How is dissociative amnesia treated?

The goals of treatment for dissociative amnesia are to relieve symptoms, to make sure the patient and those around him or her are safe, and to “reconnect” the person with his or her lost memories. Treatment also aims to help the person:

  • Safely deal with and manage painful events;
  • Develop new coping skills and life skills;
  • Get back to functioning as well as possible; and
  • Improve relationships.

The best treatment approach depends on the person, the type of amnesia, and how severe the symptoms are. Treatment will most likely include some combination of the following methods:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, sometimes called “talk therapy,” is the main treatment for dissociative disorders. This is a broad term that includes several forms of therapy.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This form of psychotherapy focuses on changing harmful thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: This technique is designed to treat people who have continuing nightmares, flashbacks, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Dialectic-behavior therapy: This form of psychotherapy is for people with severe personality disturbances (which can include dissociative symptoms), and often takes place after the person has suffered abuse or trauma.
  • Family therapy: This helps teach the family about the disorder and helps family members recognize if the patient’s symptoms come back.
  • Creative therapies (for example, art therapy, music therapy): These therapies allow patients to explore and express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe and creative environment.
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques: These help people better handle their dissociative symptoms and become more aware of their internal states.
  • Clinical hypnosis: This is a treatment that uses intense relaxation, concentration, and focused attention to achieve a different state of consciousness, and allows people to explore thoughts, feelings, and memories they may have hidden from their conscious minds.
  • Medication: There is no medication to treat dissociative disorders. However, people with dissociative disorders, especially those with depression and/or anxiety, may benefit from treatment with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

People with dissociative amnesia usually respond well to treatment; however, progress and success depend on many things, including the person’s life situation and if he or she has support from family and friends.

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