Amnestic Disorder

What is Amnestic Disorder?

Amnestic disorders affect many people across the world.

There are many causes, but the specific cause of every case can be a mystery. Not every person’s condition is the same and there can be varying degrees of severity. Both internal and external causes can influence the person’s amnestic disorder. There are treatments available, however, there is no cure currently known.

Treatments can help prevent and improve the amnestic disorder, but each person will progress on their own timeline. Individuals displaying symptoms of amnestic disorders should seek immediate medical treatment. The disorder can be caused by an injury or a life-threatening condition and should never be ignored.

Overview of amnestic disorders

An amnestic disorder is the inability to absorb and retain new memories and information. There are several possible causes for this condition including drug and alcohol abuse, medical conditions, and toxins. An amnestic disorder is the inability to absorb and retain new memories and information normally as a short term problem. Amnestic disorders rarely last for extended periods of time, and the patient’s memory tends to return over the course of time.

There are several possible causes for this condition, including drug and alcohol abuse, medical conditions, and toxins. There are varying types of amnestic disorders and most of which do not include complete loss of personal experiences, but include significant recall impairment over both short term and long term memory. Patients with the amnestic disorder may have trouble learning new information and retainment of information is sometimes impossible. Patients may complain of confusion and may not understand how they got where they are and generally exhibit confusion and even denial. In some instances, amnestic disorders can present themselves in conjunction with some types of disassociative conditions.

Symptoms of Amnestic Disorders

Patients with amnestic disorders not only suffer from memory loss, they can also develop an askew view of space and time which can lead to confusion. It is common for people with amnestic disorders to not identify its presence. Others may notice their increasing difficulties only to face the presence of denial and resistance to their suspicions.

Another common symptom of an amnestic disorder is a change in personality that includes apathy or loss of features that make the person appear to be a lesser version of the person they were before symptoms began to appear. In short-term amnestic disorders may include a likelihood to create confabulation. Patients will create false memories to cover the memory loss where there are gaps. This occurrence more often results in the short-term memory loss rather than a long-term event. Transient Global Amnesia [1] is when the individual is having trouble retaining or remembering new information or past events and only lasts for short amounts of time usually. These bouts often cause the person to become confused.

Organic and Unspecified Amnestic Disorder

There are two types of amnestic disorders. They generally become categorized according to the nature of the cause. The first is Organic Amnestic Syndrome. This type of memory loss comes from a physical source. The other is Unspecified Amnestic Disorder. This category exists for people who do not have a known cause of the memory loss or when little is known about the cause. Generally speaking, there are other cognitive impairments associated with an amnestic disorder. In some cases, identifying the onset of symptoms can help prevent individuals from developing an amnestic disorder.

Amnestic disorders do not generally pose a threat to a person’s overall health, however, it is important to help get the proper treatment to ease mental stress and anxiety about the condition. Specially trained professionals can help people deal with this issue and can work them through exercises to help regain memories and improve the ability to learn new information. Doctors normally order a series of test to determine the cause of the disorder such as urine and blood tests. They may also order complete imaging tests to pinpoint any injuries or additional concerns to get a better idea as to the root of the problem, as well as the steps needed to treat the injury or illness causing the amnestic disorder.

Amnestic Disorders Causes

There are a variety of causes when it comes to developing amnestic disorders. In some cases, head trauma can be the culprit, but not always. If head trauma is the cause, some therapy may be in order depending on the extent of the trauma and the amount of memory loss. Eventually, the memories should return over the course of time once the individual begins to heal. Personality disorders are also another possible cause of the amnestic disorder. When a person with psychological disorders develops amnestic disorders, the course of treatment also involves therapy and a course of medication to help the person regain stability and a sense of well-being.

Exposure to environmental toxins is another cause of amnestic disorders. A person can become exposed to chemicals or biological toxins that caused the loss of memory and even the loss of the ability to learn and retain new information. Doctors will treat the exposure first and ensure the patient’s health is a priority. Once the cause of the exposure is identified and treated, then the therapy and counseling part of the treatment can begin to help the patient recall the information lost due to coming in contact with the substance.

