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. Conversations and appointments get forgotten, leaving many confused friends, colleagues, and loved ones.


Then, after we realize we have forgotten something important, we are embarrassed and wonder if we have early-onset dementia.


This article will explore dissociative amnesia in-depth, including personal thoughts and feelings concerning memory dysfunction in dissociative identity disorder.


Different Forms of Amnesia in DID



Dissociative identity disorder brings with it many challenges, but perhaps the worst is amnesia. Memory loss in DID is classified as:


Localized: No memory for a short period.


Generalized: No memory of your life history and who you are.


Selective: No memory for specific events or the different aspects of an event.


Continuous amnesia: the inability to remember events after a specific time up to and sometimes including the present.


Systemized amnesia: You cannot remember specific categories of information, including but not limited to all your memories about a family member or a particular person.


Those of us who experience all the classifications mentioned above are usually diagnosed with a dissociative disorder, namely dissociative identity disorder.


Co-occurring Conditions



Some people have co-occurring diagnoses, including:


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Depersonalization
  • Fugue- where you may travel in a dissociated state.
  • Analgesia- the inability to feel pain.
  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicidal impulses or acts


Unfortunately, there are other problems associated with DID, including mood disorder, substance abuse disorder, and personality disorder.


One can see why some clinicians get confused when they experience a person with DID in their office and give inappropriate and wrong diagnoses to them. It takes, on average, around eleven years for a person living with dissociative identity disorder to receive the correct diagnosis and receive appropriate treatment.


How Does Dissociative Amnesia Feel?



One of the criteria listed in the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible for most clinicians) states that the main symptom of dissociative amnesia is memory problems that are more severe than usual forgetting. The memory problems one experiences with DID may not be explained by a medical condition.


Now that you have a definition of dissociative amnesia let’s discover together how having it feels.


There are many emotions that a person living with dissociative amnesia experiences, including fear, confusion, and exasperation. I have dissociative amnesia, and it robs me of my memories of conversations and the people I know.


My inability to remember things has greatly impacted my relationships. I cannot sometimes remember special occasions and have a tough time remembering anniversary dates and birthdays.


Then there are the lost conversations. Just because I speak with you does not mean I will remember that conversation later. My lack of memory for events has also caused me to lose friends and frighten my family. I went to the store and met someone who claimed to know me. I play along, bullshitting my way through our conversation, using clues I pick up from them.


Occasionally, someone realizes I cannot remember them and calls me on it, causing me great distress. If you are a singleton (one who does not have DID), you can’t imagine the embarrassment one experiences and how I feel not being able to trust yourself.


Ending Our Time Together

I know this piece is short but I wanted to get you some information about something I experience every day.

Dissociative amnesia has caused and continues today to cause me lots of embarrassment and other significant problems. I cannot remember what I talked about last with my therapist, for instance, making it more difficult to heal.


Yes, I’ve come a long way, baby, but this one symptom is not going away, and I have to accept it never will.


If you experience dissociative amnesia, remember you are not alone. Many have dissociative identity disorder and have memory problems accompanying it.


I’m on your side if I can remember you.


“Memory is all we are. Moments and feelings, captured in amber, strung on filaments of reason. Take a man’s memories, and you take all of him. Chip away a memory at a time, and you destroy him as surely as if you hammered nail after nail through his skull.” – Mark Lawrence.

“I’m with you. No matter what else you have in your head, I’m with you and love you.” – Ernest Hemingway.




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.


National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dissociative Disorders. Retrieved from:



Özdemir, O., Özdemir, P. G., Boysan, M., & Yilmaz, E. (2015). The relationships between dissociation, attention, and memory dysfunction. Nöro Psikiyatri Arşivi, 52(1), 36.




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