A Memory Disorder Dissociative amnesia


dissociative amnesia

Dissociative amnesia is a memory disorder in which the person cannot remember important personal information, usually related to trauma or stressful events. The main symptom of dissociative amnesia is sudden gaps in memory for everyday events, traumatic events, and/or other people. Dissociative amnesia usually begins as a response to stress, but the condition often goes unrecognised or is misdiagnosed as another form of mental illness.

The types of dissociative amnesia

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For practical purposes, there are three types of dissociative amnesia: localised (sometimes called psychogenic); generalised; and systematised. Localised dissociative amnesia can cause you to forget where you were, what you were doing, or even who you are—moments before the onset of dissociative amnesia. It is often triggered by a very stressful event but does not necessarily follow chronic or severe stress. Generalised dissociative amnesia may cause you to lose all your memories and identity. Systematised (also called state-dependent) dissociative amnesia is when you forget certain types of information only when in the same “state” (i.e., condition or situation) that caused the memory loss in the first place.

Causes of Dissociative amnesia

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Dissociative amnesia can be caused by any number of things, including child abuse; incest; rape; domestic violence; accidents; natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes; kidnapping; being held captive; torture; being part of a cult or group that encouraged secrecy, denial, and/or self-blame for what was happening to you. There are also isolated cases in which dissociative amnesia is caused by an emotional event that is not necessarily traumatic or stressful.

Dissociative amnesia usually begins as a response to stress, but the condition often goes unrecognised or is misdiagnosed as another form of mental illness. The majority of people with this disorder develop it after suffering chronic abuse during childhood at the hands of someone they trusted—most often parents or other close family members. Between 60 and 90percent of adults who were abused as children display some degree of dissociative amnesia.

The symptoms of Dissociative amnesia

Symptoms of dissociative amnesia can be very dramatic and easily spotted, or they may be subtle and overlooked. For example, if you have localised dissociative amnesia, you might not be able to remember your address, phone number, or the name of your pet. This type is often triggered by a very stressful event but does not necessarily follow chronic or severe stress. If you have generalised dissociative amnesia you would likely lose all memory related to both the past and future—including who people close to you are. Because your family’s identity depends on us knowing them – we know them – we need more information from yourself about what is going on and what you know and don’t know about your family. If you have systematised dissociative amnesia, you might only remember the names of people who were around when the memory loss began.

The majority of people with this disorder develop it after suffering chronic abuse during childhood at the hands of someone they trusted—most often parents or other close family members. Between 60 and 90percent of adults who were abused as children display some degree of dissociative amnesia. These memories can be triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event such as a song, place, person, etc.

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