Short-term memory loss is a condition in which a person is completely or partially unable to form and hold short-term memories. Symptoms of short-term memory loss, then, involve a decrease in the person's ability to remember information for a few seconds or minutes. In some cases, symptoms only involve a decrease in what the individual can remember in the short-term and have little to do with long-term memory. In other cases, as in anterograde amnesia, the person is unable to form any new memories at all, thereby also affecting long- term memory. In either case, short-term memory loss tends to be a seriously debilitating condition that negatively affects all aspects of life.
People who experience short-term memory loss typically have a reduction in the "capacity" of their short-term memory. This type of memory can generally hold between five and nine pieces of distinct information, such as numbers or words. An individual with short-term memory loss, then, may be unable to remember as many different pieces of information or may be unable to remember them for as long as someone with a completely functional memory. It is possible, though, that he will still be able, over time, to transfer items from short-term memory to long-term memory. While it may be difficult to cope with such reduced memory, it is still possible to function in work and personal life, especially through the use of memory aides like writing frequent notes about things to remember.
In some cases, short-term memory loss means that new memories are, quite simply, "lost" and cannot be transferred to long-term memory. This is referred to as anterograde amnesia and is characterized by an inability to form new memories. Information, such as names, faces, phone numbers, and dates, enter the short-term memory but are lost over time as new pieces of information replace them. It can be much more difficult to live with memory loss of this type, as it is essentially impossible to learn new information or to retain memories.
These different symptoms of short-term memory loss can arise from a variety of different sources. Head trauma, as from car crashes or falling, can cause such effects on memory. A variety of diseases can also cause memory problems. Some drugs also affect memory, though their affects tend to be acute and may pass over time.