Dissociative Amnesia: Symptoms, Causes, Management


Dissociative amnesia is a condition refers to the people who are unable to store information regarding their life. It includes

  • Name
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Precious events occurred in their life like marriage or receiving an award
  • Personal history

People experience this condition due to excessive stress and trauma. Affected people don’t live in reality and they create a new world for themselves. But it brings more problems to their life and can interfere with their daily activities. Stress and trauma can increase the severity of the condition. Your physician may recommend some medications and psychotherapy to manage the symptoms of dissociative amnesia.

What are the indicators of dissociative amnesia?

The most common symptom associated with dissociative amnesia is going to be memory loss. Other symptoms include a blurred sense of identity, excessive stress, unable to maintain relationships, unable to manage work-life, inability to cope with the people around you, and a sense of being detached from yourself, and your emotions are also considered as the symptoms of this condition.

People with dissociative amnesia may also experience mental health problems. These problems include

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Recurring thoughts of committing suicide

What are the types of dissociative amnesia?

Dissociative amnesia is also known as a dissociative disorder. You are likely to feel disconnected from this world when you are diagnosed with this disorder. As per health professionals, the types of dissociative amnesia are classified into three types. These types include

  • Localized
  • Generalized
  • Fugue

Let’s discuss the above types.


It is the first type of dissociative amnesia and people with this disorder unable to recollect their memories from a specific time period in this type.


This is where you will experience a permanent memory loss and it includes things like

  • Identity
  • History of your life


This is the last and most advanced stage of dissociative amnesia. You will start to think about the places you wouldn’t usually go and you will take a whole new identity for yourself in this type.

When to consult a physician

People who are suffering from dissociative amnesia may harm other people in rare scenarios. At this time, it is really important to take the person to an emergency room or call 911. If you or your dear one has shown the symptoms described above, then consult a physician immediately otherwise things will go back how they were.

What are the causes of dissociative amnesia?

The main cause of this condition is stressful events, excessive stress, and unable to cope with trauma. This disorder mainly affects the children who are physically, sexually or emotionally abused in their childhood. Their living places also play a key role in this disorder as a highly unpredictable home environment can increase the risk of getting diagnosed with dissociative amnesia.

Bad childhood can lead to the cause of this disorder. People who experience earthquakes or hurricanes are also more likely to develop the dissociative disorder. Research shows that genetics plays a vital role in the development of dissociative disorder.

What are the risk factors of dissociative amnesia?

People who experience traumatic events in their life are more prone to develop dissociative amnesia. These traumatic events include

  • being in a war
  • encountered natural disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes, and hurricanes
  • kidnapping
  • torture
  • early-life medical procedures

People who encountered the above events in their life have an increased risk of getting diagnosed with dissociative amnesia.

What are the complications of dissociative amnesia?

Several complications are likely to be seen in the people who are suffering from dissociative amnesia. These complications include

  • harming themselves
  • trying to commit suicide
  • abnormal changes in the behavior
  • unable to maintain an erection during sexual intercourse or not having an interest in sex
  • addicting to alcohol
  • getting difficulty in sleeping or unable to sleep
  • sleepwalking
  • unable to maintain a personal relationship
  • unable to meet the requirements at work

Along with the above complications, people may experience mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, personality, and eating disorders. Call your doctor immediately if you or your loved one experiencing these complications.

How is dissociative amnesia diagnosed?

It is important to get an accurate diagnosis and your physician may rule out your condition by asking you a detailed history of the symptoms you are experiencing in the past few days. The following are the tests recommended by your physician to confirm the diagnosis of your condition. These tests include

  • Physical exam
  • Psychiatric exam
  • Diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5

Let’s discuss the above tests in detail.

Physical Exam

Your physician may conduct a physical exam to your body after you have given a brief description of your symptoms. In this test, your doctor will look for the signs of dissociative disorders and it will be helpful for your physician to confirm the diagnosis of dissociative amnesia. Following are the physical conditions that can cause loss of memory and a sense of unreality. These physical conditions include

  • Injury to your head
  • Certain brain diseases
  • Sleep deprivation or intoxication

Psychiatric exam

The main objective of this test is to observe the pattern of your thoughts and behavior. Your therapist may also discuss with you the symptoms you are experiencing and for a better understanding of yourself, your therapist may speak with the members of your family by taking your permission.

Diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5

Your symptoms will be compared with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental Disorders (DSM -5) to confirm the diagnosis of your dissociative amnesia. This chart was published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

How is dissociative amnesia treated?

Your physician may recommend the treatment option based on the severity of your symptoms. There is no specific treatment for this condition and the main objective of any type of treatment is to reduce the severity of amnesia symptoms. These treatment options include

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications

Let’s discuss the above treatment options in detail:


This therapy is considered as the primary option to treat dissociative amnesia. The following are the different names of this therapy. These names include

  • Talk therapy
  • Counseling therapy
  • Psychological therapy

The main objective of this therapy is to make you talk about your disease and the therapist wants to know about dissociative amnesia in your own words. You may get positive results from this therapy if you choose an experienced or veteran mental health professional.

Your therapist’s goal is to make you understand the real cause behind the disorder and to help you manage your condition by forming several new ways. Most of the time, you will talk about the bad events that occurred in your life or the trauma you experienced. As this conversation goes, you will develop a healthy relationship with your therapist and learn to manage your condition.


There are no specific drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat dissociative amnesia. But your physician may prescribe you the following medications to manage the mental health symptoms. These medications include

Let’s discuss the above medications.


Antidepressants cannot cure your condition but these drugs can stabilize your mood and help you to avoid the triggers of dissociative amnesia.

Nausea, getting difficulty in sleeping or unable to sleep, unable to maintain an erection during sexual intercourse or erectile dysfunction, feeling sleepy all the time, unable to see, feeling nervous all the time, exhaustiveness, and dry mouth are the possible side effects associated with the use of antidepressants.

It is advised to check with your healthcare provider before you would like to use antidepressants for your condition or consult your physician if you are experiencing the above side effects.

Anti-anxiety medications

Anti-anxiety medications can also manage some of the mental health symptoms associated with dissociative disorders.

Feeling sleepy all the time, unable to see, dizziness, pain in the head, poor balance or unable to coordinate with someone, stomach upset, unable to speak, confusion, loss of memory, and difficult to concentrate on the things or unable to concentrate are the possible side effects associated with anti-anxiety medications.

The above side effects can occur at any time during drug use so it is really important for the person who is experiencing the above symptoms to consult a medical professional. Your physician may reduce the dosage or switch you to another medication.


Dissociative amnesia is short-lived but the symptoms can last for even months. Due to this reason, you should identify the symptoms of this disorder and consult a physician. Your doctor can complete a physical exam and review your medical history to determine which treatment option would be best for you.


  1. https://jmedicalcasereports.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1752-1947-7-143
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990548/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296396/

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