Dissociative Amnesia: Treatment, Symptoms, Causes & Definition

Instructor: Vidhi Desai
Sometimes, it takes us awhile to remember what we had for dinner last night, or what we did two days ago, though we can generally piece it all together. For people with amnesia, remembering is a much more difficult task. This lesson will focus on a particular type of amnesia called dissociative amnesia.


Types of Amnesia

Think of the kind of amnesia that popular TV shows and soap operas usually exhibit. When people learn about amnesia, they usually learn about the anterograde and retrograde types. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to form new memories, but the ability to remember events before the onset of amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is the inability to recall memories before the onset of amnesia, but the ability to form new memories. All kinds of amnesia can be difficult for the patient and their loves ones. In this lesson, our focus is on dissociative amnesia.

What is Dissociative Amnesia?

Dissociative amnesia is the inability to remember certain past events and/or personal information. The cause of dissociative amnesia is psychological, such as trauma or stress. Research states that the frequency rises during wartime. In response to trauma, our bodies utilize our psychological defense mechanisms, which can make us temporarily or permanently forget what happened.


Examples of traumatic or stressful experiences that might cause dissociative amnesia are wars, abuse, accidents, disasters, or extreme violence. For example, if Lieutenant John Smith came back from war and was unable to recall battles, he might be suffering from dissociative amnesia. If he shot eight people in self-defense, his brain might be forgetting due to the nature of the incidents. Life or death experiences can often be stressful enough to trigger dissociative amnesia.

Components of Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative amnesia can include repressed memories and dissociative fugue. Repressed memories are events we temporarily forget after trauma. They are stored in our long-term memory and it is possible to access them later, in part or in full. There is no guarantee of complete recollection. The state of dissociative fugue is a temporary unawareness of identity. Someone experiencing dissociative fugue may suddenly travel away from familiar surroundings or attempt to form new identities.


  • Sudden inability to remember past experiences
  • Sudden inability to remember personal information
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

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