Dissociative amnesia

Affected individuals have memory lapses that can range from a few minutes to decades.

The disorder is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms, after investigations have ruled out other possible causes.

Memory recovery methods such as hypnosis and medication-assisted interviewing are used to fill in the memory gaps.

Psychotherapy is necessary to help sufferers cope with the experience that caused the disorder.

Amnesia is the complete or partial inability to remember recent experiences or experiences from the distant past. When amnesia is caused by psychological rather than general medical disorders, it is called dissociative amnesia.

In dissociative amnesia, memory loss usually involves information that is part of ongoing conscious awareness or autobiographical memory:

Who you talked to

What one did, said, thought, or felt

Often the lost memories are information about a traumatic or stressful event, such as childhood abuse. Sometimes this information influences behavior even though the victim has forgotten it. For example, a woman who was raped in an elevator avoids elevators and refuses to use them even though she cannot remember any details of the assault.

Dissociative amnesia is more common in women than in men and usually affects people who have experienced or witnessed traumatic situations, such as physical or sexual abuse, rape, war, genocide, accidents, natural disasters, or the death of a loved one. This type of amnesia may also occur as a result of worry about severe financial problems or as a result of a major internal conflict (such as guilt over certain impulses or actions, seemingly intractable interpersonal difficulties, or crimes committed).

Dissociative amnesia may persist for some time after the traumatic experience. Sometimes sufferers seem to recover their memory spontaneously.

How accurately such recovered memories reflect actual past events may be unclear unless confirmed by others or evidence.

Symptoms of dissociative amnesia

The predominant symptom of dissociative amnesia is memory loss.

Memory loss may include:

A specific event(s) or time period, for example, the months or years a person was abused as a child or spent in war (localized amnesia)

Only certain aspects of an event or only certain events in a period of time (selective amnesia)

Personal identity and entire life history, sometimes including safely acquired skills and information about the world (generalized amnesia)

Information of a certain category, such as information about a particular person or his or her family (systematized amnesia)

Every new event that occurs (continuous amnesia)

Generalized amnesia is rare. It is more common in war veterans, persons who have been victims of sexual assault, and persons who have been exposed to extreme stress or conflict. Usually it starts suddenly.

Amnesia may not occur immediately following the traumatic or stressful event. This can happen after hours, days, or even later.

Shortly after memory loss, some sufferers appear confused. Some are very distressed. Others strangely indifferent.

Most people with dissociative amnesia have one or more memory lapses. These gaps usually span a few minutes to a few hours or days, but can span years, decades or even a lifetime. Most individuals are unaware or only partially aware that they have memory lapses. They don’t realize this until later, when memories return or when they are directly confronted with things they did but can’t remember them.

Individuals have difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships.

Some individuals have flashbacks, as seen in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with strong, unpleasant, and disturbed reactions that begin after an overwhelming traumatic event. Life-threatening. Learn more ) occur. This means they relive events as if they were actually happening and have no awareness of the subsequent personal past, such as having survived the trauma. Flashbacks may alternate with amnesia regarding what happened during the flashback. Some people with dissociative amnesia later develop PTSD, especially when they become aware of the trauma or stressful situation that had caused the amnesia.

In rare cases, people with an extreme form of dissociative amnesia suddenly leave home for a while. During this time, they do not remember parts of their life or their entire life, including who they are (their identity). These episodes are called dissociative fugue Dissociative fugue In dissociative fugue, individuals lose some or all memories of their own past and usually disappear from their familiar living environment, leaving their family. Learn more refers to.

Diagnosis of dissociative amnesia

Examination by the doctor

Sometimes investigations to rule out other causes

Doctors diagnose dissociative amnesia based on the sufferer’s symptoms:

They cannot remember important personal information (usually related to the trauma or stress) that they would not normally forget.

The symptoms cause them a great deal of distress or interfere with their way of life in social situations or at work.

Sometimes further testing is needed to rule out other causes of amnesia. Tests include:

Magnetic resonance imaging Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses a strong magnetic field and high-frequency radio waves to produce very detailed images. X-rays are not used for an MRI. Learn more (MRI) or computed tomography Computed tomography (CT) A computed tomography (CT) scan, formerly called axial computed tomography (CAT), involves an X-ray source and X-ray detector rotating around a patient. The X-ray detector. Learn more (CT) to rule out a brain tumor or structural brain diseases

Blood or urine tests for toxins and drugs, for example, to rule out the use of recreational or illegal drugs Recreational drugs and intoxicants Learn More.

A psychological examination is also performed. Special psychological testing often helps doctors better characterize and understand a person’s dissociative experiences and thereby develop a treatment plan.

Prognosis for dissociative amnesia

Sometimes the memories come back quickly, for example, when the victims are released from the traumatic or stressful situation (such as war). In other cases the amnesia lasts for a long time, especially in people with dissociative fugue. Symptoms may decrease with age.

Most people regain what appear to be their lost memories and resolve the conflicts that caused the amnesia. However, some people never overcome the barriers that prevent them from remembering their past.

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