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Amnesia vs. Alzheimer’s: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 6, 2024
Amnesia is memory loss, often temporary and specific; Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disease causing memory and cognitive decline.

Key Differences

Amnesia typically refers to a partial or total loss of memory, often caused by trauma or disease. It usually impacts specific memory types or periods. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that gradually impairs memory and cognitive functions over time, affecting all aspects of memory and daily functioning.
The onset of amnesia can be sudden, following an event like a head injury or psychological trauma. This sudden impact contrasts with Alzheimer’s, which develops slowly and progressively worsens over several years, often starting with mild memory lapses.
In amnesia, the memory loss can sometimes be reversed or improved, depending on the cause. Treatment can include therapy or medication. In contrast, Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure, and treatments primarily focus on managing symptoms and slowing progression.
Amnesia often affects a specific type of memory, such as episodic memory (personal experiences), but leaves other types intact. Alzheimer’s disease, however, leads to a widespread loss of memory, including both recent and old memories, and eventually impairs reasoning and language skills.
The social and emotional impacts of amnesia can vary widely, but it often leaves other cognitive functions intact. Alzheimer's disease not only affects memory but also gradually impairs the ability to carry out daily activities, leading to significant lifestyle changes and dependency.

Comparison Chart


Loss of memory, often partial
Progressive brain disease


Sudden, post-trauma
Gradual, age-related

Memory Affected

Specific types or events
All memory and cognition


Sometimes reversible
Currently irreversible

Impact on Daily Life

Varies; often less severe
Progressive, severe impact

Amnesia and Alzheimer's Definitions


Loss of memory.
After the accident, he experienced amnesia and couldn't remember the event.


Disease causing cognitive decline.
Alzheimer’s affected his ability to solve problems.


A condition causing forgetfulness.
The disease caused him to suffer from amnesia, forgetting names and faces.


Chronic illness leading to memory loss.
Alzheimer’s made him increasingly forgetful of recent events.


Inability to recall past experiences.
She had amnesia and couldn't recall her childhood.


Progressive brain disorder affecting memory.
Her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s made her forget familiar faces.


Memory gap due to trauma or illness.
The fever resulted in a temporary amnesia about the incident.


Neurodegenerative condition impairing thinking.
The early signs of Alzheimer’s included his impaired judgment.


Disruption in memory retrieval.
His amnesia made it difficult to recall recent events.


Progressive loss of brain function.
Alzheimer’s gradually affected his speech and understanding.


Loss of memory, usually resulting from shock, psychological disturbance, brain injury, or illness.


A progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness


(pathology) Loss of memory; forgetfulness.


(figurative) Forgetfulness.
A state of cultural amnesia


A potent sativa-dominant strain of marijuana.


Forgetfulness; also, a defect of speech, from cerebral disease, in which the patient substitutes wrong words or names in the place of those he wishes to employ.


Partial or total loss of memory;
He has a total blackout for events of the evening


Can amnesia be temporary?

Yes, amnesia can be temporary, especially when caused by trauma or psychological factors.

What causes Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's is caused by brain cell degeneration; exact causes are unknown but include genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Can young people get amnesia?

Yes, amnesia can affect individuals of any age, depending on its cause.

Does amnesia affect all types of memory?

No, amnesia often affects specific types of memory, like episodic or short-term memory.

Is there a cure for Alzheimer's?

No, there is no cure for Alzheimer's, but treatments can help manage symptoms.

How does Alzheimer's progress?

Alzheimer's progresses in stages, from mild memory loss to severe cognitive impairment.

Can therapy help with amnesia?

Yes, cognitive therapy can sometimes help in recovering lost memories or coping with amnesia.

What is amnesia?

Amnesia is a condition marked by memory loss, often caused by trauma or disease.

Does amnesia affect identity?

Amnesia can affect aspects of personal identity, but it doesn't always erase it completely.

Is amnesia always caused by physical injury?

No, amnesia can also result from psychological trauma or certain medical conditions.

What daily challenges do Alzheimer's patients face?

Challenges include difficulty with memory, language, decision-making, and performing everyday tasks.

How does Alzheimer's affect communication?

Alzheimer's can impair the ability to understand and use language effectively.

What are early signs of Alzheimer's?

Early signs include forgetfulness, confusion, and trouble with familiar tasks.

Can amnesia be induced deliberately?

In rare cases, medical procedures can induce amnesia, but it's not a common practice.

Are there medications for amnesia?

Treatment depends on the cause; some forms may respond to medications.

Are Alzheimer's and dementia the same?

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer's.

What support is available for Alzheimer's patients?

Support includes medications, therapy, caregiver resources, and support groups.

Can lifestyle changes prevent Alzheimer's?

Healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk but not entirely prevent Alzheimer's.

How is Alzheimer's diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves medical history, cognitive tests, and sometimes brain imaging.

Is amnesia hereditary?

Some forms of amnesia may have genetic factors, but it's not usually hereditary.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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