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Mental Health Center

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Mental Health and Dissociative Amnesia

How Is Dissociative Amnesia Treated?

The first goal of treatment for dissociative amnesia is to relieve symptoms and control any problem behavior. Treatment then aims to help the person safely express and process painful memories, develop new coping and life skills, restore functioning, and improve relationships. The best treatment approach depends on the individual and the severity of his or her symptoms. Treatments may include the following:

  • Psychotherapy: This kind of therapy for mental and emotional disorders uses psychological 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 the 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 drug.
  • Family therapy: This kind of therapy 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 may have hidden from their conscious minds. The use of hypnosis for treating dissociative disorders is controversial due to the risk of creating false memories.

What Is the Outlook for People With Dissociative Amnesia?

The outlook for people with dissociative amnesia depends on several factors, including the person's life situation, the availability of support systems, and the individual's response to treatment. For most people with dissociative amnesia, memory returns with time, making the overall outlook very good. In some cases, however, the individuals are never able to retrieve their buried memories.

Can Dissociative Amnesia Be Prevented?

Although it may not be possible to prevent dissociative amnesia, it might be helpful to begin treatment in people as soon as they begin to have symptoms. Immediate intervention after a traumatic event or emotionally distressing experience can help to reduce the likelihood of dissociative disorders.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on July 08, 2014
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