Understanding Serial Killers
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Curious about what makes a serial killer…well, a serial killer? Check out this video to learn more about the criteria and learn what goes on in the mind of a serial killer.
Transcript: To be labeled a serial killer, an individual must commit three or more murders in a relatively short...
To be labeled a serial killer, an individual must commit three or more murders in a relatively short time, with periods of rest, or "cool downs," in between. They prefer strangers for victims, and their motive is always psychological, not material. This begs the question, "What kind of person feels gratified from murder?" On the surface, serial killers are most often white males in their 20s or 30s. They tend to share dysfunctional childhoods, stories of physical or sexual abuse, and a history of detentions or arrests. As young adults, many serial killers will obsess over pyromania or animal cruelty. But what can we tell about the MINDS of these killers? Many serial killers have antisocial personality disorder, and show little regard for society's expectations of "right" and "wrong." They also have a genuine disregard for the rights and feelings of other people. Take Ted Bundy, for instance. After his arrest for murdering more than 30 people, he said, "I'm the most cold-blooded son-of-a-bitch you'll ever meet. I just like to kill." Despite this, people with antisocial personality disorder are charming and adept at manipulation. So are serial killers actually insane? Not usually. Many have families, jobs, and even hold leadership positions in their communities. The FBI reports most actually have IQs in the "above normal" range. Some are intelligent enough to attempt to convince authorities of their insanity, while others create fantastical alter egos, pinning their crimes on inner devils. Very few criminals actually have dissociative identity, or multiple personality, disorder. Regardless of what's inherently "wrong" with them, it's rare that serial killers express regret or the desire to reform. For this reason, and for the safety of all of us, serial killers are almost never offered rehabilitation, but instead are sentenced to life in prison or death.More »
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It sounds like a strange dream, but it's true-- people with synesthesia experience two or more of the 5 senses simultaneously. Watch this video to learn more abouto synesthesia.
Transcript: Synesthesia involves experiencing at least two or more of the five senses at the same time, with one...
Synesthesia involves experiencing at least two or more of the five senses at the same time, with one sense involuntarily causing a sensation in another. Synesthesia, meaning "to perceive together," is derived from the Greek, with the first scientific reports of Synesthetes, referred to as "seers"-made in 1883 by anthropologist and explorer Sir Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's cousin. Galton noticed Synesthesia appeared to run in families, which research from the U.S. and England actually confirms. However, Synesthetic perceptions are unique to each person. Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov, best known for his novel, Lolita, described the sensation of Synesthesia, writing that the sound of a long A in English "has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French A evokes polished ebony." Similarly, American composer George Gershwin, most famous for his "Rhapsody in Blue," saw notes in color, while French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud's poem "Voyelles," expresses his perception of colored vowel sounds. A Synesthesia study involving participants who had been blind for at least 10 years, but possessed colored-hearing Synesthesia their entire lives determined visual areas of the brain remain active despite blindness. They reported "seeing" the same color in response to sound. Most Synesthetes experience it uni-directionally. For example, tastes may produce sounds, but sounds don't produce taste. In rare cases, some Synesthetes have bi-directional Synesthesia, where music may elicit color, and colors elicit sounds. Perceptions aren't consciously thought out; they're simply there. A Synesthete who associates the name "Matt" with the color blue will remember the person's name as blue, rather than "Matt." While it's unknown how many people live with Synesthesia, estimates range from one in 200 people to one in 100,000. Researchers agree that women exhibit it more often than men. For more information about mental health topics, please see other videos on this site.More »
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There is a great deal of confusion about schizophrenia. Some think it has to do with split personalities, among other things. Discover the truth about schizophrenia in this video.
Transcript: Schizophrenia has been dubbed the "modern-day equivalent of leprosy," by celebrated psychiatrist E. Fuller...
