What is Amnesia?
A topic I have yet to cover in my blog posts about memory problems is memory loss, or amnesia. One of two criteria in diagnosing a concussion is memory loss. The other is the duration of time of lost consciousness. Loss of memory of events prior to injury is called retrograde amnesia, while loss of memory following the injury is called anterograde amnesia. There is another form, which I refer to as “Swiss Cheese” amnesia, meaning you can recall parts of the event, yet are unable to completely recall all the events, even with lots of help and cues.
Prior to my multiple concussions, I went to see a famous jazz singer. After the show there was a brutal brawl in the alleyway. Years after my injury, my husband was recounting the concert and the following events. Hearing the story, I pointed out I had no recall of the brawl. My husband tried everything to get me to remember. I remember all the details about the concert, yet I had no memory (recall) of the brawl. Now 20 years later, with a lot of Neurofeedback and changing my diet, I can recall all aspects of the event.
An extreme form of retrograde amnesia is when a person can’t remember anything about their life prior to the injury. In interviewing various people for my book, Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, there was one man who did not remember his wife, children, mother, father or sibling, as well as what he did for a living. He said it was terrifying to be totally unaware of his past life. With therapy, the patience of his entire family and his work staff, he eventually became aware of his prior life. A similar type of retrograde amnesia is seen in severe trauma, where the person has no recollection of the events that occurred, such as in combat, severe child abuse and rape.
Anterograde amnesia is the loss of ability to make new memories. This was very effectively displayed in the movie 50 First Dates. Upon seeing this movie, I both laughed and cried, because I was reliving my life. There was one person, “10 Second Tom”, with whom I could really identify. 24 years ago, if I had met you and we talked, and then I turned my head, when I turned my head back you were a new person and I would reintroduce myself.
It is important to know that memories that are not attainable to the brain/mind are still stored in the body and cell memory. It is possible through various methods to connect the body/cell memory with the brain’s memory areas. One of my patients, who I’ve done a published case study about, was in a coma for months and was totally unable to recall what he had eaten hours before. Suddenly one day he was able to recall from one given verbal cue (a person’s name he had known in his past) his entire past history, including years where all he did was sit and stare at the walls, was totally and completely retrieved. At first, I thought he was making up all the information, so I immediately phoned his mother during the session. She was on the phone crying in disbelief of his accurate accounts of his past when he was completely unable to function.
Treatments for Amnesia
What can help if you have any of the forms of amnesia? There are a lot of methods available.The following is a list of some of the most effective methods:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR):This method was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro. It can help integrate the two hemispheres of the brain to help recall events.
- Hypnosis: Through relaxation and a method called “age regression, it is possible to retrieve lost memories.
- Energy Psychology: This method that originated with Dr. Roger Callahan in TFT uses acupuncture points and Qi.
- Neurofeedback: This method helps with the dysregulation of the brain and neural hubs. It helps to regulate brain function and restore or make new neural connections.
- Cognitive Therapy: The focus of cognitive remediation is to help an individual acquire tools and strategies necessary to improve thinking, executive functioning, time management, and decision-making. Through this method the brain can often access the lost memories.
- Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy is designed to assess the function and potential complications related to the movement of the upper extremities, daily living skills, cognition, vision, and perception. This method helps to integrate the body/mind connection that allows the body/cell memories to integrate with the brain.
- Bilateral Sounds: This method is for helping the brain become unstuck and regulated. It is very effective for reeducating the left and right hemispheres, as well as for relieving stress and symptoms of PCS and PTSD. A web-based company, Psych Innovations, produces some commonly used bilateral sounds for this purpose.
- Technical Assistance from iPhone, iPad, tablet: My co-author, Barbara Albers Hill, has publsihed a new book, Breaking Through. This book is a complete guide to using Electronic tablets for children with special needs.The information in this book is also very effective for helping with all types of memory problems.
- Nutrition: What you eat or don’t eat truly affects access and retrieval of memory. If you still have some form of amnesia, drinking alcohol and eating sugar will not help. Eat more protein, especially foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, such as tuna and sockeye salmon. Try and stick to an anti-inflammatory diet.
The good news is that there is Help and Hope of regaining your lost memories. There is a Way!®