Dissociative Amnesia

Young Man Dissociative Amnesia

Defining Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative amnesia is a memory disorder characterized by a sudden memory loss as a result of blocking out information after traumatic or stressful life events. This memory loss can occur for a period ranging from a few hours to many years. These memory “gaps” created may render a person unable to recall personal information as well as details of the traumatic and stressful event that may have caused the dissociate amnesia.

Dissociative disorder is a condition of the brain which may be brought about by damage to certain specific parts of the brain that are responsible for memory and retrieval of information. There are two broad types of dissociate amnesia: situation specific (leading to memory loss of particular situations or events) or global transient (spanning a larger time-frame of memory loss, usually a few years).

Almost all dissociative disorders are like Dissociative Identity Disorder or Dissociative Amnesia are attributed to trauma and stress. Dissociate amnesia is characterized by a presence of retrograde amnesia and absence of anterograde amnesia. Episodic memory can be completely impeded in such cases and there are varying degrees of damage to procedural, semantic, and short-term memory, depending on the case.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events, and people
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • A sense of being detached from yourself (depersonalization)
  • Perception that the people and things around you are distorted and unreal (derealization)
  • A blurred sense of identity
  • Inability to recall specific incidents without necessarily resulting in memory loss of incidents before or after that incident

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes of dissociative disorder are still unidentified; it is currently one of the most heated scientific discussions of modern neuroscience. There can be multiple biological, social, environmental, or neuropsychological causes behind the occurrence of dissociate amnesia. It may be caused by other behavioral disorders like Acute Stress Disorder.

Social and environmental causes: Children who have been abused or have experienced emotional trauma during their childhood, soldiers returning from war, and people generally leaving a stressful/troubled lifestyle are at the greatest risk for this amnesia. In most cases, events of extreme fear, anxiety, or stress can trigger the “fight or flight” system in the hypothalamus of the brain. This may put enormous stress on the brain and cause dissociate amnesia, leading to permanent memory loss.

Genetics may play a role in damaging the brain. Genetic mutations can lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain that can cause short-term memory loss. Neurological defects can also cause this amnesia.

People suffering from dissociative disorder are exposed to a number of risk factors including:

  • Accidents related to memory loss
  • Progression into permanent memory loss
  • Distress
  • Suicidal ideation


Hypnosis is a powerful method for arousing “lost” memories by police and interrogative agencies in people suffering from dissociative amnesia arising out of traumatic events or accidents. Aside from medication and physical therapy, CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) has also been found successful in coping up with the distress caused due to dissociative disorder. A lot of rehabilitation treatment centers also help patients of dissociate amnesia in coping with their condition by providing counseling and attention. Before attending a rehabilitation center to treat this amnesia, contact them to make sure that their services will suit for your particular case.


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