Schizophrenia has been dubbed the "modern-day equivalent of leprosy," by celebrated psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. Indeed, the disorder is cloaked in misunderstanding and distrust. The term schizophrenia refers to "splitting of the mind," so perhaps it makes sense that one of the most pervasive myths about schizophrenia is that people who have it suffer from split, or multiple, personalities. Fully 64-percent of Americans buy into this misconception, according to a national alliance on mental illness survey. But split mind refers to a disparity between thought and action such as smiling when telling a disturbing story or feeling afraid of completely mundane things. It does not refer to a variety of different personalities! The truth is that multiple personalities are a symptom of a completely different illness, called Dissociative Identity Disorder, but known colloquially as multiple personality disorder. Another prevalent myth about schizophrenia is that people with the disorder are dangerous and unpredictable. In reality, the incidence of violence amongst those with schizophrenia is not much higher than that of the general population. In fact, it is much more likely that a person with schizophrenia will withdraw from society in confusion, fear, and despair than that he will become violent or dangerous! Yet another common myth about schizophrenia is that people with the illness cannot lead productive lives. This untruth was most effectively debunked by ten years of research from the New Hampshire dual diagnosis study. This research found that 62.7 percent of people with schizophrenia were managing to successfully control symptoms of the disease while 56.8-percent were thriving in independent living situations and 41.4 percent were gainfully employed! Despite this, another prevalent myth shrouding schizophrenia is that sufferers cannot get better and that they are doomed to lead lives of suffering and sickness. While it is true that schizophrenia is not curable, its symptoms can be very successfully treated with prescription medication and psychotherapy. Myths about schizophrenia abound, education and knowledge can help end the stigma against the condition. If you believe that you or a loved one suffers from schizophrenia, please make an appointment with a mental health professional.More »
Last Modified: 2013-06-13 | Tags »
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Avoidant personality disorder affects an individual's ability to interact in social situations. Watch this video where this disorder is discussed in more detail.
Transcript: Avoidant personality disorder, which affects about 1 to 2% of the American population, is a psychiatric...
Avoidant personality disorder, which affects about 1 to 2% of the American population, is a psychiatric condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling extremely shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection. It's completely normal to occasionally feel nervous or inadequate in social situations. But for people with Avoidant Personality Disorder, or AvPD, feelings of EXTREME shyness are a DAILY occurrence. People with avoidant personality disorder tend to be preoccupied with their own shortcomings. They form relationships with others ONLY if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are SO painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others. They tend to feel that they are socially inept, unappealing, and inferior to others. Because of these social inhibitions, individuals with AvPD often avoid activities that involve significant contact with people. Generally, they prefer the loneliness of isolation to the possible rejection or pain of social relationships. In extreme situations, people with Avoidant Personality Disorder ALSO develop agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is a phobia that revolves around a fear of being in public places, or in crowds. It can also extend to include fear of social situations in general. Although people with AvPD are generally reluctant to engage in relationships, they may do so if they feel almost certain they won't be rejected. But even within these shaky relationships, AvPD sufferers tend to show exaggerated restraint and inhibition. This personality disorder is equally divided between males and females. The cause is unknown. But often, adults with Avoidant Personality Disorder experienced repeated parental rejection and criticism as children. They may ALSO struggle with disfiguring illnesses or circumstances, which make social situations more intimidating. Without treatment, a person with avoidant personality disorder may become resigned to a life of near or total isolation. They may go on to develop a second psychiatric disorder such as substance abuse or a mood disorder such as depression. The GOOD news about this condition is that people who have it usually DESIRE to develop close, healthy relationships. That means that talk therapy can be very helpful for treating the symptoms of AvPD. In particular, success has been shown with cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT combines behavioral therapy, like repeat exposure to social situations with cognitive therapy, such as discussing the underlying source of social inadequacy. Occasionally, anti-depressant medications can ALSO be used to help reduce sensitivity to rejection. The prognosis for people with Avoidant Personality Disorder is very good, so if you believe you're affected by the condition, please make an appointment to see a doctor.More »
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Narcissistic personality disorder involves having a grandiose sense of importance, and a vain, egocentric personality. Watch this video to learn more about this personality disorder.
Transcript: Celebrity psychologist Dr. Drew Pinsky wrote an entire book about Narcissistic Personality Disorder,...
