psychogenic amnesia

anonymous asked:

Are repressed memories a thing? Cause I recently learned about them in my psych class and the book said that they're unlikely to actually be real and at best they're unreliable

Repressed memories are quite cotrovesial now, mostly because of the satanic ritual abuse controversy in the 1980s and research that suggests that memory can be manipulated and is therefore unreliable even under normal circumstances. Having said that, dissociative amnesia (also called psychogenic amnesia) is well documented and it’s well known that one of the ways our brains cope with trauma is to block it out. Both these terms describe very similar things, yet while the term ‘repressed memory’ has a lot of negative connotations, dissociative memory loss doesn’t (here’s a link to an article about dissociative amnesia, and you may like to compare the wiki article on psychogenic amnesia to the article on repressed memories).

One way of interpreting trauma responses that I think is really valuable is as a spectrum of responses with hyperarousal on one axis and dissociation on the other (I believe Bruce Perry created this). Hyperarousal responses are things like fighting back or running away, panic attacks, exaggerated startle response etc while dissociative responses are things like emotional numbing, the ‘freeze’ response, memory loss related to the trauma, and dissociation as the word is usually used (so feeling ‘unreal’ as if you’re dreaming, seeing yourself as if you were observing yourself etc). 

In terms of how memory problems fit in with abuse, I think one of the main distinctions to be made is that many of the criticisms that posit memory as unreliable are talking about memory as evidence in a courtroom setting or legal context generally. Victims are often called unreliable if they change even a small detail of their recollection or have any conflicting memories, but trauma itself interferes with how we process information, including memory; we’re so focused on just surviving what’s going on, all our brain power goes toward that and very little is dedicated to creating new memories. Additionally, stress hormones (such as cortisol) interfere with the creation of new memories also. Additionally, our memories don’t have to be perfect to be true, but the way the legal system operates is frankly pretty awful yet legal standards have become general standards, which they shouldn’t be. 

Another issue with this is the fact that these situations where memory is deemed unreliable - the legal system and the satanic abuse panic - are situations where other people are deliberately influencing the individual. This is very different to traumatic memories resurfacing on their own (as they often do with time); in these situations, the individual’s memory has been manipulated by other people who want them to believe what they want or say what they want. 

So to summarise, it’s true that memory is changeable and can be unreliable depending on what it’s needed for. Precise information is generally difficult anyway but especially when there’s trauma involved, and people can manipulate others into having ‘false memories’; police are known to do this for example, as are many of the psychotherapists involved in the satanic abuse scandals. This is very different to memories which surface on their own and to memories about general events; even if our memories of our abuse aren’t exact, that doesn’t suggest that our abuse wasn’t real in any way.

If you take a look through the memory tag (you can click here to do that) there’s more information, links etc. I think what your psych book said is .. well, I can see where they’re coming from but they’re oversimplifying a very complex issue. The term ‘repressed memories’ is seen unfavourably but dissociative memory loss isn’t particularly controversial. I suspect - though I could be wrong - that this is more about the associations the different phrases carry, though they describe very similar things. 

anonymous asked:

I've never been very touchy feely, but over the past few years I've come to love hugs from my female friends, and I've always loved hugs from my immediate family. However, hugs (and most other forms of touching, even if they're friendly) from non relative males makes my skin crawl. Could this be a sign of abuse? Cause I don't remember being abused...

In my opinion, it could be a possibility but if you have no recollection of being abused and aren’t experiencing any other symptoms or indicators (this link discusses some common ones), I think it’s very unlikely. I was going to make a post about this today because it seems that a sizeable number of people have some anxiety around whether they could’ve been abused and have no memory or awareness of it. The short answer is that this seems to be very rare. 

Dissociative amnesia/psychogenic amnesia doesn’t usually wipe out all memory and knowledge of abuse. Most people who have it (related to abuse, that is) are consciously aware of the abuse they’ve experienced but can’t remember the abuse in much (if any) detail or can remember some abusive incidents but not others. Large chunks of missing memory that the individual is aware of tends to be part of it also, e.g. they can’t remember anything between the ages of 10 and 15 (I believe this is in the diagnostic criteria). There are also signs of trauma such as an exaggerated startle response, nightmares, panic attacks, sleep disturbances, and the like.

