Amnesia medical therapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Aditya Govindavarjhulla, M.B.B.S. [2]


Treatment can be offered in cases of reversible conditions. If not, provision of supportive care can help to improve a patient's condition.

Medical Therapy

Memory loss can't be treated unless it is caused by a reversible condition. The treatment is greatly dependent on the primary cause of the condition. When memory loss is a symptom of a more severe disease, it may be reversed as soon as the underlying condition is identified and cured. Memory loss due to aging cannot be cured, but the symptoms may be improved by following the preventative measures.

Family support plays an important role in treating memory loss. Family members are usually encouraged to take special orientation classes on how to cope with their sick relatives and how to help them improve their condition.

Dissociative or Functional or Psychogenic Amnesia

Currently, various treatments are available for patients with psychogenic amnesia although no well-controlled studies on the effectiveness of different treatments exist.

  • Psychoanalysis -uses dream analysis, interpretation and other psychoanalytic methods to retrieve memories; may also involve placing patients in threatening situations where they are overwhelmed with intense emotion.[1]
  • Medication and relaxation techniques - in conjunction with benzodiazepines and other hypnotic medications, the patient is urged to relax and attempt to recall memories.[1] With the help of psychotherapy and learning their autobiographies from family members, most patients recover their memories completely.
  • It has been proposed that abreaction could be used in conjunction with midazolam to recover memories. This technique was used during World War II but is currently much less popular. The technique is thought to work either through depressing the function of the cerebral cortex and therefore making the memory more tolerable when expressed, or through relieving the strength of an emotion attached to a memory which is so intense it suppresses memory function.[2]
  • Some studies about psychogenic amnesia have concluded that psychotherapy is not connected to recovered memories of child sexual abuse.[3][4] Data suggests that one’s amnesic recovered memory is spontaneous, and that this is triggered by abuse-related stimuli.[3]

Dissociative Fugue

The goal of treatment is to help the person come to terms with the stress or trauma that triggered the fugue. Treatment also aims to develop new coping methods to prevent further fugue episodes. The best treatment approach depends on the individual and the severity of his or her symptoms, but most likely will include some combination of the following treatment methods:

  • Psychotherapy[5][6] — Psychotherapy, a type of counseling, is the main treatment for dissociative disorders. This treatment uses techniques designed to encourage communication of conflicts and increase insight into problems.
  • Cognitive therapy — This type of therapy focuses on changing dysfunctional thinking patterns and resulting feelings and behaviors.
  • Medication — There is no medication to treat the dissociative disorders themselves. However, a person with a dissociative disorder who also suffers from depression or anxiety might benefit from treatment with a medication such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicine.
  • Family therapy — This helps to teach the family about the disorder and its causes, as well as to help family members recognize symptoms of a recurrence.
  • Creative therapies (art therapy, music therapy) — These therapies allow the patient to explore and express his or her thoughts and feelings in a safe and creative way.
  • Clinical hypnosis — This is a treatment method that uses intense relaxation, concentration and focused attention to achieve an altered state of consciousness (awareness), allowing people to explore thoughts, feelings and memories they might have hidden from their conscious minds. The use of hypnosis for treating dissociative disorders is controversial due to the risk of creating false memories.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Brandt J, Van Gorp WG (2006). "Functional ("psychogenic") amnesia". Semin Neurol. 26 (3): 331–40. doi:10.1055/s-2006-945519. PMID 16791779.
  2. Vattakatuchery, JJ (2006). "The use of abreaction to recover memories in psychogenic amnesia: A case report". Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology. 17 (4): 647–653. doi:10.1080/14789940600965938. Retrieved 2007-12-05. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Albach, Francine (Dec-1996). "Memory recovery of childhood sexual abuse". Dissociation. Vol. 9, No. 4, p. 261-273. ISSN 0896-2863. Retrieved 2008-01-03. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. Chu JA, Frey LM, Ganzel BL, Matthews JA (1999). "Memories of childhood abuse: dissociation, amnesia, and corroboration". Am J Psychiatry. 156 (5): 749–55. PMID 10327909.
  5. The Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of Dissociative Identity Disorder in the Context of Trauma Therapy ( Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 2000 )
  6. International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA)