosis.

Community Answers

Solveig answered...

I have similar problems for similar reasons. I am 68 years old. To the expert answer I would add, that what has helped me is:

  1. A healthier diet (more fruit and vegies, less red meat.)
  2. Exercise.
  3. Mega vitamins, mainly anti-oxidants, ginko, turmeric, etc. Not an instant answer, but definitely very helpful in many ways.
  4. Some form of daily relaxation: yoga, meditation, learning to become centered (prayer if that works for you) "emptying the mind" for 15-30 minutes.

The best part: except for the food supplements and vitamins, everything else is FREE $$$

A fellow caregiver answered...

I agree with solveig. If you belive in the Creator try this because he is in the equation believe me. Do not belive just in me believe in Him. Having said that take this seriously as tendency will be towards negativity for the non-believer. The single biggest ingredient was prayer.

Eating Life force foods is getting back to God's design for human beings. I recommend that red meat is consumed once per week for protein levels required to retain body mass along with some carbohydrates. However the fruit and veg diet is certainly a cleansing tonic.

I tried the following for one week and then continued with parts for 2 months after. (I resorted to eating cooked veges at night after the first week and ceased apricot kernels after 2 months). Generally during the day I did not worry about what I ate just grazed continually allowing each portion to be digested without mixing foods too much. Ie I did not eat bananas with oranges etc

Warning - Get Doctor's advice before attempting this it is aggressive.

Early morning First: Body balance - 30 minutes before (2) {The lifesaver} Second: 5-7 apricot kernels ( chewed to liguid) on an empty stomach with a circle of raw fresh pineapple. (Vitamin B17 - the miracle vitamin) Third: Glass of Barley Green - blood oxygenater

Eating Life force foods Morning: Fresh Vege juice and fruit

Lunch: Fresh Fruit only

Dinner: Raw veg only

Note : Body balance contains Aloe vera and necessary vitamins and minerals. Also grazing on seeds and nuts - do not overdo.

Amazing results in one week ( no wheat, milk or meat products - only run like this for one week)

The following were experienced some chronicly for last 15-20 years when moving to less active job role. Doctors could not help with any issues experienced ( sorry GP's - sometimes when you want to fix something you just have to fix it yourself)

Alarming short term memory issues - resulting in increased stress - memory improved noticeably. Lethargy gone Kidney pain gone back pain gone double chin halved stomach bloating and reflux gone lung capacity restored chronic fatigue like symptoms gone bad left hand hand tremor gone.( research required ) {Noticeable vibration when pressure put on index finger whilst fingers resting on desk with hand raised off the desk} has retuned to somne degree but not as bad - then stress levels are low currently as well.

Other Benefits More alert - feel alive More able to exercise More energy to do things Better brain function - it would be interesting to know if this does the same for the brain as what it did for my fathers veins and arteries. My father had amazing experience with similiar diet in cleaning veins and arteries. Post heart attack at 74 when he was diagnosed with requiring bypass surgery. He did not undertake and following prostrate cancer surgery 6 months later he went on diet. A further diagnosis within 12 months gave him the all clear on veins and arteries. He is 83 - I am a meagre 55

The rules of thumb are to purify the blood ( biblical) Oxygenating the blood and alkalising our systems works wonders

Apologies for note form of this an ratty grammar but just an experience worth looking at.

Marly26 answered...

It sounds to me that you are under alot of stress. Moving, going back to school etc. You could have some depression there without knowing,about your moving. There are times that a person can be depressed without even knowing it. As for the forgetfulness at your age I would think that it is rather common. I am 55 and I forget myself. I can go downstairs, get there and forget what I went down for, then it suddenly hits me. That alone is depressing. It happens as well when speaking with someone, you know exactly what you want to say however it just doesn't come out. I do feel though that we sometimes' think to hard because we ourselves know that ooops.. I may forget. You could be conversing with someone and if you want to say something and that person(s)keeps on talking rather than listening, we forget what we want to say. Sometimes without being rude, just ask the person to listen to what you have to say, rather than them keep on talking. Myself I dont' think that there are any problems' other than perhaps depression. It doesn't take much to get depressed and if your thinking of how your doing, the depression deepens. Have a talk with your Family Physician and tell he/she how you feel. You may have lived a traumatic life when you were younger but the past is in the past. I have to say though that if you had head trauma, or anything to do with the head area, make sure to tell your Physician. He/She may order a CT Scan or MRI just to make sure everything is okay. When you are speaking try not to think "I'm going to forget" sometimes when we dwell on this, its' sure to happen. There is also a test that is available on the computer, just type in Alzeimhers' Quiz and see how you do. It sounds to me that you have alot on your plate, take a step at a time. Try not to think, I have to do this/that. I have laundry, grocery shopping,make appointment. Take one step at a time. Dont' be so harsh on yourself. Most often what isnt' done today will be there tomorrow. My prayers' are with you and please think positive of yourself. Tell yourself I am a good person, today is going to be great and try not to overindulge your brain. Hopefully I have helped you, dont' hesitate to sent me a msg. if you like. In the meantime, think positive, try not to get yourself down. We are all only human. Hugs to you!!

Mike donohue answered...

There is little doubt in my case that Alzheimer's Disease (AD) was a direct result of stress. I had a life full of it, almost continuous. AD developed in a mild way for at least ten years if not longer as little things would go awry without reasonable explanation, these built up to the point that I was fielding a real problem.

Stress was the biggest factor by history that I could account for as cause.

But this thought is worth stating: "Does it matter?" If it is there that is about all there is to it, deal with it! Get an evaluation; go further than a GP who like too many practitioners spend too much time looking for something else to try to explain away bothersome symptoms to spare the patient.

An early diagnosis is so beneficial if in fact you are experiencing dementia, there are so many positive things able to be done to give quality of life and perhaps even prolong the earlier stages of the disease if instituted early enough.

My proof of the pudding was in a simulated driving test that I couldn't believe the result as I flunked it four times, then verifying the major findings elicited as diagnostic opinion by my treating neurologist with a Neuro-Psychometric Battery that pinpointed every deficiency I was manifesting.

Solveig answered...

MIKE: I'd like to hear more. Clarify last 2-3 lines of your message?

Bethkent5 answered...

I'm a nurse who's studied Alzheimer's Disease in Clinical settings and on paper with research. I believe that Alzheimers is not CAUSED by stress but stress can intensify and illuminate the symptoms. More importantly however is the fact that you've not described the symptoms you believe to be indicative of Alzheimers. Memory loss is such a small part of it. I like the description I heard many, many years ago and again just lately, when talking about Ronald Regan's early confusion while president. They said, if you loose your keys, you are confused and forgetful. If you have your keys in your hand and don't know what they're for, THAT might be Alzheimers Disease. AD is a very function related disease. Go to the doctor. Be evaluated. Early detection is VERY important.