How Trauma Can Impact Four Types of Memory [Infographic]

Trauma can have a profound impact on a person’s
memory . . .

. . . and traumatic memory can affect not only the brain, but also the body and nervous system as well.

But conceptualizing how trauma can impact the different types of memory can be challenging, so we created a free tool for practitioners that breaks down this process.

Click the image to enlarge

If you’d like to print a copy for yourself, just click here: Color or Print-friendly

(Please be sure to include the copyright information. We put a lot of work into creating these resources for you. Thanks!)

Now we’d like to hear from you. How could this help you in your work? Please leave a comment below.

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107 Comments

  1. Rochelle Phillips says:

    Thank you. A very resourceful tool for understanding trauma impact on memory when working with children and adolescents.

  2. Robyn Gild says:

    Thank you this is a great tool! Very useful when working with young adults on the spectrum as the illustrated examples greatly assist in explanation.

  3. Bulbul says:

    Thank you for the chart.I have connected with procedural memory because after a trauma I forgot how to knit a full sweater which prior to the trauma I could do automatically.

  4. Ricardo says:

    Thank you Dr. Ruth,

    This information is so spot on and helpful in explaining how someone who suffered Trauma is affected, especially their Memory.

    Keep sending the information.

    Have a Happy 4 of July

    Ricardo Forbes

  5. Shakti says:

    Thanks …. I’m printing and posting in my office. I really appreciate these resources as handouts for clients.

  6. Iiris Bjornberg, Life Coach, Helsinki, Finland says:

    You’ve put together a great visual tool, once again. Thank you so much for helping us at our work!

  7. Fran says:

    Excellent visual tool which is very helpful to clinicians and patients. These and other summary charts are nicely done and add to a clinician’s resources. Thank you.

  8. ellen van Straaten says:

    Great visual tool – I like this chart helping clients process the effects of trauma on memory. I will share this visual aid with the staff at Women In Crisis.
    Thank you very much for your generosity. Ellen

  9. Marina D Eddy, MSW LICSW RSW says:

    Love all the tools! Enjoy NIBCAM. Thanks so much for all you do!

  10. Rita Rogge says:

    Thank you for sharing this with me and ofcourse every other person.

  11. Colleen Roche says:

    Thank you for posting such a cohesive tool!

  12. Thanks again for a great resource.

  13. Joanne Ambrose says:

    Thank you for a very useful tool. I am a psychology student and during my studies i lost my memory for half a day.(Transient Global Amnesia) During that loss i had glimpses of certain things but mostly a big black hole of nothingness. I remember asking if i had to get in a car and put the seat belt on. I was told yes but i didnt know how to put the seat belt on even though i knew what it was. I often think of that time with fascination as to what was going on. I know now that i need to take better care of myself and put it down to lack of sleep as not enough hours in the day to study and work etc. I often think of it as my way of taking time out. :) Thank you again and i always enjoy your work. Joanne

  14. Hannah Sherebrin says:

    great resource for educating clients and students.
    Thanks.

  15. Danielle says:

    I am a Chronic Pain Patient with many issues including Trauma who is also fighting to draw attention to the dangerous turn the opiate epedemic has created. Patiet Profiling is worse than ever, mistrusst of healthcare profesionals and regulatory fears hinder those with Trauma to reach out and hinderthe doctors desire to treat or empathise. Currently the unchecked proccecution of doctors is leading to patient harms more severe Trauma and a feeling of no place safe to turn. I myself suffer the effects of an ER visit and healthcare system failure from 2016. And suffer extremme physical reactions during and before every known appointmeent. This is worse than any prior PTSD. Its Terror

  16. Sarah says:

    This is a great chart as someone who has complex PTSD. My brain has cut out the first 9 years of my life regarding family. literally have one memory of my mother before age 9, none of my father, none of most of my siblings. I did not realize this until I was almost 50. I remember being a preteen and feeling behind and not “getting stuff” or that I thought I was never taught things like brushing my teeth. Now I don’t know if I was or not. But there are no memories.

    But got the emotional stuff. Emotional flashbacks are brutal. They suck.

  17. MariaP. says:

    Very helpful. Thank you!

  18. Mike Ritter says:

    OMG. This will be so meaningful in the domestic violence / sexual assault arena. Thank you!!!

  19. This is a very useful hand-out. thanks for sharing.

  20. Chantal says:

    Thanks! Great to put that on a whole illustration. It helps with clients!

