What Is Dissociative Amnesia?


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Dissociative amnesia occurs when a person loses memory due to a traumatic or stressful event, and the loss includes gaps in memory for long periods, forgetfulness about the traumatic event and inability to remember important personal information, according to WebMD. Dissociative amnesia is a mental disorder usually caused by psychological stresses instead of a physical injury. The primary symptom is a sudden inability to remember an event or personal information.

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Common treatments for dissociative amnesia include psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, family therapy, clinical hypnosis and creative therapies. The Cleveland Clinic explains that psychotherapy involves the patient communicating inner conflicts to increase clinical insight into his problems. Cognitive therapy tries to solve dysfunctional psychological processes and their resultant emotions.

There are no medications to directly treat dissociative amnesia, but patients who suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of the amnesia may have medicines to ease those auxiliary disorders. Hypnosis may bring out a hidden memories blocked by dissociative amnesia, but the practice is controversial due to risks of creating false memories, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Dissociative amnesia has at least four subtypes, including localized, selective, generalized and systematized amnesia. The National Alliance on Mental Illness describes that localized amnesia revolves around forgetting a specific event within a specific time frame. Selective amnesia happens when someone recalls only parts of certain traumatic events. Generalized amnesia affects a person's entire life. Systematized amnesia means someone loses memory surrounding a specific category of information, such as all memories about one particular family member.

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