Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 13 May 2022.
Table of contents
- Dissociative Amnesia
- What Causes Dissociative Amnesia?
- Who Develops Dissociative Amnesia?
- What Are the Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia?
- How Is Dissociative Amnesia Diagnosed?
- How Is Dissociative Amnesia Treated?
- What Is the Outlook for People With Dissociative Amnesia?
- Can Dissociative Amnesia Be Prevented?
Dissociative amnesia is one of the diseases known as dissociative disorders. Dissociative conditions are mental diseases in which memory, consciousness, awareness, identity, and/or perception are impaired or disrupted. Symptoms may occur when one or more of these roles are interrupted. These symptoms can impair a person's overall functioning, including relationships, social and occupational activities.
When a person has dissociative amnesia, they are unable to recall vital personal details because they have blocked out that information, normally associated with a painful or traumatic occurrence. The degree of memory loss in this condition extends beyond natural forgetfulness and involves long-term memory gaps or memories surrounding the traumatic incident.
Simple amnesia is not the same as dissociative amnesia, which is characterized by the absence of memories from memory as a result of a brain disorder or accident. Memories are still present in dissociative amnesia, but they are deeply embedded within the person's memory and cannot be remembered. However, memories can reoccur on their own or in response to something in the person's environment. Professionals disagree on whether “buried” memories aren't always real, and some psychologists caution against the dangers of “recovering” false traumatic memories.
What Causes Dissociative Amnesia?
Overwhelming stress has been attributed to dissociative amnesia, which may be the result of stressful experiences the individual has undergone or endured, such as war, violence, crashes, or disasters. There may also be a hereditary correlation between the occurrence of dissociative diseases, such as dissociative amnesia, and the development of dissociative amnesia since people with these disorders often have close friends who have experienced similar experiences.
Who Develops Dissociative Amnesia?
Women are more likely than men to suffer from dissociative amnesia. During difficult or painful times, such as during wartime or during a natural disaster, the incidence of dissociative amnesia continues to rise.
What Are the Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia?
The inability to recall previous memories or personal knowledge is the most common symptom of dissociative amnesia. Any people with this condition may feel perplexed and/or suffer from depression or anxiety.
How Is Dissociative Amnesia Diagnosed?
If signs of dissociative amnesia are present, the doctor will start by taking a full medical history and doing a physical examination. Although no blood tests exist to explicitly identify dissociative conditions, the doctor can use a number of medical tests like neuroimaging, electroencephalograms (EEGs) or blood tests, to rule out psychiatric or other diseases or drug side effects that may be the cause of the symptoms.
Symptoms similar to those of dissociative personalities, such as amnesia, can be caused by a variety of causes, including brain diseases, head trauma, opioid, and alcohol intoxication, and sleep deprivation.
If a medical condition is discovered, the patient can be referred to a doctor or psychologist, all of whom are qualified to identify and treat psychiatric disorders. To test an individual with a dissociative condition, therapists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment methods.
How Is Dissociative Amnesia Treated?
The first goal of dissociative amnesia therapy is to alleviate symptoms and manage any problematic activity. The goal of treatment is to help the person express and manage traumatic memories in a healthy manner, learn new coping and life skills, regain function, and strengthen relationships. The right care strategy is determined by the person and the severity of their symptoms. Treatments include:
- Psychotherapy: This form of treatment for behavioral and emotional disorders employs therapeutic approaches to promote conflict communication and improve conflict awareness.
- Cognitive therapy: This style of psychotherapy focuses on modifying unhealthy thought habits, as well as the emotions and actions that arise from them.
- Medication: There is no medication available to cure dissociative symptoms. An individual with a dissociative condition who also has depression or anxiety may benefit from antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug therapy.
- Family therapy: This type of treatment aids in the awareness of the family about the disorder and its symptoms, as well as the recognition of recurrence of symptoms.
- Creative therapies (art therapy, music therapy): These therapies help the patient to comfortably and creatively discuss and communicate their thoughts and feelings.
- Clinical hypnosis: This is a therapeutic technique that involves creating an altered state of consciousness (awareness) by deep stimulation, concentrating, and concentrated attention, helping patients to discuss emotions, perceptions, and experiences that may have been concealed from their conscious minds. Because of the possibility of developing false memories, hypnosis is controversial in the treatment of dissociative disorders.
What Is the Outlook for People With Dissociative Amnesia?
The prognosis for individuals with dissociative amnesia is determined by a variety of factors, including the individual's life condition, the effectiveness of support services, and the individual's care reaction. Memory recovers over time for certain individuals with dissociative amnesia, leaving the general view very positive.
Can Dissociative Amnesia Be Prevented?
While it is unlikely that dissociative amnesia can be prevented, it may be beneficial to initiate recovery as soon as symptoms appear. Following a stressful incident or socially distressing situation, prompt diagnosis may help to minimise the risk of developing dissociative disorders.
Referenced on 2.3.2021:
- Cleveland Clinic https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9789-dissociative-amnesia#:~:text=Dissociative%20amnesia%20is%20a%20condition,%2For%20identity%20(general).
- Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dissociative-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20355215
- Dissociative disorders. (n.d.).
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