False Memory Syndrome – What The Studies Say

Professor Alan Schefflin, Santa Clara University Law School and Dr. Daniel Brown reviewed 25 recent studies (spring 1996) on Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse. They state:

“No study failed to find it….Amnesia for childhood sexual abuse is a robust finding across studies using very different samples and methods of assessment. Studies addressing the accuracy of recovered memories show that recovered memories are no more or no less accurate than continuous memories for abuse”.

Herman & Schatzow (1987): 53 women – 36% always remembered, 64% some amnesia; 36% mild to moderate amnesia; 28% “severe memory deficits”. 74% found corroboration, with 40% getting confirmation for perpetrators, other family members, physical evidence and 34% from siblings or other victims.

Albach (in press): 97 women with a history of CSA and a matched control of 65 non-abused women. 35% in the sexually abused group reported amnesia at some time, compared to 1% in the control group who reported amnesia for nontraumatic unpleasant childhood experiences. Psychotherapy was not typically reported to be the cause of recovering the abuse memory.

Roe & Schwartz (1996): 52 women, hospitalized for sexual trauma. 88% reported history of csa. 77% not remembered for significant time (3 to 45 years)

Bernet et al (1993): 624 undergraduates reported at least one experience of sexual abuse prior to age 15. 36% reported no memory for a time. Only 30% had been in therapy so “unlikely that they remembered their abuse as a consequence of psychotherapy”

Belicki et al (1994): 55.4% of abused students in study reported disrupted memory. “Subjects reporting no abuse responded significantly differently than the other three groups with respect to definitons of sexual abuse, psychiatric symptoms and sleep and dream behaviour. There were no significant differences in response the the questions between those who reported and those who did not report corroboration of abuse. There were also no significant differences in response to the questions bewteen those who had disrupted memory and those who had continuous memory for childhood sexual abuse. Those who had recovered memories were just as likely as those who had a continuous memory to have corroborative evidence for the abuse.

Van Der Kolk & Fisler (1995): 46 adults in in depth interview. Of the 36 subjects with childhood trauma 42% had suffered significant or total amnesia at some time. Corroborative evidence available for 75%. Williams (1994) : 129 women who had been sexually abused as children. 38 % failed to report or were amnestic for childhood sexual abuse though it was clearly documented in medical records 17 years earlier. 32% said they were never abused. “Amnesia for sexual abuse in a community sample is not an uncommon event. There was a tendency for women with the clearest evidence of abuse to be more amnestic”

Widom & Morris (in press): Court substantiated abuse and child-neglect cases. 39% of the sexually abused failed to report the documented child abuse. “We have also found substantial under-reporting of sexual abuse among known victims of sexual abuse. This is particularly impressive since these are court substantiated cases of childhood sexual abuse”

Spiegel: “Memories in dissociate amnesia are not so much distorted as they are segregated from one another.”

Williams: In general, women with recovered memories had no more inconsistencies in their reports than women who had always remembered….their retrospective reports were remarkably consistent with what had been reported in the 1970’s….the stories were in large part true to the basic elements”.

Dalenberg (1996):Memories of abuse recovered in psychotherapy were no more or no less accurate than memories of abuse that had always beem remembered. The overall accuracy rate of both continued and recovered memories of abuse was quite high (70%) Just over half the patient sample significantly improved their accuracy for their abuse memories in the course of psychotherapy”.

About those who coined False Memory Syndrome

Ralph Underwager, one of the founders of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is credited with having coined the term. In 1993, he gave an interview with the Dutch paedophile magazine, Paedika, in which he was reported as saying that paedophilia could be a responsible choice and that having sex with children could be seen as ‘part of God’s will’. The other co-founders of the FMSF were Pamela and Peter Freyd, whose adult daughter made accusations of childhood sexual abuse. The American media gave them almost unquestioning support until their daughter, psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd, felt obliged to speak out publicly, to stop the damage that she felt her parents and their organisation were doing to abuse survivors.

Other early promoters of false memory syndrome in the US were Paul and Shirley Erberle. In the 1970s, when child pornography laws were less rigid, they edited a magazine called Finger in which there were explicit illustrations of children involved in sexual acts with adults, with features entitled ‘Sexpot at Five’, ‘My First Rape, She Was Only Thirteen’ and ‘Toilet Training’. Another key figure is Felicity Goodyear-Smith, author of First Do No Harm (1993). Felicity Goodyear-Smith admits to a personal as well as professional involvement in the issue. Her husband and parents-in-law were imprisoned for sexual abuse offences, having been members of the New Zealand community, CentrePoint, that encouraged sexual intimacy amongst its members, including the children. Although the adults involved were prosecuted for these acts, including public sex with children, Goodyear-Smith claims that this was simply ‘childhood sexual experimentation’ and quotes studies that claim to show that adult-child sex can be harmless. The false memory syndrome foundation was formed by Pamela and Peter Freyd, who were theirselves accused of abuse by their daughter (insidently their daughter – Jennifer Freyd – wrote an amzing bok called “Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse“).

Is it just me, or do all of these people appear to have alternative motives?

Repressed memories in none sexual abuse cases

Repressed memory in war vets or holocaust survivors has been a long acknowledged phenomena. It was only when it began to be about sexual abuse that people start yelling about FMS.

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident” (Arthur Schopenhauer)

Stress and the past

Last week I met with a psych who saw me when I was 10. As many probably know I remember very little (other than a few disjointed images and feelings and flashbacks) before the age of 15 so the idea was to see this psych and get copiess of my notes. So I saw him yesterday and went through the notes and now I know what happened, I now know why we are the way we are, know why we are multiple, know what happened. Still don’t remember much, though the flashbacks are increasing. From what I now understand my mum used to have a guy accross the street “baby sit” me and he was not exactly a good babysitter… the psych said that we (him, myself and my grandparents) tried to take legal action but that by this time the guy had died and none of the others invovled could be identified

I always knew my parents messed me up a bit, and that may have contributed a little to my staying with Tristan (my ex) for as long as I did… but I now know that there were more things that happened before that so now I dont even know how many people have essentially used me for one thing or another I just find it interesting how this guy when I was a kid and Tristan both used me essentially in the same way… the guy sold me to people, and Tristan sold me to drug dealers and used me to film “rape porn” which he then sold. So essentially by 2 seperate people, at 2 seperate times, in 2 seperate cities I had my body used to gain money… is that what I am to people? A form of income? As stupid as this may sound I can accept the abuse from Tristan hisself, and from his friends, for some reason when I think about that I still feel like they at least concidered me a person, but when they brought other people into it and when they planned it out to create an income for theirselves it just feels like suddenly I bacame an object, not a person, not alive, just a thing.

I’m also stressed… seriously stressed… won’t go into detail but bacially money trouble, family issues, relationship issues, psychological issues and appecting of the past issues.

It’s starting to make me ill though… I can’t sleep, I can’t consentrate on stuff and I am CONSTANTLY tired and in pain from headaches and stomach pains. I can’t eat properly and every time I do I end up having stabbing pains. Due to the stress level flashbacks have increased, not to mention due to the new discoveries from my past which have also added to the flashbacks.

Then this morning on my way to check the post I went dizzy, my vision started to fade, I lost all feeling in my legs, and the next thing I knew I was at the bottom of te stairs. I’ve not got a masive bruise on my leg 😦

I am so tired all the time. I wake up on a morning feeling just as tired as I did when I went to bed, the fact that I’m having nightmares and so not sleeping much isn’t helping either. Went to GPs today to get an appointment, they dont have any till NOVEMBER!!! :/ so now I’m going to just have to hope that someone cancels their appointment so that I can have it insted

eugh, sometimes life just loves to pile rubbish up.

However, on a lghter note, my photography buisiness is starting to make headway 🙂 – http://shadowlightphotography.wordpress.com/ even been booked for a wedding in December!

Trauma, Memory and the Brain

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Trauma changes our brains on a fundamental level, the psychologically traumatised brain causes inscrutable eccentricities which can (and do) cause it to overreact – or misreact – to stimulus and the realities of life. These neurological “misreactions” become established in part due to the effect that trauma has on the release of certain stress-responsive hormones, such as norepinephrine, along with the effect upon various areas of the brain involved in memory – particularly the amygdale and the hippocampus.

