Repressed Memories Course Name

Course Number
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Repressed Memories
Disorder and its Main Symptoms
Repressed memory is a term used to refer to a condition an
individual’s memory has been blocked as a result of excessive stress
or stress enshrined within that memory. This is a condition that affects
the individual consciously even when the person is not in a position to
recall the memory. Within the field of psychology, the presence of
repressed memories is a subject with a number of controversies.
According to some scholars, the condition occurs in individuals
experiencing trauma (Pozzulo et al. 2010). It is stated that the
repressed memories can be regained via therapy. This is a statement that
has attracted different reactions with some psychologists supporting it
while others argue that this is a procedure that creates false memories
by amalgamating actual memories with external influences. Typically,
majority of the false memories involve mixing or confusing sections of
memory occurrences most of which happened at different times but are
recalled to have taken place at the same time. Besides, some
psychologists argue that the condition is a cultural symptom that does
not have any proof since it was non-existent prior the 1800s.
Apparently, it is hardly impossible to differentiate an actual
repressed memory from a false one without having to corroborate the
evidence as stated by American Psychological Association ((Pozzulo et
al. 2010)). It is believed that, the term repressed memory was derived
from dissociative amnesia. Typically the term is used to mean inability
to remember crucial personal information of a stressful or traumatic
experience which is excessive to be illustrated by ordinary
According to the therapists involved in the therapy of recovered
memory the repressed memory condition has a number of symptoms that are
as a result of particular forms of abuse. The symptoms include excessive
anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bulimia, relationships problems
and sexual inhibition. The reason as to why the memories of the abuse
are not remembered is because they are repressed to be forgotten.
However, irrespective of the forgetfulness the condition generates the
above named symptoms in adults. The eminence of the memories that are
not remembered differs a great deal (Wolf & Guyer, 2010). The memories
are at times vivid and detailed while at other times they are very
vague. Further, they at times indicate memories of things, which took
place during the early years of a child while at other times it
indicates the events that took place in the adolescent stage. Sometimes
they refer to the events that took place around 5 years or even 4o years
ago. Besides, they include rape, fondling or ritualism of an incredible
sort (Wolf & Guyer, 2010).
Generally, the memories reported after so many years of repression vary
tremendously. Evidently, one way that the memories vary is in terms of
the specific time an event allegedly took place. At the most, repressed
memories arguments point at the events that allegedly happened when a
child was less than a year or one year old. This is an observation that
attracted an evaluation of the literature regarding childhood amnesia
(Josselyn & Frankland, 2012). Universally, it is known individuals face
a deficiency of recollections of their initial numerous years in life.
According to studies, a child is not able to recall anything, which took
place at the fourth or fifth year when they reach ten years.
Relationship between Repressed Memories and other Disorders
Repressed memories are interconnected to a number of other disorders. To
begin with it has a relationship with Dissociative Identity Disorder
(DID). Dissociative Identity Disorder is a trauma condition that results
from excessive stress during the early years of a child. This condition
is also referred to as Dissociative amnesia. It allows the patient to
function normally and survive by fetching intolerable experiences and
information out of cognizant awareness. Actually, the repressed memories
are an actual probability for those suffering from Dissociative Identity
Disorder. According to studies however, there is a distinction amid
recognizing the probability and traumatizing oneself with the same.
Secondly, the Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is another disorder
that is interrelated with repressed memories. This is due to the fact
that young adults acquire new personalities as a result of the trauma
they experience from childhood sexual abuse. According to the
psychologists, the new personalities are created to go through the
sexual abuse, as well as allow the abused individual take pride of not
remembering the awful experiences and memories. Lastly, repressed
disorder has a relationship with amnesia. As is evident from past
studies, the term repressed memory was derived from dissociative amnesia
(Josselyn & Frankland, 2012). The term dissociative amnesia can be
defined as the inability to remember personal information that was
stressful or traumatic as well as extensive to be illustrated by simple
forgetfulness. Amnesia on the other hand can be defined the situation
where the memories stored in the long term memory are partially or
completely forgotten as a result of brain damage. Those who believe that
repressed memories are not a cultural symptom argue that the lost memory
can be recovered years after the time when the event is alleged to have
occurred. They say that this can happen if the particular moment is
triggered by taste, smell, suggestion during psychotherapy or any other
thing interrelated to the forgotten memory.