Treatments for Amnestic Disorders

There are a variety of treatments for amnestic disorders. Treatment options depend on the extent of the severity as well as the personal background and causes of the amnestic disorder. The primary treatment, most recommended, includes in-depth counseling and therapy. The thinking behind the counseling and therapy is that specific memories can be isolated and perhaps built upon to help retrieve lost memories or create more details of memories that have become vague due to the disorder. In some instances, psychological conditions that may cause amnestic disorder can be improved, and therefore cause improvement in memory and the ability to absorb and retain information over the course of time.

There are also medications that are currently used to treat specific causes of the amnestic disorder. Some medications are still experimental, however, they have shown great promise. For mild amnestic disorder, lithium may present a long-term treatment method with some success but results can vary from person to person. Fluvoxamine is used to treat alcohol-induced amnestic disorder. The medication is given to the patient over the coursed of several weeks.

It works as a serotonin uptake inhibitor and has proven to be effective in many studies [2]. Individuals that develop amnestic disorders normally regain their memories and forgotten information over the course of time. If the cause of the issue is related to alcohol abuse, patients are generally directed to begin a regimen of thiamin to help prevent further memory problems and to maintain their ability to function and recall. Of course, further treatment for the alcohol related illness is required in order to effectively treat the cause of the amnesia. In a severe instance, the patient may require in-home care and assistance until they show signs of improvements.

One of the best methods to treat amnestic disorder caused by toxins and substance abuse is to have a healthier eating routine, as well as an overall healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet is beneficial in helping the body recover and regains cognitive function. Doctors may advise the patient to see a nutritionist or recommend healthy foods to consume to assist in the recovery process.

Amnestic Disorders Prevention

Prevention of amnestic disorders can cover a wide variety of tactics. The most preventable type of amnestic disorder is that which stems from the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Patients should be aware of the possibility that amnestic disorders and impaired cognitive function can happen as a result of long time substance abuse. If the person is currently using drugs or alcohol they need to seek treatment for their substance abuse to help prevent amnestic disorders from appearing. If the patient informs their doctor about the potential of amnestic issues, they may receive instructions to begin thiamin treatment to prevent further development of the disorder.

People should be careful to avoid contact with environmental toxins which can impair cognitive function. These toxins can range from fumes from aerosol products to household cleaners. Even pesticides and improperly disposed waste products can cause a person to develop the amnestic disorder. If you are planning on handling any chemicals, make sure you wear sturdy gloves designed for use when using harsh chemicals. This prevents them from entering your body through the skin. If you plan to use chemicals with strong fumes or aerosols such as paint and primer, you are advised to wear a dust mask and use the products outside in an open, ventilated area where there is less of a chance of inhaling the fumes.

Amnestic disorders are complex and mysterious and may not have a specific cause or treatment. Some recover on their own without treatment other than counseling and occasional monitoring by their doctor. Still, others require prescribed medication to help prevent or improve the condition after it has begun to cause symptoms. If an injury has occurred, the patient should undergo testing and imaging by professionals in the event there is a more serious underlying issue that needs addressing first. If the cause of the condition stems from substance abuse, there are treatments that may improve or help prevent further memory and cognitive deterioration, but ultimately treatment for the substance abuse is the only way to ensure recovery from the condition.

Psychological disorders can cause an amnestic condition and should receive treatment by a licensed psychologist that is able to treat the issue over the course of times and prescribe medications that can help the person cope with their condition. Once the condition is under control, the person may regain their memories or the ability to learn and retain information. If the condition is serious, the patient may need long-term assistance with their daily lives until they show some degree of improvement, but a serious condition is rare.

People suffering from amnestic disorders often do not realize there is a problem or deny the symptoms, but family and friends may notice a drastic change in their personality and ability to recall information. It is important that they help the patient seek treatment to determine the underlying cause and to seek the proper treatment to help them regain normal function over the course of time. With professional help, the prognosis for people with amnestic conditions is generally good.

Last Reviewed:
September 25, 2017
Last Updated:
November 07, 2017
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