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eeHealthbook knowledge Don't forget and forgive Amnesia


Amnesia is a condition in which memory is disturbed or lost. Memory in this context refers either to stored memories or to the process of committing something to memory.

Forms of amnesia

  • In anterograde amnesia, the ability to memorise new things is impaired or lost. A person may find themselves constantly forgetting information, people or events after a few seconds or minutes, because the data does not transfer successfully from their conscious short-term memory into permanent long-term memory (or possibly vice versa)
  • In retrograde amnesia, a person's pre-existing memories are lost to conscious recollection, beyond an ordinary degree of forgetfulness. The person may be able to memorise new things that occur after the onset of amnesia (unlike in anterograde amnesia), but is unable to recall some or all of their life or identity prior to the onset

Types and causes of amnesia

  • Post-traumatic amnesia is generally due to a head injury (e.g. a fall, a knock on the head). Traumatic amnesia is often transient, but may be permanent of either anterograde, retrograde, or mixed type. The extent of the period covered by the amnesia is related to the degree of injury and may give an indication of the prognosis for recovery of other functions. Mild trauma, such as a car accident that results in no more than mild whiplash, might cause the occupant of a car to have no memory of the moments just before the accident due to a brief interruption in the short/long-term memory transfer mechanism. The sufferer may also lose knowledge of who people are, they may remember events, but will not remember faces of them.
  • Dissociative amnesia results from a psychological cause as opposed to direct damage to the brain caused by head injury, physical trauma or disease, which is known as organic amnesia. Dissociative amnesia can include:
    • Repressed memory refers to the inability to recall information, usually about stressful or traumatic events in persons' lives, such as a violent attack or rape. The memory is stored in long term memory, but access to it is impaired because of psychological defense mechanisms. Persons retain the capacity to learn new information and there may be some later partial or complete recovery of memory. This contrasts with e.g. anterograde amnesia caused by amnestics such as benzodiazepines or alcohol, where an experience was prevented from being transferred from temporary to permanent memory storage: it will never be recovered, because it was never stored in the first place. Formerly known as "Psychogenic Amnesia".
    • Dissociative Fugue (formerly Psychogenic Fugue) is also known as fugue state. It is caused by psychological trauma and is usually temporary, unresolved and therefore may return. The Merck Manual defines it as "one or more episodes of amnesia in which the inability to recall some or all of one's past and either the loss of one's identity or the formation of a new identity occur with sudden, unexpected, purposeful travel away from home." [3] While popular in fiction, it is extremely rare.
    • Posthypnotic amnesia is where events during hypnosis are forgotten, or where past memories are unable to be recalled.
  • Uncommon causes
    • Transient global amnesia
    • Source amnesia is a memory disorder in which someone can recall certain information, but they do not know where or how they obtained the information.
    • Memory distrust syndrome
    • Blackout phenomenon
    • Korsakoff's syndrome
    • Drug-induced amnesia
    • Prosopamnesia
    • Situation-Specific amnesia
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