Dissociative Amnesia Disorder – Symptoms, Treatment And Prognosis

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Dissociative amnesia disorder that is also called psychogenic amnesia.  “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” characterizes this disorder as a dissociative disorder, which means that parts of the memory, function, or sense of identity are separated from within the brain. 

This simply means that a person suffering from this disorder may block certain events from their lives.  This disorder is completely different from regular amnesia, which is a temporary or permanent state of memory loss that is caused by disease or injury that affects the brain

Instead, those who suffer from dissociative amnesia still retain the memories but simply repress or bury them so that they are no longer remembered.  The memories buried by those who suffer from this disorder may at some point be recovered, which is different from regular amnesia which often leads to memories that are lost forever. 

It has been found that this disorder is common in people who have been through an extremely traumatic event.  The severity of each case differs.  Some people suffering from the disorder may only forget unimportant things, while others with more severe cases may forget personal information about themselves or even forget who they are.

Symptoms – Dissociative Amnesia Disorder

Those who have experienced trauma recently are more at risk for being diagnosed with dissociative amnesia.  Cases are frequently seen in soldiers who have been at war or people who have survived a natural disaster or a terrible accident. 

Those who are abused are also at higher risk for developing this disorder.  Women are more likely to have dissociative amnesia than men.  There have also been studies that show that those who suffer from dissociative amnesia had a family member that was afflicted with the illness as well, indicating that there may be a genetic link with this mental disorder.

In order to diagnose the illness, a patient’s primary physician will administer a series of tests.  While there is no particular test that will check for dissociate amnesia, a doctor will want to rule out diseases and other disorders that have the same symptoms.  When all other illnesses have been checked for and eliminated, a patient will need to have a mental health evaluation for a proper diagnosis.

When diagnosing a person with dissociative amnesia, psychiatrists and medical doctors will look for several symptoms.  The most obvious symptom is information or a period of time that is being blocked from a person’s memory.  Forgetting personal information about themselves or blocking out something that has happened to them is common in those who suffer from this disorder.

When this occurs after a traumatic situation, it is highly likely to be attributed to dissociative amnesia. Confusion is also a common symptom.  Those who have dissociative amnesia may also have other symptoms that mimic those of other mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

Treatment

Those who are diagnosed with dissociative amnesia will want to seek medical attention as soon as possible to begin a course of treatment to help regain their memory and get their lives back in order.  There are many different types of therapies that are used to help restore the memory of the affected person and help with any other symptoms that he or she is experiencing.  

Psychotherapy is a very common and effective treatment method used to help with this disorder.  This involves speaking with a counselor about events that lead to the repressed memories.  By getting to the root of the problem, many people with this disorder find that they can begin healing. 

The patient may opt to go to therapy alone or with their families, so that his or her loved ones can be made aware of the situation to help him or her get through the difficult time that he or she is facing.

Those suffering from dissociative amnesia may also find that being creative is a treatment method that works for them.  Expressing emotions through music or art is a way to help bring back memories while allowing a person to work through his or her traumatic experiences. 

This allows a person to put their feelings into music, on canvas, or through written words so that they can use their creativity to express what they are feeling, sometimes without even using words.

Hypnosis is another type of treatment that may be considered, although it has not been proven to be effective.  Hypnotherapy has been said to help bring back repressed memories, but there is also a chance that memories that never occurred may be planted into a person’s mind, making this option one of the less popular treatment methods for this disorder.

Prognosis

Those who have been diagnosed with dissociative amnesia do not face a life threatening or harmful mental illness.  In fact, it has been shown that many people who bury their memories after a traumatic event eventually fully recover their memory after a period of time. 

However, there is also the chance that these memories will never be reacquired.  Treatment options can help a person move on from the loss of memory, especially when he or she is unable to remember important information or occurrences in his or her life.

With dissociative amnesia, it is not uncommon for a person to become depressed or develop anxiety.  This is why it is important to have this mental disorder diagnosed as soon as symptoms appear to avoid having to go forth with more aggressive treatments. 

Those who are depressed or anxious over their memory loss will need to participate in therapy to ensure that they can begin the healing process during this difficult period in their lives.

If you or anyone you know has suffered from memory loss after a recent traumatic event, it is important to report to your regular doctor or a psychiatrist to diagnose dissociative amnesia. 

While this mental disorder is not typically severe or dangerous, it is best to begin treatment options as soon as possible to ensure that healing from a stressful event can start, which will in turn lead to uncovering repressed memories or moving on from the trauma that caused the memory loss.

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