This isn’t to say that psychogenic amnesia can’t manifest as a total lack of knowledge/memory/awareness of abuse, but even if the individual has no memory of it, they would usually have trauma issues that indicated abuse.   

If you think you may have been abused, it may help to talk to a counselor if at all possible. I’m not sure what the approach is to dissociative amnesia currently but they should be able to help you start to determine whether this is a possibility. Without symptoms of trauma and memory loss it’s very unlikely but if you do have symptoms of it, talking to a psychologist specifically would probably be the best approach if that’s an option you have.

anonymous asked:

Tag Cranberry please. I think I have psychogenic amnesia. I blocked out a lot of abuse for 10 years and then I remembered it. Now I block out/forget every argument I have with my friends, but now I am forgetting pleasant memories too and it scares me! For example I will forget who saw a movie with me or which friend I had which class with, what present a friend bought me, or who I already told a funny story to and who I didn't. What could be done to help? I'm 21 and it seems it is getting worse.

Hi darling,

I’m really sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with this! It sounds like it’s having a big impact on your life at the moment, and I can definitely imagine how scary it can be! I think it’s possible that because of you blocking out a lot of unpleasant memories, you’re now blocking out pleasant memories as well, but I also think there’s another possibility. Often you hear that people really easily forget things, like the things that you’re mentioning, when they’re struggling a lot. I’ve personally gone through that too, and am going through it currently. I don’t know the exact reasoning and explanation behind this, but I think it has to do with the fact that you’re already working so hard to simply hold on, to function and to do those things such as going to a movie, telling funny stories, etc. that it just is too much to remember all those small details! I’m not saying that this is for sure what’s happening, I’m not a professional so I honestly can’t say, but it could very well be a possibility, as well as what you mentioned, psychogenic amnesia (or dissociative amnesia).

Psychogenic Amnesia is a type of Dissociative Disorder: “The main symptom is difficulty remembering important information about one’s self. Dissociative amnesia may surround a particular event, such as combat or abuse, or more rarely, information about identity and life history. The onset for an amnesic episode is usually sudden, and an episode can last minute, hours, days, or, rarely, months or years.” (source).

I think it´s very important that you speak to someone about what’s been going on. Is there someone you trust that you could reach out to? Perhaps one of your friends? Reaching out to someone is very scary, but it can also be of great help, as it can get you the first well-deserved support, and they might be able to help you in the process of getting professional help. About that, are you currently seeing a therapist or other mental health professional? Because I really think you could benefit a lot from that! It sounds like a lot has happened in your life so far that you’re still needing to process, and it’s more than okay to need a little help with that. You can read about getting help here, and you can also watch this video.

Something that might be of help for you is to keep a journal, in which you write everything that happens. You can try to write everything down at the moment it happens (for example in your phone), but I understand that’s really time consuming and might not always be possible. You can also pick out specific moments during the day that you take some time to write down all those small details that you’ve been forgetting lately. Or you can do it at the end of the day before you get into bed, if at that time you still remember some stuff. I also think it’s good to try to keep in mind that it’s okay to forget those specific details. They are very specific, and while it’s not nice to forget them, it’s not a big disaster (I don’t mean to downgrade your feelings, because I really do understand that it’s upsetting, but I’m trying to help you get more realistic thoughts). It’s also more than okay to ask your friends about things that you’re forgetting! I’m sure they won’t mind <3

Sometimes what seems impossible, is just hard.

Keep fighting beautiful <3

Love Pauline


I. Had the weirdest. Dream of human Dolly in this damn AU last night.

Didn’t understand it fully, but it hurt quite a bit, and I haven’t drawn Dolly having a full breakdown in a while sooooooooooo-

I mean, why would she be excluded from her mental condition?

I think the reasoning behind it in this au could be a little different, perhaps come later down the road after something traumatic, but I didn’t exactly write that out, heh heh… But, Dolly’s pretty lost and that anxiety’s gonna take over and wipe that slate clean I’m sure. Very interesting to try and sketch @w@