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Dissociative Amnesia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Aug 11, 2023

Dissociative Amnesia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Dissociative amnesia causes you to forget important facts about your past. This forgetting may be general or specific in nature, affecting a substantial portion of your identity or experience.

You might lose all or most of your personal information (name, history, and friends), and in extremely rare circumstances known as dissociative fugue, you might even leave your house and assume a completely new identity. 

Dissociative amnesia is one of a number of conditions referred to as dissociative disorders.

Mental illnesses known as dissociative disorders are characterized by a disruption of normally functioning mental processes, such as memory, consciousness or awareness, identity, and/or perception.

Dissociative symptoms can range from minor to incapacitating, depending on how severe they are. Relationships and work-related activities may also be impacted.

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Types Of Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative amnesia (DA) is a dissociative disorder. Dissociative disorders are an example of mental disease. A gap between your memories, identity, and environment signifies them.

If you have a dissociative disorder, you could feel disconnected from your surroundings. In some circumstances, dissociative episodes might last for hours, days, or even weeks or months.

There are various types of Dissociative amnesia, such as:

  • Localized. You lose the memory of certain historical events when this occurs.
  • Generalized. There is a complete loss of memory, including information about the identity and previous events. It's quite unusual.
  • Fugue. You might lose most or all of your personal information during a dissociative fugue and wander or go places you wouldn't typically go.

Causes Of Dissociative Amnesia

Traumatic or extremely stressful circumstances are linked to Dissociative amnesia. Examples could include anything like:

  • Being abused physically, emotionally, or sexually while fighting in a war.
  • Being a victim of a crime or witnessing one being committed, going through a natural disaster like an earthquake or storm, or experiencing extreme stress because of your relationships, finances, or employment.

Regarding the reasons why these occurrences could result in Dissociative amnesia, there are many theories. It's believed that a variety of them interact in complex ways to contribute to the emergence of the condition:

The brain seeks to shield you from painful memories by dissociating itself from a traumatic experience, which leads to Dissociative amnesia.

Your brain's capacity to recall particular memories associated with those times is hampered by the stress from traumatic occurrences.

According to certain research, genetics might contribute to the emergence of dissociative episodes.

Symptoms Of Dissociative Amnesia

The inability to recall significant autobiographical details is the main sign of dissociation amnesia. People who have this illness either forget vital details about their identity and the identities of those around them or they forget specific events or locations in their lives.

In many situations of dissociative amnesia, the patient may not be aware that they have lost their memory and may instead just appear confused or agitated. The following are other signs of the disorder:

  • Forgetting key details about oneself, such as one's name and place of residence or employment.
  • Feeling cut off from your feelings, your emotions, and those around you.
  • Your memory loss causing a disruption to your daily functioning
  • Forgetting specific times in your life.

The following conditions could possibly be linked to dissociative amnesia:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicidal feelings or behavior

Diagnosis Of Dissociative Amnesia

A thorough medical history and physical examination are the first steps a doctor will take to diagnose Dissociative amnesia. They can utilize this to rule out further amnestic factors like:

  • Illnesses
  • Brain injury
  • Consequences of alcohol and drugs

You will be sent to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist if a physical cause of your amnesia can be ruled out. This individual has received training in recognizing and diagnosing a variety of mental diseases.

We will conduct a psychological examination to gather information, acquire a clear picture of your life experiences, and assess your level of functioning. Along with your behaviors, ideas, and feelings, questions will be asked concerning your symptoms.

A diagnosis could be made using several methods in addition to a psychological evaluation. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is one illustration. It was created by the American Psychiatric Association.

Treatment Of Dissociative Amnesia

The Dissociative amnesia treatment's goals consist of:

  • Reducing the symptoms of amnesia and helping you regain awareness of your surroundings by teaching you safe ways to deal with traumatic or painful situations. 
  • Helping you acquire new coping or living skills that will improve your level of functioning.

As Dissociative amnesia treatments, therapy, and medication are used:

  • Therapy. Hypnosis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and talk therapy (psychotherapy) are just a few examples of methods that can be used for this.
  • Medications. No particular medications exist to manage Dissociative amnesia. But conditions like depression and anxiety disorders, which can coexist with Dissociative amnesia, may be medicated.

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