Celebrity psychologist Dr. Drew Pinsky wrote an entire book about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a condition in which there is an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one's self. But how common IS this phenomenon? According to the American Psychological Association, only about one-percent of American adults suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is a mental condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep need for admiration from others. Those with Narcissistic Personality disorder tend to take advantage of others to achieve their goals, and have a tendency to exaggerate their achievements and talents. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, and happiness, combined with an obsessive self-interest tend to characterize the person with this condition. As well, people with this disorder tend to disregard the feelings of others, demonstrating a serious lack of empathy. The former Playboy bunny, Anna Nicole Smith, is a perfect example of classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder, according to Dr. Drew. Like Anna Nicole, people with this condition believe that they are special and unique, and should ONLY associate with similarly privileged individuals. Individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder display a sense of entitlement for the best that life has to offer. People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder may take advantage of other others, and use them to achieve their own ostentatious goals. Despite all of this grandiose behavior, individuals with this condition tend to have very fragile self-esteems. For this reason, they have a need to be constantly admired and doted upon. It isn't fully understood what causes this set of personality traits, but it's suspected that extremes in parenting may contribute. Many people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder experienced a lack of affection and support during childhood. They often report neglect, abuse, or an unpredictable home life. On the flipside, some people with the condition were very pampered as children and were always expected to outperform their peers. No matter its cause, people with this personality disorder do NOT usually see themselves as having a problem, which makes treatment difficult. If a person DOES seek help, psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the preferred method. Psychotherapy may help the affected person relate to others in a more positive and compassionate manner. For Narcissistic Personality Disorder, therapy focuses on learning to relate to others in a more positive, empathetic way. The prognosis, however, is dependent on the severity of the condition. Like Anna Nicole, people with this condition have a hard time developing healthy relationships with others. For this reason, it's important to make an appointment with a mental health professional if you think you or a loved one is affected by Narcissistic Personality Disorder.More »
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People who fail to achieve sexual arousal without inflicting pain and suffering on their partner are sexual sadists. Learn more about the science of sexual sadism in this video.
Transcript: The term "sadism" was coined in reference to the 19th-century writings of the Marquis de Sade, whose...
The term "sadism" was coined in reference to the 19th-century writings of the Marquis de Sade, whose novels portrayed beatings, torture and murder erotically. According to both psychology and law enforcement experts, sexual sadists inflict emotional and physical pain in order to generate sexual arousal. Diagnosing sexual sadism involves the presence, for at least six months, of recurring, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges or behaviors involving intentional acts that cause another person to suffer for the purpose of sexual excitement, subsequently causing social, occupational or functional impairment. Most sadistic sexual behavior occurs between consenting adults, is typically limited in scope and not harmful. For some, sexual sadism goes no further than fantasizing. Others fulfill their fantasies by finding willing partners, or paying prostitutes to play the "submissive" role. At its most extreme, sexual sadism can involve rape, torture and murder as was the case with Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr., known as the Hillside Stranglers, and Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, BTK being an acronym for "bind, torture and kill." While the precise cause of sexual sadism is unknown, it's likely related to impulse control issues that begin in adolescence or early adulthood. With sadism, recurrent sexual fantasies tend to be chronic and increase in intensity with time. Treatment involves cognitive therapy to restructure thought patterns, along with medication to help manage fantasies and behavior. If you feel you have an issue - please seek the help of a medical professional. And for more information on mental health issues, watch additional videos on this site.More »
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We all lie sometimes when we intentionally want to deceive someone else. But pathological liars lie impulsively about things that have no external benefit to them. Watch this video for a look inside the mind of a pathological liar.
Transcript: All humans have lied at one time or another, so we all know it involves dishonesty with the intent to...
