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Victims' Symptom : glossary:amnesia
 
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Amnesia

Partial or total inability to recall past experiences; may be organic or emotional origin (Sadock, 2003). Amnesia could be anterograde and retrograde depending upon whether the lack of memory relates to events occurring after or before the traumaPsychological trauma can happen soon after witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event .... In anterograde amnesia the individual is impaired in learning new information. Memories for events that occurred before the injury may be largely spared, but events that occurred since the injury may be lost. In retrograde amnesia loss of memory occurs for events and experiences prior to an illness, accident, injury, or traumatic experience. With improvement, patients may experience a gradual shrinking of the time for which memory has been lost, although some patients experience a gradual improvement in memory for the entire period (Sadock, 2003).

In amnesia memory is affected far more than any other function, sometimes to the extent that patients will forget conversations that took place only a few minutes earlier. Patients generally have some disorientation for time, and often for palce. Some patients are apathetic to the memory problem; others try to hide it by confabulating (Morrison, 1995). Confabulation is uncounscious filling of gaps in memory by imagined or untrue experiences that a person believes but that have no basis in fact (Sadock, 2003).

There are several types of amnestic disorders: due to general medical condition (e.g. head traumaPsychological trauma can happen soon after witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event ..., stroke, etc.), substance-induced amnestic disorder (most often in alcoholic patients), and with unknown underlying cause. Some causes of cognitive symptoms are also: age-related cognitive decline, dissociative disorders, and pseudodementia (from apathy and slowed responses, some patients look as if the have symptoms of dementia) (Morrison, 1995).

Among diiferent features of amnesia it is important to point out dissociative amnesia (formerly called Psychogenic Amnesia) It’s central feature is the inability to remember significant events. It is more extensive than could be explained by common forgetfulness. It begins suddenly, usually following severe stressStress is not a useful term for scientists because it is such a highly subjective phenomenon that it defies definition. The term is in use from 1936 when Hans Selye defined stress as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change" ... such as physical injury, abandonment by a spouse, or internal conflict over sexual issues. Sometimes, the patient wanders aimlessly near home. After a variable time, the amnesia suddenly ends with complete recovery of memory. It is rare for Dissociative Amnesia to occur again in the same individual (Morrison, 1995).

(T.J.)

References:

  • Sadock, B.J., Sadock, V.A. Kaplan & Sadock’s synopsis of psychiatry. Ninth edition, Philadelphia; Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2003)
  • Morrison, J. (1995). DSM-IV Made Easy. New York, The Guilford Press, p. 13, 319-320.

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