  21. Sandra says:

    Thank you for this essential tool.
    Are you considering to create a new course on this theme? That would be great, especially teaching theory and practice on traumatic memory.
    Kind regards,
    Sandra Cardão

  22. Super usefull !!!! I work successfully with trauma. This is a great tool supplying for my psychoeducation to clients……. Thanks for that – excellent. I very much appreciate:-)
    All the best
    JUDY HJULMAND, chartered Psychologist
    Authorized from Danish Government,
    Specialist in clinical psychology and therapy

    PS: my website is 6 years old – needs update – and not in English (sorry:-)

  23. Jan says:

    This is a great tool to be able to share with clients for psychoeducational purposes. Thank you very much.

  24. Amin Shah says:

    Good illustration on effects of trauma.Thanks for putting it out.

  25. Antoinette says:

    Thank you. This will help my clients understand how their brain supports experiences of life and how trauma can affect the function of the brain in managing these experiences.

  26. E Williams says:

    Useful in this format, thanks

  27. This is an excellent clinical, learning and teaching resource (with acknowledgement of source). Clear concise and accurate.
    Thanks

  28. Very nice contribution, and clearly many here have
    found it useful. The chart might benefit from being
    augmented by highlighting “Visual Memory” which
    for many is a significant component of PTSD or
    even of just disturbing memories.

  29. very succinct & easy to take in, a handy memory-jogging chart for me as therapist & helpful to give to some clients struggling to undersatnd their experience, thank you

  30. sepkje lind says:

    Got it . Thank you for this chart it is very helpful.

  31. Barbara E Campbell says:

    I’d like to offer my brain trauma up for discussion.
    I have endured significant set backs in information processing and retention following brain surgery and clamping of a right cerebral arterial aneurysm that was larger than anticipated. I have regained more function than predicted and the Neurosurgeon seemed unconcerned. I also seem to have lost significant ability to recall some incidents accurately, loss of organizational skills, creative imagination, and motivation. It has been 4 years of uphill struggle to make my brain function better. At least today my brain doesn’t drop random words into my sentences as frequently but still will read words, sentences and paragraphs out of order. I have not done well in my attempts to learn new information as I do not retain the data but I can recall the distant past but the sequencing is not always accurate. I don’t recall the actual brain surgery at all and I am doing .
    much than predicted by the Geriatric Neuro-Psychiatrist who evaluated my brain function. My brain and memory issues are open for discussion.

  32. Great chart to help clients see the effects of trauma on memory!

  33. Lucinda Dee says:

    Love this visual tool. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  34. Ruth Cohen says:

    I like that chart. However, it was a little confusing to me. I think it would be much more valuable and useful if it included examples for what the “healthy” or “normal” use of each of the 4 types of memory is, the description of how trauma affects it, and then a related example of what that memory might look like when affected by trauma. (the part that is not already in the chart is this last part. there is a description, but I think more clear examples would be more beneficial to many people).

    • Kathy says:

      I agree with this comment.

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Very helpful diagram that I can use with clients. I appreciate your efforts to help us in our professional work with these types of resources. Keep up the good work!

  36. patricia says:

    Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for providing this information. I am sure my clients would welcome this succinct and friendly information during our psycho educational moments.

  37. Susan Murray says:

    A great resource to use when working with clients to help them understand what’s going on in their brains when we’re working with trauma symptoms. Thank you!

  38. Linda Bramble says:

    Thank you for such an easy to use rescourse for my clients and for myself.

  39. Prue McDonald says:

    I have brain trauma its affecting my brain nerves and muscles

  40. Nanci says:

    Thank you for all your hard work & interest in helping others.

  41. Billur Ugursal says:

    This chart will be helpful in explaining the effects of single event trauma to my clients. They will understand
    why they have strong emotions out of context.

    I wonder how the brain is affected by chronic (prolonged) trauma as in children in war zones or children who
    grow up with chronic physical/sexual/mental abuse.

    I also am wondering if hallucinations and delusions are a byproducst of prolonged trauma?
    Is there research addressing this topic?

    And lastly, the diagnosis of schizophrenia: schizophrenia was coined in 1911 by Bleuler. PTSD was coined in the 70’s if I am not mistaken. I wonder how many people have been misdiagnosed as schizophrenic between those years? Is there a study that touches on this?

    Thank you,
    Billur Ugursal

    • Jo says:

      Great questions Billur

  42. Wendy says:

    What a beautifully presented simply stated chart to help people I know, who may be a little like me, to understand how trauma can impact the memory. It is enjoyable to discover ways to improve and understand how memory works and why memory is the way it is. Thank you so much for your generosity! You’re the best!!!

  43. Mai Mai says:

    Thank you very much for this. Very grateful.

