dissociative amnesia

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia.
Related to dissociative amnesia: dissociative identity disorder


pathologic impairment of memory. Amnesia is usually the result of physical damage to areas of the brain from injury, disease, or alcoholism. Psychologic factors may also cause amnesia; a shocking or unacceptable situation may be too painful to remember, and the situation is then retained only in the subconscious mind. The technical term for this is repression. (See also dissociative disorders.)

Rarely is the memory completely obliterated. When amnesia results from a single physical or psychologic incident, such as a concussion suffered in an accident or a severe emotional shock, the victim may forget only the incident itself; the victim may be unable to recall events occurring before or after the incident or the order of events may be confused, with recent events imputed to the past and past events to recent times. In another form, only certain isolated events are lost to memory.

Amnesia victims usually have a good chance of recovery if there is no irreparable brain damage. The recovery is often gradual, the memory slowly reclaiming isolated events while others are still missing. Psychotherapy may be necessary when the amnesia is due to a psychologic reaction.
anterograde amnesia impairment of memory for events occurring after the onset of amnesia. Unlike retrograde amnesia, it is the inability to form new memories.
circumscribed amnesia loss of memory for all events during a discrete, specific period of time. Called also localized amnesia.
continuous amnesia loss of memory for all events after a certain time, continuing up to and including the present.
dissociative amnesia the most common of the dissociative disorders; it is usually a response to some stress, such as a threat of injury, an unacceptable impulse, or an intolerable situation. The patient suddenly cannot recall important personal information and may wander about without purpose and in a confused state.

Persons with a dissociative disorder may at times forget what they are doing or where they are; when they regain self-awareness, they cannot recall what has taken place. A less severe form than amnesia is sleepwalking. Dissociative disorders are very likely an attempt by the mind to shield itself from the anxiety caused by an unresolved conflict. The patient, upon encountering a situation that may be symbolic of this inner conflict, goes into a form of trance to avoid experiencing the conflict.
generalized amnesia loss of memory encompassing the individual's entire life.
lacunar amnesia partial loss of memory; amnesia for certain isolated experiences.
post-traumatic amnesia amnesia resulting from concussion or other head trauma. Called also traumatic amnesia. See also amnestic syndrome.
psychogenic amnesia dissociative amnesia.
retrograde amnesia inability to recall events that occurred prior to the episode precipitating the disorder. Unlike anterograde amnesia, it is the loss of memories of past events.
selective amnesia loss of memory for a group of related events but not for other events occurring during the same period of time.
transient global amnesia a temporary episode of short-term memory loss without other neurological impairment.
traumatic amnesia post-traumatic amnesia.

dissociative amnesia

Inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
Synonym: psychogenic amnesia
See also: amnesia
References in periodicals archive ?
dissociative amnesia - a loss of memory associated with a state where clusters of memory contents are split off from conscious awareness (ie, "I don't remember driving to the hospital - how did I get here?
DISSOCIATIVE amnesia is the inability to remember personal information or a particular period of time - this can't be explained by mere forgetfulness because the memory lapse is too prolonged.
But dissociative amnesia is thought to be a defence mechanism to survive traumas such as a serious accident or sexual abuse.
There are five distinct Dissociative Disorders listed in the DSM-IV: Dissociative Amnesia, Dissociative Fugue, Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Depersonalization Disorder, and Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS).
Loss and recovery of different memory types in generalized dissociative amnesia.
Because of the relative vulnerability of people in a trance-state, and probable dissociative amnesia for part or for all the hypnotic session, it is important that the individual enter the state only in a trusting, nurturing environment.
Dissociative amnesia is a defense mechanism used by many people, and it may be the most common among the abuse victims (Briere, 1992).
This is the extreme on the continuum of dissociation, which also includes; Dissociative Amnesia, Depersonalization Disorders, and Dissociative Disorder not otherwise specified.
A similar process occurs with abused children and accident victims in that they both block out trauma as an unconscious defense mechanism, a behavior sometimes referred to as dissociative amnesia (Schrof, 1997).
The dissociative amnesia patient suffers from the inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature (APA, 1994).