Dissociative Amnesia is a condition that is part of a group called dissociative disorders and occurs when a person has periods of memory loss. It is unlike the typical amnesia we first think of, in that it is not caused by head injury or illness, but instead is a psychological disorder associated with traumatic memories or psychological stress. A person with Dissociative Amnesia can have loss of identity, important personal information, and certain memories, for at least a period of time. Usually, this is a result of overwhelmingly stressful events that have been experienced or witnessed.
Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia:
- Inability to remember certain memories
- Inability to remember personal information
- Unexplained, persistent confusion
- Depressed mood
Causes of Dissociative Amnesia
While Dissociative Amnesia can run in families, it is usually a result of traumatic events. It is sometimes viewed as an intense symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It works almost like a psychological defense mechanism, blocking out the traumatic memories. The problem is, it disrupts other memories, personal identity and information, and can cause other disorders like anxiety and depression. The causes of Dissociative Amnesia are usually extremely intense, such as memories of war or combat, witnessing brutal crimes, or experiencing abuse and violence in the personal life. These events are so immensely overwhelming that the person’s psychological state is completely disrupted for at least a short period of time.
Treatment for Dissociative Amnesia
Dissociative Amnesia is a serious psychological condition and most always requires treatment. If you or a loved one is experiencing this dissociation, it’s important to get help as soon as you can. There are many treatment options and they should be used depending on the severity of the individual condition. Methods include psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, medication, family therapy, creative therapy and clinical hypnosis.
What Should You Do?
As mentioned before, it’s vital to seek psychological help for Dissociative Amnesia. The sooner the affected individual seeks professional help, the sooner they can regain control of their life and return to a healthy state. People affected by Dissociative Amnesia need professional psychological help, because these doctors know the correct way to help the patient deal with their buried pain and express their emotional stress in a productive way. With help, they can learn new coping and life skills, improve personal, work and familial relationships and return to a normal functioning life. You can help by contacting a local psychologist/psychiatrist, or even call your regular health care provider for further information.
Links and Resources for Further Reading
- Cleveland Clinic has lots of information about Dissociative Amnesia, including a link to a live chat with a health professional.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation are both great resources to help you make sense of dissociative disorders.
- Cleveland Clinic – Information about Dissociative Amnesia, including symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
- Wikipedia – Wikipedia page for Dissociative Amnesia, including different kinds, and descriptions of other dissociative disorders.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – Website with extensive information on Dissociative Disorders.
- International Society for Study of Trauma and Dissociation – Information about dissociation, including a section of FAQ.
- American Journal of Psychiatry – Article about Dissociative Amnesia as a result of childhood abuse.