  44. James says:

    thanks

  45. Sharrron Gordon says:

    Yet to read as my partner has short term memory loss due to an infection possibly. Dr said he was medical conumdrum .
    I am sure this will be very helpful

  46. Silvano says:

    Thank you very much for your job! I held your copyright, your image but I translated in italian. I hope I have your permission.

  47. Linda Franchi PhD
    This simple diagram can be used with Deaf and Hard of Hear clients. The visual representations make it easy to explain in American Sign Language. Well done and thank you !

  48. Lisa Thomas says:

    I am not a professional, i am a person of trauma, and have dealt with depression, ptsd, and now since my 40’s suffer from fibromyalgia, as well as osteoarthritis which as you can imagine, does not help with the fibro. Your diagram give me some understanding, but is there information you can give people like me to help us who cannot afford help/support.

  49. Vida Boyce says:

    I have PTSD given to me by Three Policemen! CASE DISMISSED! I have had to take early retirement. I had an MRI, which had determined the level in my Brain, was affecting my behavior. I am a graduate from Nova Southeastern University. I was a Foreign Language and Special Education Teacher. On the night of my horrific experience, my Handicap Husband, who had been HANDCUFFED, while one “Gang Cop” was attacking me in my HANDICAP ROOM! They BROKE INTO A HANDICAP ROOM and TRULY HAD NO IDEA WHO WAS HANDICAP! NO 911! I was dragged out of my HANDICAP ROOM, as I was CRYING AND SCREAMING! I didn’t know WHAT or WHERE this CRAZY COP, was going to TAKE ME! I THOUGHT THIS COP WAS GOING TO RAPE ME!

  50. Larry Beyak says:

    I had a friend c\o memory flashbacks 2 nights ago. Miraculously, the NICABM info pkg. on How to deal with PTSD Flashbacks appeared in my email box just a few short hours before.
    I forwarded this to my friend, who slept soundly , for the first time in 2 wks. , that night.
    As a clinical Paramedic helping peers through education, allows me to not only to lead through training, but builds my self esteem.
    Paramedics mental health, is finally being respectfully recognized. NICABM’s series on PTSD and it’s associated etiologies clinical program cannot be timelier, to assist in awareness for these allied health care providers.

    Thank you,

    Larry Beyak PCP
    Ontario Canada

  51. I would like to do a study that integrates concepts of neuroplasticity with vision therapy techniques learned (which I have learned working under neuro-developmental optometrist, Dr. Jennifer Kungle) to treat reading disabilities from a holistic approach. I believe that by applying vision therapy techniques that also encompass occupational therapy concepts systematically integrated into evidence based reading interventions could be the catalyst for major developments in reading theory.

    • decades of art therapy theory & practice & evidence from teaching sign language to hearing children in early years would all seem to support this – I often wonder why visual-plastic-somatic / movement based methods aren’t already used more. Good luck with your work.

  52. Elizabeth Skipper says:

    I am a full time carer for my daughter who has trauma psychosis and BPD. This is very useful for me to help me understand the way she is. Please keep up the good work I truly appreciate it.

  53. Jacinta Kent says:

    I found this infographic really helpful, thanks. It’s good to be reminded of how trauma impacts different parts of the brain.

  54. Thank you for this great information. It explains our memory challenges so well. I am a survivor of 19 years of sexual, physical, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and gas-lighting and public humiliation, by both parents.
    I am an ICF certified life coach, and I’ve done a lot of work with survivors of all types of abuse. This chart will be very helpful.
    As well, I am involved with, and committed to the Opening The Circle project here in London, ON, which is an emerging development of peer support. And, for the past 5 years I have hosted a “Learning & Support Group for Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse” at the London Public Library, Central location.
    And, I have a close family member who thinks my messed up memory is simply an excuse. Will share with them too.

    • Victoria carter says:

      Hi I relate to all you say . Look up Rapid Transformational Therapy, I use it to free people like us from All the different ways body cries out to try and tell us what happened when we were small, diseases such as functional neurological disorder, bipolar, OCD, PTSD

  55. I would like to get your permission to include this print out as a handout in a webinar I teach. I will obviously leave the copyright information there and provide the handout unaltered and inform participants that I received permission to share the handout. This is one of the lay-person friendliest handouts I have seen to explain impact of trauma on the memory.

    Thank you! You can email me personally regarding receiving permission.

  56. Cynthia Schroer says:

    Would you please speak to the interplay of addiction and trauma. What is the feedback loop neurologically (and therefore, psychoneuroimmunologically) with nicotine, alcohol and sex addictions when trauma is not released, or healed? Thank you very much

  57. Hi. Thank-You for another informative Info-Graphic that explains how our brain functions and in what areas of the brain different types of memories reside. Very useful for my work with Relationship Issues, because one or both people in the relationship may have different types of traumas that impact the relationship. I can show this Info-Graphic to my clients so they can see that the brain stores memories in a variety of ways.

