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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: January 2010

19 - Dissociative amnesia: re-remembering traumatic memories

from Part III


The amnesia phenomenon in patients with dissociative disorders currently represents one of the most intriguing areas in the study of psychiatric disorders and memory processes. Dissociative amnesia intersects with the study of normal and traumatic memory, childhood sexual abuse, and suggestibility. Dissociative amnesia is rarely the single symptom; in the majority of cases the amnesia symptom is embedded in, and co-occurs with, other dissociative phenomena. Hypnosis may well be used to access the memory that otherwise is unavailable to consciousness. Psychotherapy can include art therapy, dance and movement therapy, and journaling and creative writing therapies. In diagnosing dissociative amnesia it is most important to differentiate dissociative from non-dissociative amnesia. Assessment should focus on excluding organic causes, substance abuse, head trauma, or epilepsy. Most important information assessing dissociative amnesia is derived from the patient's history for there is a strong relation to psychological trauma.