Dissociative Amnesia

The clinical feature of amnesia is loss of memory or failure to recall stored information. There are two kinds of amnesia: retrograde, which means the inability to recall or identify previously acquired information, and anterograde, which is the inability to retain new information. Dissociative amnesia occurs as a result of a traumatic brain injury or disease of the central nervous system. When amnesia is caused by brain pathology, it is the failure to retain new information and experiences; on the other hand, dissociative amnesia is the inability to recall the stored information.

The gap in memory is caused by a stressful situation, for example, a war or catastrophic event such as car accidents, suicide attempts, or traumatic experiences. The forgotten information is beneath the level of consciousness, and in some cases, through hypnosis or medication, the memory is retrieved.

Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia

  • Inability to recall important information followed by a traumatic or stressful event is not consistent with ordinary forgetting.
  • The amnesia episode lasted between a few days and a few years.
  • They forget personal life histories or important facts about their identity. However, the habits and abilities of the person remain intact.
  • This disturbance can cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  • Lack of awareness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Amnesia is not associated with physiological effects, substance abuse, or alcohol consumption.

Dissociative fugue is a defense that is an actual flight. A person is not only amnesic but also departs from their home surroundings. There is confusion about their personal identity, and they assume a new identity. The fugue state can persist for days, weeks, and years. People will suddenly emerge from their fugue state and find themselves in strange places, taking up new jobs, and having no idea why or how they got there.

Cause of Dissociative Amnesia

  • Experiencing neglect or abuse
  • Experiencing or witnessing violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Car accidents, witnessing the death of another person, or serious injury.
  • Life-altering or traumatic experiences, for example, war or becoming a refugee.

Diagnosis and test

A mental health professional can diagnose dissociative amnesia by looking into the symptoms that the individual describes and by asking questions. There is no specific psychometric tool designed to diagnose the disorder. Some tests are administered, like magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalograms. Blood work is also taken to check if there are any toxins or drugs.


Dissociative amnesia is not a curable disorder. However, there are treatments that can help the individual manage the symptoms and cope with the disorder. The first essential thing to do is to remove the person from the traumatic place that is triggering or worsening the client’s amnesia. In some cases, the individual will need hospitalization, serious medical care, and supervision.

There is no specific medication to treat amnesia; other medications are prescribed if the client has associated mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. Treatments are focused on bringing the memory back and regaining their ability to recall. Therapies are recommended to help the client develop healthy coping mechanisms to handle and manage their everyday life.




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