  58. Christine Adams says:

    Very helpful for understanding what is actually going on in my brain. Without your help I would still be STUCK>

  59. Judy says:

    Very helpful graphic and info to use with folks. I appreciate your work.

  60. Trudy says:

    Love the info-graphics you have made available in this series. Also love the way you tie the whole package of theory and practical and usable techniques together. So useful! Thank you

  61. I accidentally came across this website, but having a childhood history of horrific trauma, and additionally in my adult years due to PTSD, Bipolar 1, Anxiety/Panic attacks, SAD, and MDD I have battled to survive all my life. I am 54 year old female, and under the treatment of both Psychiatrist and Psychologist. On medications prescribed by Doctor’s only. Also strive to learn all I can on how to thrive and not just survive. Mental Illness and suicides are genetic on both my mother and Dad’s side of family history. Thank you

  62. Kati Morrison, Ottawa, Canada, retired psychiaterist says:

    Many thanks for sending the memory chart.Your work is really appreciated. Even in retirement I enjoy watching the webinars and learn from the extra material.

  63. Deborah says:

    I work with folks who have been traumatized often so this is very thought provoking as well as helpful. thank you!

  64. Barbara Caspy says:

    Thank you again,Ruth! This infographic will be extremely helpful to my clients’ understanding of how trauma has affected their lives.

  65. Kathy Brous says:

    Dear Ruth – This graphic made my day; it’s brilliant. Please let us know if we may put it on slides to show at non-commercial educational events about trauma, with of course detailed attribution to NICABM. I’ll also mention when showing the slide that NICABM is the “go-to” source on trauma education. I’m co-founder of the Orange County California Task Force on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, and what we do is public education on the widespread nature of trauma and the bio-medical blow-back.

    You, Ruth, personally and NICABM have certainly been my go-to source since my first Gold Subscription in 2011 and I’d also delighted with my subscription to the current Treating Trauma Master Series. I got so much earlier from watching one person like Allan Schore or Peter Levine just develop their thoughts for an hour, so I worried to lose that with your new format, but now I love it. Particularly Module 3’s segment on Procedural Memory is so mission-critical and you bring new insights to it, the way you pull everyone’s thoughts together. God bless you — I can’t stop watching this video!

  66. Mitra BIshop says:

    Thank you! Helpful!

  67. Ramona V. Abella says:

    Thank you very much. This Trauma Series is awesome and I am very grateful to be the lucky recipient even though I am unable to invest on the tuition fee at this moment. This memory infographic is wonderful, especially since I missed the last module on memory and trauma. And, most importantly, I will definitely use it to educate my clients who have experienced trauma. It will help to deepen the understanding of their own behaviors and symptoms and remove some of the shame and self-blame for their difficulties. Again, thank you!

  68. Sue French says:

    Thank you for making this information available, I can use this to explain to my trauma clients what is happening for them. The fact that this series is free is so beneficial, I am newly qualified and just can’t afford to pay the costs of most training modules. P.S. I’m on the west coast of Australia and it screens at 5 and 6.30am!

  69. Canyon Sam says:

    Dear Ruth,
    I am really benefitting from the series…Thank You!
    Do you have someone could could refer to do this work in or near Marin County in Northern California? We have a friend who is in dire need of some professional help with grief and trauma; she lives near Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. It should be a very experienced pro.
    Thank you!
    Ms. Canyon Sam

    • Sherry Skillwoman says:

      Canyon Sam from behind the Berkeley Hills? Wow, blast from the past. Sherry VSC

  70. Elizabeth says:

    I am a counselor and educator. I have also had a major trauma in my life at age 6. Since then, the effect has had a major impact on my Implicit Memory, specifically, my procedural memory. I have a habit that I want to break free from as it has kept me from proceeding forward with my passionate career. I have been listening to your wonderful webinars and have learned a lot about myself. In order to help others, I want to get help. I would like recommendations of therapists in my area. Please email me personally.

    Thank you.

  71. Thank you, Ruth. This has been an excellent program! Your efforts are tremendously appreciated.

  72. Vi B says:

    As a mental health professional who uses Brainspotting and EMDR techniques, this is very helpful in explaining to clients how our brain works. THANK YOU!

  73. Regina Hartley says:

    Thank you so much for the excellent graphic. As a Speech Language Pathologist, I love the relationship of the various memories to language in helping children process information and express themselves.

