Dissociative amnesia is amnesia memory loss caused by trauma or stress, resulting in an inability to recall important personal information. After tests are done to rule out other possible causes, doctors diagnose the disorder based on symptoms. Memory-retrieval techniques, including hypnosis and drug-facilitated interviews, are used to fill in the memory gaps. Amnesia is the total or partial inability to recall recent experiences or ones from the distant past. When amnesia is caused by a psychologic rather than a physical disturbance, it is called dissociative amnesia.
Dissociative disorders are mental disorders that involve experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity. People with dissociative disorders escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems with functioning in everyday life. Dissociative disorders usually develop as a reaction to trauma and help keep difficult memories at bay. Symptoms — ranging from amnesia to alternate identities — depend in part on the type of dissociative disorder you have. Times of stress can temporarily worsen symptoms, making them more obvious. Treatment for dissociative disorders may include talk therapy psychotherapy and medication.
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Back to Health A to Z. Dissociative disorders are a range of conditions that can cause physical and psychological problems. Some dissociative disorders are very short-lived, perhaps following a traumatic life event, and resolve on their own over a matter of weeks or months. Others can last much longer. Dissociation is a way the mind copes with too much stress.