All humans have lied at one time or another, so we all know it involves dishonesty with the intent to deceive another person. A normal lie is usually premeditated, told for external social, financial, or career-based gain. But pathological lying, which is also known as mythomania and as pseudologia fantastica, is different. Unlike a normal lie, a pathological lie is often impulsive and unplanned. Even more importantly, this type of deception seems to be told with no external benefit in mind. In the medical world, pathological lying is a controversial topic. This is partially because the medical community has yet to reach a consensus on how exactly to define it. It is also still being debated whether mythomania is a diagnosable medical condition on its own, or simply a symptom of another mental illness. After all, it's easy to confuse pathological lying with other psychiatric conditions involving untruths. For example, narcissistic and histrionic personality disorders involve deceiving others, though in both of those conditions the liar seeks to gain personal accolades, admiration, and attention. The biggest factor keeping mythomania out of official medical literature is that doctors don't fully know if patients can control their lies or not. One study found that self-proclaimed pathological liars had 26-percent more fatty brain material, known as white matter, than a control group, suggesting a biological origin. On the other hand, some pathological liars will confess when repeatedly questioned, which suggests an element of control exists over their deceptions. Because mythomania has yet to be declared a real mental illness, very little research has gone into how to treat it. It's suspected that psychotherapy could be an option, but in order to be successful, the patient would have to desire treatment, and be willing to be truthful with the psychiatrist administering it. Until the American Academy of Psychiatry can agree on a definition, pathological lying will remain something of a mystery!More »
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Sexual masochism is not just a kinky form of sexual pleasure; it is in fact a mental disorder that requires treatment. Discover more about the science of sexual masochism in this video.
Transcript: Couples in healthy sexual relationships may experiment with masochistic behavior, like spanking, blindfolding,...
Couples in healthy sexual relationships may experiment with masochistic behavior, like spanking, blindfolding, gagging or bondage. With sexual masochism, a psychosexual disorder, these acts are not a game-they may result in physical or mental harm. The term "masochism" is derived from the name of writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, 19th-century author of Venus in Furs, the novel of a man who finds sexual pleasure in the degradation and abuse of a powerful woman. Experts say sexual excitement is derived from consciously being unconditionally subjected to the will of another person. And self-inflicted pain and humiliation is the means by which sexual masochists end up perceiving they're controlled by an all-powerful partner. Sexual masochism sometimes involves extremely painful activities like whippings, cutting or self-mutilation, as well as humiliating acts like urinating or defecation. One particularly dangerous practice masochists carry out is auto-erotic asphyxia, the placing a noose around the neck and, in some instances, the genitals, for sexual pleasure. Airtight bags and amyl nitrates, known as poppers, are also sometimes used. Research suggests that brain chemicals epinephrine and norepinephrine are released during stressful or painful experiences, resulting in a pleasurable "rush" that strengthens the desire to replicate the feeling. Sexual masochism is diagnosed after 6 or more months of intense recurring, sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that involve acts of brutality for sexual excitement. Another factor addresses how the masochist's behavior leads to significant social, occupational or functional impairment. It's believed that sexually masochistic behavior starts with masochistic or sadistic play in childhood, and that these behaviors are generally evident by early adulthood. Cognitive, behavioral, psychoanalytic and drug therapies are all options for treating sexual masochism, though patients rarely continue treatment long-term, as recommended. For more information on mental health issues, watch additional videos on this site.More »
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Munchausen syndrome is a complicated mental illness in which a person pretends to be sick to get attention and sympathy from others. Since it's self-inflicted, it's difficult to treat. Get details on Munchausen syndrome in this video.
Transcript: Munchausen syndrome is a factitious disorder, meaning it's made up or self-inflicted. A person with Munchausen...
