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Dissociative amnesia: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, and diagnosis

Author
Richard J Loewenstein, MD
Section Editor
David Spiegel, MD
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD

INTRODUCTION

Dissociative amnesia is a potentially reversible memory impairment that primarily affects autobiographical memory [1-3]. In dissociative amnesia, the patient cannot recall important autobiographical information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, although more extensive memory loss may be reported.

Dissociative fugue, a subtype of dissociative amnesia in DSM-5 [3], is characterized by sudden unexpected travel or wandering in a dissociated state, with subsequent dissociative amnesia for the fugue episode, and often for some or all of the patient’s life history.

Dissociative amnesia and dissociative fugue (a subtype) are discussed here. Other dissociative disorders, including dissociative identity disorder, depersonalization disorder, and dissociative aspects of posttraumatic stress disorder, are discussed separately. (See "Dissociative identity disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, assessment, and diagnosis" and "Depersonalization/derealization disorder: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, and diagnosis" and "Psychotherapy for depersonalization/derealization disorder" and "Dissociative aspects of posttraumatic stress disorder: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, assessment, and diagnosis".)

DEFINITIONS

Autobiographical memory [1] – Episodes recollected from a person’s life, with a combination of episodic autobiographical memory and semantic autobiographical memory [4]. Autobiographical memory includes recall of cognitive, emotional, and motivational aspects of events.

Semantic memory — Memory of objects, facts, and concepts, including words and their meaning, such as learning the skill of reading

                        

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