Most likely to have this Disorder
Past research indicates that the majority of uncovered abuse types
include memories of incest or sexual abuse during the early years of an
individual (Dos Santos, 2008). Often, the father figure is recalled as
the architect and the abuse as being permitted, ignored or facilitated
by the mother. Recollections of satanic abuse are later uncovered in
approximately 20% of the cases by satanic cults of the fraternal
organization of an individual memories of kidnapping by strangers, as
well as being subjected against one’s will to intrusive and unbearable
medical experiments memories of physical abuse in the childhood years
of an individual (Wolf & Guyer, 2010). The patient is taken back to the
happenings of their birth time, during their childhood and ultimately
their early lifetime.
It is notable that, the people most likely to be affected by the
repressed memories disorder are the girl child and the women
irrespective of their race (Dos Santos, 2008). This is because they are
the most susceptible to sexual abuse. However, the men though in few
cases also suffer the disorder.
Treatment and diagnosis of repressed memories necessitates the
development of a treatment plan that is founded on an inclusive
diagnostic and psychological assessment. Matters linked to the
patients’ whole picture encompassing level of functioning, signs and
symptoms should be circumspectly assessed (McNally & Geraerts, 2009).
All probable medical grounds for the patient’s symptoms require to be
categorized by suitable medical personnel prior to making diagnostic
conclusions. Besides, other additional services must be offered to the
patient as required.
The employment of therapeutic methods including guided imagery,
recovered memory groups, as well as hypnosis for the aim of treatment
must be restricted to clinical personnel or social workers who have
skills and experience, special training, and qualifications in the said
modalities (McNally & Geraerts, 2009). Scores of therapists draw on
checklists of signs and symptoms that are possible to come about during
adulthood as a result of the repressed memories. Regrettably, a number
of the checklists encompass numerous symptoms to the extent that they
incorporate a good number of the adult populace as alleged victims.
Therapists have employed a number of techniques with the intention of
treating repressed memories disorder. This is done so as to recover the
forgotten memories. These techniques encompass:
Dream work: This involves scrutinizing dreams of memories of incest,
sexual abuse or physical abuse among others depending with what happened
to the patient during their past.
Guided imagery: This involves taking the patient via an imagery trip.
Automatic writing which entails having the patient write down
unreservedly without considering what they should write.
‘Truth serum’ which involves the use of medications to enable
patients remember their repressed memories.
Age regression where the patient is taken back to the happenings of
their birth time, during their childhood and ultimately their early
The therapist might also have the patient picture abuse that may have
taken place (Wolf & Guyer, 2010).
Clinical social workers and medical personnel should investigate with a
patient who reports to have recovered forgotten memory after therapy,
for instance, memory of sexual abuse. The implication and significance
the memory has to the patient should be explored, instead of exclusively
centering on the authenticity and content of the report (Dos Santos,
2008). After a client recovers a memory of child abuse, the clinical
personnel should inform him/her the probability of the actuality of the
memory. These possibilities include: it might be a true memory of a real
happening a distorted or altered memory of a real happening or the
unfolding of a happening that did not take place (Dos Santos, 2008).
In order to ensure that the treatment process is a success, the
therapists necessitate maintaining suitable knowledge and skills
concerning the recovery of repressed memories. They must keep up-to-date
with the developing important scientific investigation of the concerns
and developments in principles of clinical performance. While carrying
out psychotherapy with patients of sexual abuse, clinical social
personnel needs to have ample training and showed capability in the
same, as well as the employment of suitable and skilled consultation and
administration (Wolf & Guyer, 2010).
