Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 June 2015
The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events of life, and such stress affects the physical and psychological well-being of the bereaved. Dissociative amnesia is characterized by an inability to recall important autobiographical information. Dissociative amnesia in the bereaved who have lost a loved one to cancer has not been previously reported. We discuss herein the case of a patient who developed dissociative amnesia the day after the death of here beloved husband.
A 38-year-old woman was referred for psychiatric consultation because of restlessness and abnormal behavior. Her 44-year-old husband had died of pancreatic cancer the day before the consultation. On the day of the death, she looked upset and began to hyperventilate. The next day, she behaved as if the deceased were still alive, which embarrassed her family. At her initial psychiatric consultation, she talked and behaved as if her husband was still alive and in the hospital.
Her psychiatric features fulfilled the DSM–V criteria for dissociative amnesia. The death of her husband had been very traumatic for her and was considered to have been one of the causes of this dissociation.
This report adds to the list of psychiatric symptoms in the bereaved who have lost a loved one to cancer. In an oncology setting, we should consider the impact of death, the concomitant defense mechanisms, and the background of the families.