Dissociative amnesia is a form of dissociative disorder and occurs when a person blocks out information associated with a traumatic or stressful event. Memory loss in individuals with dissociative amnesia is more significant than typical forgetfulness. Dissociative amnesia is different than simple amnesia because the memories still exist, but the individual is not able to recall the memory on their own. However, the memory can be triggered. Symptoms of dissociative amnesia include sudden inability to recall experiences or personal information, confusion, depression, or anxiety. Risk factors include exposure to traumatic experiences (such as war, natural disasters, abuse or torture) and gender, as it is more common in women than in men.
Diagnosis of dissociative amnesia starts by ruling out an underlying neurological or physical health condition, as many disorders have symptoms similar to dissociative amnesia. If no physical disease is identified, a referral is made to a psychologist or psychiatrist who can perform a specific assessment designed to evaluate a person for dissociative amnesia. There are a variety of treatments available, including psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, family therapy, or even clinical hypnosis. Speak with your physician or mental health provider to discuss which treatment plan is best for you.