Debunking myths about trauma and memory

Can J Psychiatry. 2005 Nov;50(13):817-22. doi: 10.1177/070674370505001302.


How trauma victims remember--or forget--their most horrific experiences lies at the heart of the most bitter controversy in psychiatry and psychology in recent times. Whereas experts maintain that traumatic events--those experienced as overwhelmingly terrifying at the time of their occurrence--are remembered all too well, traumatic amnesia theorists disagree. Although these theorists acknowledge that trauma is often seemingly engraved on memory, they nevertheless maintain that a significant minority of survivors are incapable of remembering their trauma, thanks to mechanisms of either dissociation or repression. Unfortunately, the evidence they adduce in support of the concept of traumatic dissociative amnesia fails to support their claims. The purpose of this review is to dispel confusions and debunk myths regarding trauma and memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Dissociative Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Repression, Psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*