Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

Amnesia is probably the most severe memory disorder. There are several types of it, such as retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia, and psychogenic amnesia. Amnesia can certainly make life difficult for patients who experience it, but what are the causes of amnesia? Are there any treatments for amnesia?

Amnesia (amnesia)belongs to the qualitative memory disorders, i.e. to the group of memory problems where the number of memories functioning in the memory of a given person changes. Amnesia may concern the patient's entire memory - it may result in the fact that, for example, a 60-year-old person who has experienced a lot will not remember anything about their life, and amnesia may concern memories from just a few months of life or even memories from only a few days.

How much oblivion can affect human life, you probably do not need to convince anyone - just think about the feelings that accompany us in a situation when for a long time we cannot remember where we left our keys or some important documents. Amnesia is typically associated with a problem where a person loses memories of their past, but this is definitely not the only possible form of oblivion.

Amnesia: types

The two main types of amnesia (included together in the group of organic amnesia) are retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia.

Retrograde Amnesia

Retrograde amnesia is the most famous form of amnesia - in this case, patients lose their memory of past events. The size of the memory loss in this case can be extremely diverse - some patients lose their memory of events from the immediate period in which the cause of the amnesia occurred, while others may struggle with the amnesia of events from a much larger period of time.


Another form of oblivion is anterograde amnesia. In her case, the patients also experience memory disorders, however, they concern the period after the occurrence of the factor that caused amnesia. Patients with anterograde amnesia can perfectly remember situations that happened even several decades ago, and at the same timethey may not be able to memorize the events that are taking place at a given moment in their memories - patients may not be able to say, for example, what they ate a few moments ago, statements about which they recently talked with their relatives.

It is worth emphasizing that indeed - retrograde and anterograde amnesia are treated as separate forms of amnesia, however, this does not mean that one patient may have only one form of amnesia at a time. It is possible that the patient will experience memory disorders corresponding to both types of oblivion.

Psychogenic amnesia

A different and quite interesting form of oblivion is psychogenic amnesia, also called dissociative amnesia. This type of memory impairment is associated with neurotic disorders and includes such a problem as dissociative fugue (a state in which a person abandons his place of residence, work - in short, his whole life - and moves to a new place, where he starts with beginning while experiencing oblivion of your past identity.)

Global amnesia

Another intriguing type of oblivion is transient global amnesia. In the case of this type of amnesia, patients experience extensive memory loss, where the amnesia may even concern events from the last several decades. What is characteristic for transient global amnesia, however, is that after some time - up to several or several hours - the disorder disappears by itself. The reasons for the occurrence of this type of amnesia are not known to this day, but the causes of other types of amnesia have been much better known.

What are the causes of amnesia?

In fact, many different pathological processes can lead to oblivion. One of the best known causes of amnesia are various head injuries - then diagnosed in patients are memory disorders in the form of post-traumatic amnesia. The possibility of the occurrence of amnesia applies especially to those patients who, as a result of the trauma, suffer damage to the brain regions particularly involved in memory processes, such as, for example, the structures of the limbic system.

The causes of amnesia, however, can be not only injuries, but also damage to nervous tissue arising on a completely different basis, such as those related to:

  • encephalitis;
  • neurodegenerative diseases;
  • stroke;
  • toxic effects of various substances on the central nervous system (as is the case, for example, in the case of alcohol);
  • tumors of the central systemnervous;
  • hypoxia of the nervous tissue (e.g. in the course of a myocardial infarction).

Amnesia can also be found in patients who undergo various therapies. It happens that amnesia occurs in people who use drugs from the benzodiazepine group, in addition, amnesia can also appear in patients who undergo electroconvulsive therapy.

So far, the causes of organic amnesia have been discussed, the basis of psychogenic amnesia remains to be discussed. Dissociative amnesia is typically caused by extremely severe events that the patient's psyche is unable to deal with otherwise. The occurrence of amnesia in the case of psychogenic amnesia is to somehow "block" the mind's access to memories related to events that are traumatic for a human being. Such problems may be e.g. becoming a rape victim, experiencing a robbery or becoming a witness to a murder.

Worth knowing

Tests performed on patients with amnesia

In a situation where amnesia occurs in a patient who has suffered a head injury, the situation is quite clear - then the cause of amnesia can actually be considered as an accident. It is definitely different, however, when a person suddenly loses their memory for incomprehensible reasons - then many different tests are required.

In a patient with amnesia, it is necessary to exclude, inter alia, the existence of dementia disorders. Initially, it can be done on the basis of whether the patient has any other problems, in addition to memory impairment - for dementia disorders, the presence of disorders other than memory of cognitive functions is characteristic. Patients can also have various tests, such as a clock test or an MMSE test.

Imaging tests also play an important role in the diagnosis of amnesia. It is through such examinations, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the head, that it is possible, for example, to visualize an intracranial neoplastic lesion, a stroke focus or lesions suggesting encephalitis in a patient.

Amnesia Treatment

Amnesia can go away completely on its own - in a patient, memories may simply come back over time. But just - they may and may not, and what is more, after "some time" - it is impossible to determine whether the patient's memory disorders will disappear after a week, a month or only after a few years.

For the above-mentioned reasons, in patients with amnesia, various activities may be undertaken, thanks to which it would be possible to improve the functioning of theirmemory. There is simply no cure for amnesia in the world, but it is possible to offer patients a variety of activities with therapists. The memory level of people with amnesia may be positively influenced primarily by various occupational therapies during which memory training is carried out. During such classes, patients are taught the easiest way to remember various information, and in addition, attempts are made to help them recall their - lost due to oblivion - memories from the past.

People whose loved one suffers from amnesia can be advised of one thing: patience. It is clear that when a loved one - a husband, grandfather or child - does not remember the most wonderful moments spent together with us, it may be unpleasant or disappointing, but nerves, anger, or other negative emotions will not help restore close memory. The amnesia may subside after a while, and this is what you should patiently wait for while supporting the amnesia patient as much as possible - after all, it is he who experiences the consequences of his lack of memory the most.


1. A. Wingfield, A. Cronin-Golomb, Amnesia, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIFE SCIENCES & 2001, Nature Publishing Group, on-line access: Missouri University of Science and Technology materials, on-line access:

About the authorBow. Tomasz NęckiA graduate of medicine at the Medical University of Poznań. An admirer of the Polish sea (most willingly strolling along its shores with headphones in his ears), cats and books. In working with patients, he focuses on always listening to them and spending as much time as they need.

Read more articles from this author

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!