The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Psychogenic Amnesia definition

Psychogenic amnesia (also called functional amnesia) is a form of amnesia which occurs in otherwise healthy people -- i.e., it is not the result of a brain injury.

It involves loss of important personal information. Another term for this condition is functional amnesia.

Form of psychogenic

In one form of psychogenic amnesia, called fugue state, individuals may forget not only their pasts but their very identities. Despite the many Hollywood movies depicting this phenomenon, fugue state is extremely rare in real life. Fugue state normally resolves with time, particularly with the help of therapy.

A more common form of psychogenic amnesia is dissociative amnesia. In this state, an individual may experience memory loss which is restricted to a particular period of time, such as the duration of a violent crime. This memory loss is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetting, and instead may reflect the fact that the information is too stressful or traumatic to be remembered.

Dissociative amnesia is a psychological phenomenon, rather than a physiological one, and may often be resolved with the help of therapy.

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain