The word amnesia has its Greek origins. It is a condition wherein there is a profound disturbance or loss in memory. In this context, memory is the information stored or processed and not the intellectual attribute in itself. The causes of amnesia are divided in either the physical or psychological, or most commonly known as the organic or functional division. Organic causes usually come from physical harm to the brain through blunt trauma, vehicular accidents, falls, neurological conditions, and the like. Other organic causes may be because of a medication which in turn affects the intellectual capacity of a person. Functional causes are usually psychological disorders or factors. Post traumatic stress disorders and defense mechanisms may be categorized under functional causes of amnesia.
Types of Amnesia
There are two types of amnesia. These are Anterograde amnesia and Retrograde amnesia. Anterograde amnesia happens when the person’s ability to memorize new information is either impaired or lost. On the other hand, regrograde amnesia happens when the person’s pre – existing memories, like past events or even their identities, are lost to conscious recollection. The person with retrograde amnesia may still be able to memorize new information that is introduced to one’s thoughts after the onset of amnesia.
The perception of memory is also divided into two types. There is the procedural memory or declarative memory. During episodes of amnesia, only one type is impaired. An example of a procedural memory is automated skills and declarative memories are personal episodes or abstract facts.
Patients with amnesia usually show difficulty with memorizing new data, they may have difficulty learning previously learned information or skills. They may appear confused and disoriented. There are cases in which the neurological condition becomes psychological and the patient’s loss of confidence in memorizing new information or learning new skills are greatly diminished. That would mean that their own incapacities are only because they have lost faith and confidence in their own capabilities.
Diagnosis of Amnesia
Diagnosing amnesia is through complete assessment of a mental health professional. That means that there are no laboratory tests that would show that amnesia does exist in an individual. It is, however, important to note that other diseases or conditions that might mimic or contribute to amnesia, therefore it is important to rule them out first.
Amnesia is usually treated through psychotherapy if emotional trauma is the cause of the condition. Sodium amobarbital is sometimes used for people suffering from amnesia. The medication basically helps people recall their lost memories. Yet the use of psychotherapies such as hypnosis or sodium amobarbital is yet to be proven for its usefulness as this may cause people with amnesia to fabricate information that may not be a hundred percent true. The prognosis with patient’s with amnesia depends on the degree of damage to the brain. It also would depend on the cause of the condition. If the cause is due to a toxic substance, then removing the toxic substance would easily rid the patient of the condition. But if the patient has suffered severe brain trauma then the condition may last for weeks, months, years, and in some cases, throughout the patient’s lifetime.