Definition

The amnestic disorders are a group of disorders that involve loss of memories previously established, loss of the ability to create new memories, or loss of the ability to learn new information. As defined by the mental health professional's handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, text revision (2000), also known as DSM-IV-TR, the amnestic disorders result from two basic causes: general medical conditions that produce memory disturbances; and exposure to a chemical (drug of abuse, medication, or environmental toxin). An amnestic disorder whose cause cannot be definitely established may be given the diagnosis of amnestic disorder not otherwise specified.

Anterograde amnesia—Amnesia for events that occurred after a physical injury or emotional trauma but before the present moment.

Confabulation—In psychiatry, the filling-in of gaps in memory with false information that the patient believes to be true. It is not deliberate telling of lies.

Delirium—A disturbance of consciousness marked by confusion, difficulty paying attention, delusions, hallucinations, or restlessness.

Dementia—A group of symptoms (syndrome) associated with a progressive loss of memory and other intellectual functions that is serious enough to interfere with a person's ability to perform the tasks of daily life. Dementia impairs memory, alters personality, leads to deterioration in personal grooming, impairs reasoning ability, and causes disorientation.

Dissociation—A reaction to trauma in which the mind splits off certain aspects of the traumatic event from conscious awareness. Dissociation can affect the patient's memory, sense of reality, and sense of identity.

Factitious disorder—A type of mental disturbance in which patients intentionally act physically or mentally ill without obvious benefits. It is distinguished from malingering by the absence of an obvious motive, and from conversion disorder by intentional production of symptoms.

Hypnotic—A type of medication that induces sleep.

Korsakoff's syndrome—A disorder of the central nervous system resulting from long-term thiamin deficiency. It is characterized by amnesia, confusion, confabulation, and unsteady gait; and is most commonly seen in alcoholics.

Malingering—Knowingly pretending to be physically or mentally ill to avoid some unpleasant duty or responsibility, or for economic benefit.

Orientation—In psychiatry, the ability to locate oneself in one's environment with respect to time, place and people.

Retrograde amnesia—Amnesia for events that occurred before a traumatic injury.

Thiamin—A B-vitamin that is essential to normal metabolism and nerve function, and whose absorption is affected by alcoholism.

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