Some of the important issues that a clinical social worker/therapist
should bear in mind while conducting therapy to clients include:
Maintenance and establishment of a suitable therapeutic relationship
bearing in mind boundary management
Maximizing his/her influence and power on the beliefs and impressions of
the patient
Recognizing that the patient might be swayed by their speculation,
opinions, or ideas
Guarding against the employment of leading questions that would help the
client recover memories
Being aware that discovery of forgotten incident is not the objective of
therapy but part of the procedure
Guarding against taking part in premature interpretations and
self-disclosure throughout the treatment procedure
The right to freewill of the client should be respected (Pozzulo et al.
The therapist should be non-judgmental, compassionate, and unbiased.
Understanding of an individual’s feelings with regard to repressed
memories is extremely important. Feelings of animated disbelief or
belief have an impact on the treatment procedure. The therapist should
not have any predilection in connection with whether the patient’s
symptoms are linked to certain happenings or incidents as this might
make the evaluation and treatment unsuitable and unsuccessful (Pozzulo
et al. 2010). The role of the therapist is to sustain the treatment
focus on the elimination or reduction of symptom, in addition to
improving the clients’ capability to function properly and contentedly
in their every day life (Pozzulo et al. 2010).
Risk Factors
According to numerous psychologists, unconscious repression of memories
which may involve distressing incidents such as rape, physical abuse, or
sexual abuse is a defense mechanism used by persons and has a high
probability of failing (McNally & Geraerts, 2009). Apparently, the
horrible incident though put out of the mind is not forgiven. It skulks
underneath realization and supposedly results in a countless of physical
and psychological predicaments ranging from bulimia, to insomnia, and to
committing suicide (McNally & Geraerts, 2009).
There have been numerous controversies surrounding the theory of
unconscious repression of memories. Little scientific proof has been
provided to support the perceptions that traumatic incidents are
generally repressed unconsciously, or unconscious memories of hurtful
incidents are considerable contributory factors in mental or physical
illness. Research shows that nearly all persons do not put out of their
mind traumatic incidents except when they are made to be unconscious
during the incident (Wolf & Guyer, 2010). No case has been identified of
a repressed traumatic incident during childhood that has resulted in a
physical or psychiatric disorder during adulthood. Such disorders have
been evidenced to be caused by incident itself.
Some proponents of repressed memories therapy put forth that repression
takes place for multiple or repeated traumas, for instance, a constantly
abused child. Studies have demonstrated that information repetition
results in enhanced memory, rather than memory loss (Dos Santos, 2008).
Individuals who have gone through traumatic experiences usually recall
such experiences, as it is difficult to forget the same. In this case,
persons are facilitated to repress memories in order to banish the
traumatic incidents from consciousness, as forgetting may assist in the
person’s survival. A number of psychologists acknowledge that it is
rather frequent to consciously repress horrible incidents such as sexual
abuse or rape, and to instinctively recall such happenings in future.
Research has revealed biological mechanism to memory repression where
the brain blocks unnecessary memories (Dos Santos, 2008). A study
carried out to test the same involved twenty four volunteers who were
tested on remembering nouns. The test also involved brain scanning using
functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results of the study
indicated that controlling unnecessary memories was linked with
amplified activation of the right and left frontal cortex, resulting in
the reduction of activation of the hippocampus (brain part linked with
memory). Evidently, unwanted memories can be repressed.
Josselyn, S. A., & Frankland, P. W. (2012). Infantile amnesia: A
neurogenic hypothesis. Learning & Memory, 19(9), 423-433.
Dos Santos, M. S. (2008). The repressed memory of Brazilian slavery.
International Journal of Cultural Studies, 11: 157 – 175.
Pozzulo, J.D., Dempsey, J.L. & Crescini, C. (2010). Factors Affecting
Juror Decisions in Historic Child Sexual Abuse Cases Involving
Continuous Memories. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37: 951 – 964.
Wolf, A.J. & Guyer, M. J. (2010). Repressed Memories in a Controversial
Conviction. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 38: 607 – 609.
McNally, R. J. & Geraerts, E. (2009). A New Solution to the Recovered
Memory Debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4: 126 – 134.