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 […]