What is dissociative amnesia?
formerly called psychogenic amnesia, is one of a group of
conditions called dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders
are mental illnesses that involve disruptions or breakdowns of
memory, consciousness or awareness, identity and/or
perception--mental functions that normally operate smoothly.
When one or more of these functions is disrupted, symptoms can
result. These symptoms can interfere with a person's general
functioning, including social and work activities, and
Dissociative amnesia occurs when a person blocks out certain
information, usually associated with a stressful or traumatic
event, leaving him or her unable to remember important personal
information. With this disorder, the degree of memory loss goes
beyond normal forgetfulness and includes gaps in memory for long
periods of time or of memories involving the traumatic event.
Dissociative amnesia is not the same as simple amnesia, which
involves a loss of information from the memory, usually as the
result of disease or injury to the brain. With dissociative
amnesia, the memories still exist but are deeply buried within the
person's mind and cannot be recalled. However, the memories
might resurface on their own or after being triggered by something
in the person's surroundings.
What causes dissociative amnesia?
amnesia has been linked to overwhelming stress, which might be the
result of traumatic events--such as war, abuse, accidents or
disasters--that the person has experienced or witnessed. There
also might be a genetic link to the development of dissociative
disorders, including dissociative amnesia, since people with these
disorders usually have close relatives who have had similar
Who develops dissociative amnesia?
amnesia is more common in women than in men. The frequency of
dissociative amnesia tends to increase during stressful or
traumatic periods, such as during wartime or after a natural
What are the symptoms of dissociative amnesia?
primary symptom of dissociative amnesia is the sudden inability to
remember past experiences or personal information. Some people with
this disorder also might appear confused and suffer from depression
How is dissociative amnesia diagnosed?
are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a
complete medical history and physical examination. Although there
are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose dissociative
disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests--such
as X-rays and blood tests--to rule out physical illness or
medication side effects as the cause of the symptoms. Certain
conditions--including brain diseases, head injuries, drug and
alcohol intoxication, and sleep deprivation--can lead to
symptoms similar to those of dissociative disorders, including