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Rebuilding Memories: Coping with Dissociative Amnesia

Updated: Feb 20

Imagine a world where our memories suddenly vanish, leaving behind a puzzle of forgotten moments. Have you ever gone through something traumatic where your brain just completely erases any memory associated with that experience?

What is Dissociative Amnesia?

Dissociative amnesia is a complicated disorder where the mind has the sudden inability to remember personal information, typically related to traumatic or stressful events. It is a specific form of dissociative disorder, which affects memory, identity, and perception. To protect us from overwhelming distress, physical or emotional trauma, the mind may use dissociation as a defense mechanism.

missing memories are a staple of trauma experiences

Types of Dissociative Amnesia

1. Localized amnesia: This type involves the inability to remember specific events or periods of time. For example, if the person forgets what year or month the traumatic event occurred.

2. Selective amnesia: Selective amnesia involves partial recollection of events, where certain details are missing from the memory. For example, not being able to recall the location where the abuse occurred.

3. Generalized amnesia: In generalized amnesia, the individual experiences a complete loss of personal identity and memories. For example, not remembering who they are, what they did, felt, thought, or where they went.

4. Systematized amnesia: Systematized amnesia refers to the inability to recall specific categories of memories related to a particular person, place, or aspect of one's life. For example, losing all the memories about the high school the person attended.

Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia

1. Memory loss: The primary symptom of dissociative amnesia is the inability to remember personal memories or factual information

2. Identity confusion: The fragmented recollection of the past can lead to a sense of confusion and uncertainty regarding one's identity and personal history.

3. Emotional distress: The gap in memory and confusion can lead to emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and detachment from others.

4. Functional impairment: Dissociative amnesia impacts daily functioning and increases struggle with work, relationships, and overall social interactions due to memory loss and identity confusion.

Treatment for Dissociative Amnesia

1. Psychotherapy: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), can help individuals process traumatic memories, manage emotions, and develop coping strategies.

2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: This treatment helps people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with symptoms including recurring nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and more.

3. Mindfulness: Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and creative therapies, help those suffering from dissociative amnesia by helping them deal with the symptoms in a safe and trusted environment.

4. Clinical Hypnosis: Brings the person into a state of unconsciousness by intense relaxation and concentration that allows people to learn the memories and feelings that have been hidden away from the conscious mind.

5. Medication: Doctors may prescribe medications to address associated symptoms like anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances.

6. Supportive Environment: Creating a supportive and validating environment, where loved ones offer understanding and empathy.

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