View Full Version : Amnesia

04-29-2005, 04:39 AM
I am currently working on a novel that involves an amnesia victim. I am needing to know the process of recovery. Do they remember all at once? Can their memory be selective? Any info would be helpful.
I've searched and found many articles on the how and why's of amnesia but nothing on the experience.


three seven
04-29-2005, 04:42 AM
I've got some info on this but... um... I can't remember what I did with it.

04-29-2005, 05:55 AM
From what I understand, "Hollywood" style amnesia, where the patient is perfectly fine except for having no memory, doesn't really exist. Although I've heard of something called a "fugue state", where the person has some sort of break with reality, wanders away, and is discovered years later operating under another name and personality. I think this was reported to have happened to Agatha Christie, but I haven't researched it much.



04-29-2005, 06:07 AM
As far as recovery is concerned, I've heard it can work several different ways. Sometimes the person will just remember, sometimes something specific will jog their memory back, and then it can also be gradual.

FYI, I have no professional research skills or anything associated with this, so take my words with a grain of salt.

Tish Davidson
04-29-2005, 08:24 AM
Here is a quick run-down on the different types of amnesia. Given their variety, I think your character can remember in any way that suits the story best, but generally I believe the memory comes back as unconnected bits at first, and in many people never returns (for example, I was driving a car that was hit by another car that ran a red light and have no memory of turning off one street and onto the one where the accident occured (about 3 minutes of driving) although I can clearly recall the crash. Head trauma either erased the moments before the crash or made them inaccessible to my current neural connections.

Amnesia is a term used to cover the partial or complete loss of memory. It is most often a temporary condition and covers only a part of a person's experience, such as immediate memory. The causes of amnesia range from psychological trauma to brain damage caused by a blow to the head or conditions such as a brain tumour, a stroke or swelling of the brain. There are many definitions covering the different types of amnesia. What is amnesia?

The main types of amnesia are:

Anterograde amnesia: People who find it hard to remember ongoing events after suffering damage to the head. They do not tend to forget their childhood or who they are, but have trouble remembering day-to-day events.

Retrograde amnesia:People who find it hard to retrieve memories prior to an incident in which they suffer damage to the head. Sometimes people never remember the seconds leading up to the incident.

Korsakoff's psychosis: Memory loss caused by alcohol abuse. The person's short-term memory may be normal, but they will have severe problems recalling a simple story, lists of unrelated words, faces and complex patterns.

This tends to be a progressive disorder and is usually accompanied by neurological problems, such as uncoordinated movements and loss of feeling in the fingers and toes. If these symptoms occur, it may be too late to stop drinking.

Traumatic amnesia: This follows brain damage caused by a severe non-penetrative blow to the head, such as in a road accident. It can lead to anything from a loss of consciousness for a few seconds to coma.

Infantile/childhood amnesia:This refers to a person's inability to recall events from early childhood. There are many theories on this, for example, Freud put it down to sexual repression. Others say it could be linked to language development or the fact that some areas of the brain linked to memory are not fully mature.

Hysterical amnesia (also known as fugue amnesia):This covers episodes of amnesia linked to psychological trauma. It is usually temporary and can be triggered by a traumatic event with which the mind finds it difficult to deal. Usually, the memory slowly or suddenly comes back a few days later, although memory of the trauma may remain incomplete.

Treatment varies according to the type of amnesia and the suspected cause.


04-29-2005, 10:02 AM
There's also selective loss of events from memory due to repression, not limited to infants. Someone I worked with said, as an adult, that she was missing a year of memories from a period in her teens shortly after she left home. Presumably it was a traumatic time.

People typically have amnesia for anything that happened while they were in certain kinds of dissociative states. One example is sleepwalking.

04-29-2005, 05:04 PM
Thank you all for your comments.


05-05-2005, 03:06 AM
Along this line, I was purposely able to effectively block out memories of Vietnam over years of wanting to...which also meant I will probably never respond now to urgings of others to write about it, except one short story I did.

I don't know whether that's selective amnesia...or what...but another pov.

05-05-2005, 03:34 AM

Thanks for your comments.

Happy Writing,

05-08-2005, 11:12 AM
I was badly beaten once, and as a result of it and the concusion I lost 3 days of memories. I woke up the next day with an odd feeling that something had happened but no idea what day it was or what had occurred the previous three days. Over time and talking to people I gradually started to remember some events but others never came back. Those memories I did recover were hazy like when one is remembering a dream. It's a very strange experience.

05-08-2005, 03:00 PM

Thank you. That was helpful.

Happy Writing

ME Vinicky
05-13-2005, 03:03 AM
I have been doing extensive research on this condition, as it is also central to a charactor in my new novel. The cause is usually something specific from a stressful event, and is considered by the medical community to be a defense mechanism of the brain, protecting the individual from an experience perceived as too intense for the individual's emotional stability. The victim can suddenly regain the lost memories either through a confrontation with the truth of the episode, or gradually, through mental 'clues' that lead on a path of self-discovery. Whatever, the original pain has to be fully experienced for the memory to fully return.

Hope this helps...I'm stuck on the 'trigger', myself...:-)

Marc E Vinicky

05-13-2005, 05:17 AM
TNWriter and ME Vinicky: If you would like to PM me a short list of specific questions related to recovery, I believe I can help you. 14 years ago I experienced a significant episode of hysterical, or fugue, amnesia after severe trauma. I eventually recovered most of my memory but some things never came back. Even today I still have blank spots about that period of my life.

Send me your questions and give me a little time to look them over so that I can give you the most detailed answers possible.

05-13-2005, 10:40 PM
ME Viniky and awatkins,

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the input.

Awatkins, thanks for the invitation to PM.