Munchausen syndrome is a factitious disorder, meaning it's made up or self-inflicted. A person with Munchausen syndrome pretends to be sick, or makes himself sick on purpose. People act this way to fulfill attention and sympathy needs, not for concrete benefits, like time off from work or financial gain. Munchausen patients make up illnesses, fabricate phony medical histories and create long lists of fake "symptoms." They may even make themselves sick by taking medications that ultimately mimic disease, like blood thinners, and by cutting, burning, or injuring themselves. Munchausen patients are so desperate to come off as sick that they'll even tamper with lab tests and equipment. Their behaviors mean unnecessary loss of organs to surgery, severe injury and even death. Unfortunately, people with Munchausen syndrome are so adept at deception; it can be hard to diagnose them. Some peculiar symptoms to look for include: eagerness to undergo frequent testing or risky procedures, very vague or inconsistent symptoms, and frequent hospitalizations, often at many different institutions. People with Munchausen syndrome may tell dramatic stories about medical history, yet appear to have few supportive visitors at the hospital. They may appear evasive when doctors ask to speak to their loved ones. If a doctor notices these things and does diagnose Munchausen syndrome, it can be difficult to treat. That's because the best treatment is talk therapy, but most patients won't admit they have an issue. Those who do get treatment often do so at the urging of family and friends. If you're concerned a loved one is faking illness, consult her about the issue. If gentle prodding doesn't help, your next step is to speak with her doctor.More »
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What is conversion disorder? This little-known condition, previously thought to be a form of hysteria, comes from psychological stress triggered by a traumatic event. Watch this video to learn more about this perplexing condition.
Transcript: You may be unfamiliar with Conversion Disorder, a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis,...
You may be unfamiliar with Conversion Disorder, a condition in which a person has blindness, paralysis, or neurological symptoms that cannot be explained, but physicians have been writing about this condition since fourth century, BC! Until the twentieth century, Conversion Disorder was known by the more colloquial term, hysteria. Greece's famous physician, Plato, believed that hysteria was exclusive to females and that it stemmed from a woman's uterus wandering throughout her body. Women experiencing Plato's hysteria developed a myriad of symptoms, ranging from spasms to extreme nervousness. But when the twentieth century rolled around, psychologist Sigmund Freud changed the thinking regarding hysteria. The condition got its NEW name, Conversion Disorder, because Freud believed it was a condition in which psychological stress is converted into real, physical symptoms. Today, Freud's Conversion Disorder is considered a real medical diagnosis, while hysteria is no longer recognized. For a person with modern-day Conversion Disorder, psychological stress is triggered by a traumatic event or a mental health disorder, like depression or anxiety. That MENTAL duress is then displayed suddenly and unexpectedly as a PHYSICAL problem. Commonly, Conversion Disorder manifests as paralysis in an arm or leg inability to speak, or difficulty swallowing and vision problems ranging from double vision to blindness. Other Conversion Disorder symptoms can include hallucinations, numbness, blindness, or seizures. It's important to understand that while these real symptoms are DEFINITELY present in sufferers, there is NO physical, medical explanation for why they occur. Some doctors falsely believe that conversion disorder and similar disorders are not real conditions, and may tell patients that the problem is "all in your head." However, these conditions ARE real! They cause distress and cannot be turned on and off at will. Research on the mind-body connection may eventually increase understanding of these disorders. That means that a physician must rule out ALL other causes of a person's symptoms before diagnosing Conversion Disorder. Generally, females are more likely to have this condition. Although, contrary to the old hysteria beliefs, males can experience it as well! People are more at risk for a conversion disorder if they also have a medical illness, dissociative disorder, or personality disorder. As well, a history of physical or sexual abuse or living in a culture of poverty may also increase the likelihood of developing the disorder. The good news is that MOST people with Conversion Disorder get better with a doctor's reassurance that there is nothing PHYSICALLY wrong with them. Psychotherapy and stress management training may help reduce symptoms. The affected body part or physical function will need physical or occupational therapy until the symptoms disappear. For example, paralyzed limbs must be exercised to prevent muscle wasting. Hypnosis may also be used to help identify the condition's genesis, because there is relief from Conversion Disorder, and because treatment can be relatively simple it's important to talk to a doctor if you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of this condition.More »
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Exercise addiction can be defined as an obsession with fitness. Believe it or not, excessive exercise can be harmful. Watch this video to find out more.
Transcript: Exercise is a good thing, right? Well, most of the time but like the old adage says, you CAN get too...
