What is it?
Amnesia is the term for long term memory loss. Fortunately, true amnesia is uncommon. The brain in a complex organ that is still poorly understood however we know that recalling events or experiences involves complex brain processes. How memories are stored or retrieved though isn’t known.
Experts agree that amnesia is attributable to illness, brain injury or severe psychological trauma.
What kinds of amnesia are there?
- Anterograde amnesia – While the person has a full memory of the past, they can no longer commit new information to memory. Anterograde amnesia is usually caused by traumatic brain injury such as a blow to the head from a car accident, or assault, or military injury.
- Retrograde amnesia – This is when a person cannot remember events before their trauma, but they can commit new information to memory.
- Transient Global amnesia – This is memory loss that results from a car accident and blow to the head. It is a temporary loss of all memory and the duration often depends on how serious the trauma is. Amnesia is an important indicator of concussion and brain damage.
- Alcohol induced amnesia – Blackouts occur during heavy binge drinking leaving memory gaps
- Fugue of Dissociative amnesia – This is the type you often see in movies or books. It is the type where a person forgets their past and their identity. Usually, it is triggered by a traumatic psychological event. It can last for minutes or a lifetime.
- Posthypnotic amnesia – Memory loss during hypnosis
- Prosopamnesia – The inability to recall or remember faces. People can be born with this, or it can result from trauma.
What causes amnesia?
- Medical amnesia – It can be caused strokes, brain infections, oxygen deprivation, drugs, head injuries, brain injury, surgery and anaesthesia.
Psychological amnesia – It is classified as a dissociative disorder and is usually reffered to as retrograde or anterograde amnesia caused by psychological trauma. It is often suffered by victims of violent crimes, sexual assault, or military trauma.
What are the symptoms of amnesia?
- Partial or total loss of a memory
- Impaired short-term memory
- Inability to learn now information or to recall previously familiar information
- False memories.
What should I do if I think a loved one has amnesia?
You should take them to the doctor or hospital depending on their condition where other causes will be ruled out. These include tumours, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Once they are ruled out further investigation will confirm amnesia. If the diagnosis is confirmed and is a result of an accident you should inform your personal injury lawyer.
CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and psychotherapy are often used. Hypnosis is helpful for some people. Meditation and mindfulness can help those who have amnesia triggered by trauma.
The support of family and friends is crucial as amnesia can be frightening and lonely. There are no drug treatments for the memory loss although there may be treatments for underlying causes.