  74. Thank you for this visual aid.
    I’m a yoga teacher & volunteer teacher with Frontline Yoga Inc., and working with first responders.
    This series gives me a deeper understanding of the impact trauma has on our frontline warriors, their families and those affected by trauma in my community.
    Thank you

  75. Jessica Jarrard says:

    Thank you for the visual handout. This is not only helpful to me, but I can use it when I am educating clients about trauma and recovery.
    As always, you provide exceptional training and I appreciate you very much,
    Jessica Jarrard, LCSW

  76. Hilary Adele says:

    The visual suits my learning style, this is a great bonus learning tool.
    thank you.
    this particular series helped me accept my own trauma recovery with more understanding and acceptance.
    Many thanks Ruth. and your team.

  77. Natalie says:

    Thank you for sharing this very helpful tool!

  78. tamara says:

    This is SO helpful for my clients. Having it as a graphic makes it useful as both an educational tool and as a therapeutic tool as it normalizes the experience.
    Thank you!

  79. Tracy Hamilton says:

    I live in an isolated area where training and workshops are rarely delivered and travel to larger city centres is expensive. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn about trauma and how it affects my clients AND how to best approach treatment for those impacted. The content of the webinars is the best I have experienced thus far in webinar based workshops on ANY topic. Thank you so much for this opportunity to grow my professional capacity conveniently and at no cost. You are providing a much needed service!!

  80. Jacqueline Elder says:

    I don’t see anything about PTSD and suicide attempt survivors. We experience PTSD which is why it is so hard to get better from suicidality and its depression. Any interest in that? I would be happy to write something on it.

    Dr. Jacque Elder

    • Kyle S says:

      I would love to take a look at it since it is a very interesting topic to me. I am not sure about the stats either so it would be intriguing to see the outcomes.

  81. Lydia W says:

    Amazing! I don’t remember having some info like this for attachment types in relation to trauma. But thank you for the great graphic.

  82. Lydia Watson says:

    Amazing! I don’t remember having some info like this for attachment types in relation to trauma. But thank you for the great graphic.

  83. Peter Schmid says:

    Thank you for the helpful overview! I love watching the free broadcosts. They give me practical impulses in a stimulating teaching stile.

  84. Thanks you – super helpful! Would love to see more visuals like this – such a great educational tool!

  85. Margaret Bartlett says:

    Thank you for your generous sharing. I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I appreciate the years of research, dedication, interest and time put into this entire body of work.

  86. Mary T Williams PhD says:

    Thank you, excellent resource. I love getting this information.

    Mary T Williams PhD

  87. Robin Williams says:

    Thank you so much for the info graphic. It will be very helpful in working with my coaching clients.

  88. Valerie says:

    Thank you, this explains so much

  89. Very Nice

  90. Dr Michel Larouche, psychologue says:

    Merci beaucoup Ruth ! C’est vraiment très généreux de ta part de nous faire parvenir de tels outils.

  91. Alice Olsher says:

    Thanks Ruth . The pictures and comments make it very clear how the trauma affects different parts of the brain.
    It will be very helpful to explain to therapists and students the way my work Alexander Technique affects affects the brain in a positive way.
    I would like to talk to you more about this as research goes on I think Alexander is a great tool to help both therapists and clients work through Trauma .
    Anything I use will of course be credited to you and Nicam.
    Best,
    Alice

  92. Bob Blundo says:

    Very helpful! Helps to connect all the various areas of the brain and the functions related to memory.

  93. Becky says:

    I wish you had taught my college psychology classes. This is so straightforward and simple.

  94. Rochelle says:

    Thank you so much. It is a great infographic.

  95. Hilary says:

    Brilliant ….. this resource will be invaluable. Blessings for creating and sharing it.

  96. Marie says:

    Such useful tools for practitioners to show clients and discuss with them. Thank you so much.

  97. Thank you. Very useful

    • Ruth T Naylor, PhD says:

      Lenora – long time since I’ve seen your name! This series is right up the street of Autogenic Therapists – we work through the body systems using Schultz-type practice, training people to calm body and clear mind, and many times trauma memories surface. Thank you for this very valuable tool and series.

  98. I love this Ruth! Thanks so much for all of the effort in creating this very easy to understand tool to assist in conceptualising the impact of trauma on memory.

    Brilliant and refreshing too.

    I am going to send a separate note to you directly in relation to your activities in Australia and my potential involvement.

    Many thanks and huge gratitude for all that you and the team at NICABM do for all of us i.e. the practitioners and the clients i.e. the navigators of PTS.

    Donnamarie!

  99. Maddie Nixon says:

    Thank you, very helpful tool that explains what happens simply.

  100. Mike Wallace says:

    Thank you. It is very informative.

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