DSM-5 Category: Dissociative Disorders
Dissociative amnesia (DA) is one of three dissociative disorders listed under DSM-V. The disorder involves the temporary loss of recall memory caused by disassociation, which may last for a period of seconds or years. The interruption in memory may be voluntary or involuntary and is most often a result of psychological trauma. DA involves episodic autobiographical memory loss inconsistent with normal forgetfulness. Episodic autobiographical information is associated with contextual information, such as what happened in the minutes leading up to a traumatic event. The individual may, however, remember semantic autobiographical information such as the date, time and weather conditions of the accident.
Dissociative amnesia often arises from traumatic childhood events. It can be difficult to identify in children due to their undeveloped memory and communication skills. In adulthood, DA can appear as a result of trauma such as from war, avoidance such as from aberrant sexual behavior, and stressful situations with extreme emotions such experiences causing rage, fear or shame.
Brain imaging studies have identified changes and fiber degeneration in the right temporo-frontal cortex area in individuals with dissociative amnesia (Staniloiu and Markowitsch, 2010).
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Dissociative Amnesia Symptoms
Under DSM-V, the symptoms and criteria for dissociative amnesia are (American Psychiatric Association,2013):
· Unable to recall autobiographical memory associated with a traumatic event. The recall of traumatic events is usually unconscious.
· The inability to recall traumatic events creates distress.
· The memory dysfunction does not have a physiological cause.
· The memory dysfunction is not dissociative identity disorder.
· The memory loss is not a result of substance abuse or other substance.
Suppressed memories can be harmful and should be treated even if the individual re-establishes a good quality of life. If the memory is being repressed so too is the traumatic events that triggered the disassociation. The individual may have partial memory recall through flashes or nightmares. DA is often comorbid with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The repression of memories can lead to maladaptive behavior in adolescence and adulthood such as self-harming or harming others. Men with a dissociative identity disorder are at a higher risk of going to prison as a result of directing their aggression towards society.