Exercise is a good thing, right? Well, most of the time but like the old adage says, you CAN get too much of a good thing! According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most adults should exercise about thirty minutes daily. For children, that number doubles, to about sixty minutes of physical activity each day. But for some people-most often females between ages 12 and 19 the recommended amount of exercise is never enough. Hypergymnasia is a condition characterized by a person's compulsive desire to exercise well beyond what is considered normal and healthy. A person with this condition typically has a skewed body image and tries to achieve an impossible goal by exercising in a rigorous manner. Often, hypergymnasia is coupled with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Also called "obligatory exercise" and "anorexia athletica," this condition causes sufferers to lose all enjoyment of exercise. Instead, physical activity becomes an obligation that is not to be shirked, even in the face of sickness or injury. If a person with hypergymnasia misses even ONE workout, she is bombarded with feelings of guilt and anxiety. Often, individuals with the condition will abandon social, work, and school commitments in order to exercise. Physical activity becomes SO important, in fact, that sufferers define self-worth and success in terms of performance. It's not uncommon for compulsive exercisers to also struggle with very poor body image. In addition, excessive exercise can damage muscles, bones, and joints, and when these minor injuries aren't permitted time to heal, long-term damage can result. Even more disturbing, too much activity places stress on the heart, particularly when an eating disorder is ALSO present. In extreme cases, this can lead to cardiac arrest. Females are PARTICULARLY at risk for physical problems, as anorexia athletica can disrupt the hormone levels in their bodies. This can lead to premature bone loss as well as the cessation of their menstrual periods. While this is upsetting, people with hypergymnasia CAN and DO improve with treatment. Psychotherapy can help patients establish a healthier relationship with both exercise AND eating. In fact, an estimated 80-percent of those treated for anorexia athletica experience vast improvements or complete recoveries. If you, or someone you love, show signs of hypergymnasia, don't stay silent! Make an appointment with a mental health professional immediately!More »
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What is dissociative amnesia? This memory loss is not caused by brain damage, but occurs when the mind blocks out memories as a result of traumatic events. Watch this video to learn more about dissociative amnesia.
Transcript: In the action-packed Bourne Trilogy, Matt Damon's character, Jason Bourne, loses all memory of his past...
In the action-packed Bourne Trilogy, Matt Damon's character, Jason Bourne, loses all memory of his past self. Just how common is amnesia like this? Amnesia is a condition in which certain memories are lost or become inaccessible. One type of amnesia occurs when a person mentally blocks out certain information, usually as a result of emotional shock, stress, or trauma. This was once known as psychogenic amnesia, and is known today as dissociative amnesia. Traumatic events that can lead to dissociative amnesia include: military combat, natural disasters, terrorist acts, and physical or sexual abuse. Jason Bourne, of the Bourne Identity books and films, was tormented by merciless government training and work-related trauma, suffered from this type of amnesia. For Bourne, intense dissociative amnesia caused a complete loss of all sense of identity and history. This rare condition is called a fugue state, and it usually only lasts a few hours or days. More often, dissociative amnesia includes gaps in memory for large spans of time, or missing memories surrounding the precipitating traumatic event. It's important to understand that dissociative amnesia is different from organic amnesia, in which brain damage or injury is directly responsible for the loss of memory. In dissociative amnesia, memories are not really lost. Instead, they are buried deep within the mind. These memories may resurface on their own, or may be triggered by a person's surroundings. It makes sense that dissociative amnesia can cause a great deal of hardship, and may lead to depression or anxiety. For this reason, it's important to seek help from a doctor if symptoms of the condition are present. A physician will rule out physical illness or medication side effects before referring a patient to a mental health professional for treatment. The goal of treatment is to help a person safely access and express painful memories. Psychotherapy, which involves one-on-one communication with a therapist, is one option. Another is clinical hypnosis, in which doctor-induced relaxation causes a patient to reach a heightened state of awareness. While there are no medications specifically approved to treat amnesia, patients suffering from anxiety or depression may benefit from drugs that treat these conditions. For most people with dissociative amnesia, memory returns with time. Although it took three films and seven novels, even Jason Bourne regained his missing memories in the end!More »
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