“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Learning impairment, reduced ability to learn anxiety symptoms

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: February 9, 2021

Learning impairment, reduced ability to learn new concepts:

You have difficulty learning, remembering, and recalling new information. It seems like you now struggle with learning new things. You may also block on information that you think you should know.

This symptom can also be characterized as having difficulty remembering where you put things, what you just said, or what you were just thinking or talking about. It can also be experienced as uncharacteristically having difficulty remembering names, phone numbers, email addresses, or facts. Things that you would normally not forget, you now forget or have a hard time recalling.

This symptom can also be described as not being able to remember new information the way you are used to or think you should. The difficulty retaining new information can be so apparent that it may startle you. Some people conclude they might be suffering from the early signs of Alzheimer's Disease.

This learning impairment symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you may have a hard time learning new information once in a while and not that often, have a hard time learning new informaiton off and on, or experience it all the time.

This learning impairment symptom may precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This learning impairment symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur ‘out of the blue’ and for no apparent reason.

This learning impairment symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This learning impairment symptom can change from day to day, and/or from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

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How does anxiety cause learning impairment?

Being anxious causes the body to produce a stress response (commonly referred to as the fight or flight response). The stress response is designed to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body's ability to deal with a threat. These changes include how the brain and memory function.

For example, the stress response causes the rational and short term memory areas of the brain to become suppressed so that the fear response aspects can take precedence. This change is helpful when in real danger but can cause problems if the body experiences to frequent stress responses.

When the body experiences too frequent stress responses and the body becomes hyperstimulated (chronically stressed), the brain can experience problems with rationalizing, remembering, and recalling information. The learning impairment symptom is an example of this.

How to get rid of anxiety-caused learning impairment?

Because learning impairment due to being anxious is just a symptom of elevated stress, it needn't be a cause for concern. It will subside when you reduce your stress and give your body ample time to calm down. As your body's stress returns to a more normal level, symptoms of stress subside, including the anxiety symptom learning impairment. Therefore, anxiety- and stress-caused learning impairment needn't be a cause for concern.

Chapter 9 in the Recovery Support area of our website is our anxiety symptoms chapter. It contains detailed information about all anxiety symptoms, including what they are, why they occur, what you can do to eliminate them, and how many people experience them (the percentage of people who experience each anxiety symptom). Our anxiety symptoms chapter includes a more detailed description and explanation about the anxiety- and stress-caused learning impairment.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources:

Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including the anxiety symptom learning impairment.