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Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative Amnesia is a type of amnesia caused by trauma or stress resulting in an inability to recall important personal information. Amnesia may also be a symptom of other psychological disorders, including PTSD or somatization disorder.

In Dissociative Amnesia, the lost memory usually involves autobiographical information such as personal identity, and/or people, places or events that are considered familiar to the individual. Though forgotten, this previously known information often continues to influence the individual's behavior.

Individuals with this disorder usually have one or more gaps in memory of anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours or days. However, memory loss can sometimes span years or even an individual's entire life.

Most individuals with this disorder are aware that they have missing memories or periods of time, but some may become aware of this time loss only when they are confronted with evidence that they have done or said things that they cannot recall.

Diagnostic Criteria for Dissociative Amnesia:

A. The predominant disturbance is one or more episodes of inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

B. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Fugue, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, or Somatization Disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a neurological or other general medical condition (e.g., Amnestic Disorder Due to Head Trauma).

C. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia:

The most common symptom of Dissociative Amnesia is memory loss. Memory loss may cover short or long periods of time, spanning hours or years. Confusion about identity and surroundings as well as depression are also often present in most individuals with this disorder.

Treatment of Dissociative Amnesia:

Sometimes individuals with this disorder recall their memories and personal information spontaneously, but often psychotherapy, along with hypnosis, is required. Through the use of hypnosis and drug-facilitated interviews, missing memories can often be recovered. Doctors working with amnesiac individuals must be careful not to suggest what information should be recalled, and individuals undergoing hypnosis must be made aware that memories recalled through hypnosis are not always entirely accurate and should be corroborated by external sources.

Filling in the gaps in memory to the greatest extent possible helps restore continuity to the individual's identity and sense of self. Psychotherapy generally continues after the amnesia has disappeared in order to help the individual understand the conflicts or trauma that triggered the disorder and find ways to better resolve those conflicts in the future.


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This Site Updated 04/09/11