Dissociative Amnesia


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Neurological cause of psychogenic amnesia is controversial. Even in cases of organic amnesia, where there is lesion or structural damage to the brain, caution must still be taken in defining causation, as only damage to areas of the brain crucial to memory processing is it possible to result in memory impairment. Organic causes of amnesia can be difficult to detect, and often both organic cause and psychological triggers can be entangled. Failure to find an organic cause may result in the diagnosis that the amnesia is psychological, however it is possible that some organic causes may fall below a threshold of detection, while other neurological ails are thought to be unequivocally organic (such as a migraine) even though no functional damage is evident. Possible malingering must also be taken into account. Some researchers have cautioned against psychogenic amnesia becoming a 'wastebasket' diagnosis when organic amnesia is not apparent. Other researchers have hastened to defend the notion of psychogenic amnesia and its right not to be dismissed as a clinical disorder. Diagnoses of psychogenic amnesia have dropped since agreement in the field of transient global amnesia, suggesting some over diagnosis at least. Speculation also exists about psychogenic amnesia due to its similarities with 'pure retrograde amnesia', as both share similar retrograde loss of memory. Also, although no functional damage or brain lesions are evident in the case of pure retrograde amnesia, unlike psychogenic amnesia it is not thought that purely psychological or 'psychogenic triggers' are relevant to pure retrograde amnesia. Psychological triggers such as emotional stress are common in everyday life, yet pure retrograde amnesia is considered very rare. Also the potential for organic damage to fall below threshold of being identified does not necessarily mean it is not present, and it is highly likely that both psychological factors and organic cause exist in pure retrograde amnesia.