Lost and Found Memories of Trauma

How, why, and where we store memories are complex processes only partially understood. We briefly discussed the types and stages of memory, what normal forgetting is, the types of amnesias and how tv and books get it wrong , and the most feared type of forgetting—dementias . But there’s another type of forgetting we have not yet discussed. The complex issue of lost and found memories of trauma, better known as repressed memories or recovered memories, has been fraught with bitter controversy. Relatively recent research and discoveries shed some light on what happens. Trigger Warning: This article does not go into descriptions, but topics discussed include abuse, sexual abuse, childhood traumas and childhood sexual abuse. If those are trigger issues for you, give this article a pass. The Definition Although courts and legislatures use the term repressed memory, the proper term is dissociative amnesia. This is the definition that appears in the DSM-IV, section 300.12: “Dissociative amnesia is characterized by an inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.” Alan W. Scheflin Psychiatric Times Repressed Memory vs False Memory Since the late 1980s there have been huge questions and bitter debate […]

Think You Know What Dementia Is?

Dementia. Alzheimers. Those are two scary words. Many people think they know what dementia is. What Alzheimers is. They use the terms synonymously. Alzheimers is the most common one, but it is not the only dementia. Over the last month we’ve been talking about memory. In my post “What Do You Remember and How” you learned about the study of memory, the stages of memory, and the types of memory. “Do You Have a Terrible Memory?” discussed why you forget, the types of forgetting, and what normal forgetting is. You also learned that there were two umbrella terms that describe abnormal types of forgetting: Amnesia and Dementia. My post, Amnesia: Beyond the Tropes described what the scientific or medical reality of the forgetting called amnesia. What Dementia Is Many people think it is only about forgetting past events and people. It is more than that. Some believe that changes to memory, thinking skills, behavior, movement, and emotions are signs of senility or senile dementia. That represents a misbelief that serious mental decline is part of aging. Dementia is a term for a variety of symptoms caused by damage to brain cells. This damage is not normal aging. Usually, it occurs after age […]

Amnesia: Beyond the Tropes

You’ve read it a million times. The heroine (or hero) has no memory of who she is. No name. No remembered family. No past. Amnesia, says the doctor. And the story takes off. She (or he) attempts to recover her name. Her family. Her past. A little frightened and a lot intrigued, you are hooked. You’ve read it so many times, it’s entertaining but not surprising. However, reality might surprise you. Over the last month we’ve been talking about memory. In my post “What Do You Remember and How” you learned about the study of memory, the stages of memory, and the types of memory. “Do You Have a Terrible Memory?” discussed why you forget, the types of forgetting, and what normal forgetting is. You also learned that there were two umbrella terms that describe abnormal types of forgetting: Amnesia and Dementia. You may be like me. You’ve read so many stories and seen so many movies or television shows whose characters suffered amnesia that you think you understand what it is. You could be wrong. Do You Know What It Is?  Amnesia is total or partial loss of the ability to recall experiences or events that happened in the preceding few seconds, […]