Vidhi holds a Masters in Education, B.A. in Spanish Literature from Rutgers University. Vidhi has experience working in academic affairs and staff management.
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
- Counseling: A mental health professional would try to communicate with the sufferer to gain insight into underlying issues.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy includes exploring the patient's thought patterns and helping transform negative emotions and behaviors into healthy ones.
- Medication: While there is no medicine specifically for dissociative amnesia, antidepressant or antianxiety medication may help depending on the specific symptoms that the patient experiences.
- Family therapy: This is therapy for the patient's loved ones. Mental health professionals educate them and provide tips as to what can be beneficial for the patient.
- Art or music therapy: Depending on if the patient is relaxed by art or music, this can be a method of exploration of memories. For example, patients may be able to draw events that occurred even though they are unable to recall them verbally.
- Hypnosis: Hypnosis involves the hypnotist and the patient. The hypnotist attempts to relax the patient and encourage exploration of memories in an alternate state of consciousness (the subconscious). Sometimes, if the patient cannot consciously recall the past, the memories may be stored below the surface in their subconscious mind. This is a very controversial treatment because it can create false memories.
Finishing the lesson on dissociative amnesia could result in these outcomes:
- Specify the types of amnesia
- Define dissociative amnesia
- List its causes
- Identify the components and symptoms of the disorder
- Recite some treatment options
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