Dissociative Amnesia and Dissociative Identity Disorder

If you live with dissociative identity disorder in your life, you are very aware of the problems you have with your memory.


This article will explore memory dysfunction and why and how we forget.


What is Dissociative Amnesia



Dissociative amnesia is, like dissociative identity disorder, a form of dissociative disorder that causes people to forget parts of their lives. This memory loss is usually caused by traumatic events such as abuse, violence, neglect, military service, or other times when the person felt they were threatened.


The internet says you only experience dissociative amnesia after a traumatic event. However, I have experienced dissociative amnesia when there was no clear or discernable abuse or other traumas happening. However, there are always triggers that perhaps my subconscious mind reacted to that I was wholly unaware of and experienced an episode of dissociative amnesia.


The Seven Types of Dissociative Amnesia



There are seven types of dissociative amnesia: localized, selective, continuous, systemized, fugue state, and generalized. Let’s have a look at all seven.


Localized amnesia is the main symptom of someone unable to remember a specific event or number of events, creating a gap in their memory. The memory gaps nearly always relate to stress or trauma, as a person who lived through childhood abuse might forget that time in their life.


Selective amnesia is when someone loses only some of a traumatic memory. They might remember some parts of the memory but not at all. You can have both localized and selective memory amnesia.


With continuous amnesia, you forget each new event as it happens. Some traumatic events may trigger continuous forgetting.


Systemized amnesia means a loss of memories related to a particular category or person. An example might be when someone forgets all their memories involving someone else.


Generalized amnesia is a rare form occurring when a person cannot remember their identity or life experiences. Some survivors who have this form of amnesia may lose well-established skills they knew before. Generalized amnesia is often associated with sexual assault survivors and combat veterans.


Dissociative fugue happens to people with dissociative amnesia. Typically, the person travels unexpectedly and may feel confused and bewildered, especially when exiting a dissociative state. The longer the fugue lasts, the more challenging the impact when it ends, with some people finding themselves in strange places and feeling shame and grief over what they did or did not do while in the fugue.


Causes and Symptoms of Dissociative Amnesia




Of course, the main symptom of dissociative amnesia is memory loss, which is worse than average memory loss. People who experience dissociative amnesia often forget crucial personal information, with episodes lasting from a few minutes to many months.


The causes of dissociative amnesia are traumatic events such as surviving childhood sexual abuse and emotional neglect. There is no average age when someone might have an onset of dissociative amnesia, as children and adults can experience it.


In dissociative identity disorder, dissociative amnesia is a distressing side-effect to surviving the un-survivable as kids. To go on living and to remain sane, children have many weapons at their disposal. One is to form alters, which we have, who take the brunt of the abuse and neglect. The other is crushing the memory of what just happened deep down beyond remembering until their brain matures and it all comes back.


Ending Our Time Together


Dissociative amnesia has been the bane of my existence since I was a small girl. However, once I became an adult, forgetting things and going on fugues became a big problem.


Although the abuse I suffered at the hands of relatives was over by decades, my memories of what happened began surfacing with force. I did not go looking for them; they just began to emerge like I was vomiting poison. Dissociative amnesia became a vital tool to keep going on my healing journey. It kept me from remembering too much too fast.


However, the negative side of dissociative amnesia lies in its intensity and in how it makes me feel after an episode. I have had episodes last up to two years where I have no memory of what happened. Fugue used to frighten and bewilder me until it was explained to me by my therapist.


An important takeaway from this piece must be that we are all the culmination of our memories; therefore, it is distressing when we lose them. I have learned not to be as distressed as I once was because of memory problems; I’ve simply accepted it as part of my life.


If you are experiencing some or even all of the symptoms of dissociative amnesia, please tell your therapist or seek one out. There is no need for you to suffer alone.


“We bury things so deep we no longer remember there was anything to bury. Our bodies remember. Our neurotic states remember. But we don’t.” – Jeanette Winterson.

“Memories are both helpful and hurtful, and we decide which to keep alive.” – Steve Goodier.



Bryant, R. A. (1995). Autobiographical memory across personalities in dissociative identity disorder: A case report. Journal of Abnormal Psychology104(4), 625.


Dorahy, M. J. (2001). Dissociative identity disorder and memory dysfunction: The current state of experimental research and its future directions. Clinical Psychology Review, 21(5), 771-795.





































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