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Forgetfulness in Teens

author image Alicia Rudnicki
Alicia Rudnicki's Library Mix website blends book buzz for all ages. A gardener, she writes for California's Flowers by the Sea nursery. She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from UC Berkeley, a Master of Arts in education from CU Denver, and has taught K-12.
Forgetfulness in Teens
Forgetfulness in Teens Photo Credit: JohanJK/iStock/Getty Images

Forgetfulness can be a problem for teenagers. While forgetting some things can be completely normal, there are some conditions that can cause it to happen more often, such as depression, dyslexia, attentional disorders, hypothyroidism, sleep deprivation and substance abuse. However, before concluding that your child has a serious problem, keep in mind that organizational abilities normally improve as teens mature.

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Teens have less life experience than adults. They are just beginning to develop coping skills for responding to troubling situations, so difficulties may weigh on them more than adults realize. Depression or anxiety can also cause short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating. It notes that other signs of depression include withdrawal from family, friends and favorite activities as well as changes in grades and sleep patterns.


Dyslexia involves academic difficulties with reading, spelling and writing. But it can also be a cause of disorganization and forgetfulness. Dyslexic teens may experience short-term memory lapses that make it difficult to remember telephone numbers, follow lists of instructions and take notes in school. They may appear forgetful by losing track in conversations or not hearing everything that is said.

Attentional Disorders

Teens who have learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders may be forgetful due to a shortage of "executive function" skills. Executive functions include the abilities to remember, organize and complete tasks. They also help teens connect past experiences to choices made in the present. Teens who have delays in executive-function development may also make bad social choices due to forgetting past learning experiences.


People of all ages, from infancy to old age, may experience memory problems due to hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland. Kids Health says that hypothyroidism can sometimes cause memory problems and make concentration difficult for teens. It notes that other symptoms include weight gain, depression, slower development, dry skin, muscle weakness and irregular menstrual periods in teen girls.

Sleep Difficulties

Poor sleep habits, such as repeatedly going to bed late despite having to wake up early, interfere with memory. But teen sleep deprivation can also be caused by more serious problems, such as depression, insomnia or narcolepsy, a disorder causing a person to fall asleep at inappropriate times. Another disorder, sleep apnea, which causes loud snoring and a temporary halt to breathing during sleep, causes daytime drowsiness that makes it difficult to concentrate and remember.

Substance Abuse

Severe forgetfulness may also be a warning signal that a teen is taking illegal drugs or developing a drinking problem. Marijuana particularly affects short-term memory loss. Other symptoms of substance abuse include extreme low energy and disengagement.

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