The amygdale is the part of the brain responsible for communicating the emotional importance and evaluation, via the thalamus, of sensory information to the hippocampus. In accordance with the amygdales evaluation the hippocampus will activate to a greater or lesser degree, and functions to organise this information and integrate it with previous similar sensory events. Under a normal range of situations and conditions this system works well and effectively to consolidate memories according to their emotional priority and content. However, at the extreme upper end of this hormonal activation, as with traumatic situations, a breakdown occurs. Overwhelming emotional significance registered by the amygdale actually leads to a decrease in hippocampal activation, this results in some of the traumatic input not being organised properly, not being stored as a unified whole, and not being integrated with other memories. This results in isolated sensory images and bodily sensations that are not localised in time or even in situation, nor integrated with other events. In effect these fragments of memory float about in the mind, ready to reappear at any moment.

To make matters even more complex, trauma may temporarily such down Brocas area, the region of the brain which translates experience into language, the means that we more often use to relate our experience and feelings to others and even to ourselves.

Regular memories are formed and are subject to meaningful modification, they can be retrieved when needed and can be conveyed to others through language and expression. In contrast, traumatic memories include chaotic fragments, which are sealed off from modification or modulation. Such memory fragments are wordless, placeless, and eternal. Long after the trauma has receded into the past the brains record of them may remain a fractured mass of isolated and confused emotion, images and sensations which can ring through the person like an alarm at any moment.

These sensations and feelings may not be labelled as part as belonging to memories from long ago, in fact they may not be labelled at all, as they may have been formed without language. They merely are, they come forward to take over the body giving no explanation, no narrative, no place or time, they are free-form and ineffable.

The traumatised brain has, effectively, a broken warning device in its limbic system. A bit like an old fuse box where the fuses tend to melt for no reason, reacting to an emergency when there is none.

How trauma effects memory

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Traumatic memories are more likely to be “forgotten” than non-traumatic memories due to faulty encoding or retrieving. A major mental process contributing to amnesia in dissociative disorders is known as state-dependant learning. According to this theory, information encoded in one mental state is most easily retrieved at a later time when in that same state. If a person experiencing trauma dissociates into separate state of mind, different memories will become available to that person at different times. Data encoded in one state will not be available to a person who is in a different psychological state; it will only be available when the person returns to the same state he/she was in at the time when it was encoded. For example: Harris, a thirty-seven-year-old pharmacist who was sexually abused repeatedly throughout his childhood by an older cousin, developed a six-year-old alternative personality named Barney. Harris could not remember the abuse until an assault by an armed robber at the drugstore where he worked triggered Barneys return.

State-dependent learning theory explains the severe amnesia that occurs in DID. Experiences encoded in a psychological state of abuse can chain together into a complex and consistent personality if the abuse is sufficiently traumatic and persistent. These particular alert personalities of overwhelming pain and fear are outside the persons conscious cognitive awareness, they live on in an alter personality and are still psychologically active and influential.

The “lost time” or “memory gaps” of someone with DID have preserved their sanity but have also swallowed up vast chunks of their past and identity. The future of a person with amnesia can be compromised too. The inability to integrate traumatic memories caused the person to fixate art the time of the trauma and impairs the integration of new experiences. When Barney resurfaces Harris was unable to concentrate on his job as a pharmacist and fill prescriptions that were beyond the comprehension of a six-year-old child. For many people, traces of the painful memory tend to linger and intrude as flashbacks, obsessions, or re-enactments of the trauma in self-mutilation or other self-destructive behaviours.

Syptoms of PTSD

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Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard just to get through the day.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD.

There are four types of symptoms: reliving the event, avoidance, numbing, and feeling keyed up.

Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):

Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:

  • Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat veteran
  • Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident
  • Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.

  • A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes
  • A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants
  • Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.

Feeling numb:

You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.

  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
  • You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal):

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal. It can cause you to:

  • Suddenly become angry or irritable
  • Have a hard time sleeping
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
  • Be very startled when someone surprises you

What are other common problems?

People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:

  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Employment problems
  • Relationships problems including divorce and violence
  • Physical symptoms

To remember or not remember, to repress or not to repress

Quite often people tell me that I am lucky to not remember a lot of the abuse… But I’m not sure…

I do remember most of the abuse when I was a teenager, I remember the rapes and the beatings… But before the age of 14 is mainly blank, and as most multiples split before the age of 8… well put 2 and 2 together I guess…

I remember bits,it comes to me in flashes… not like flashbacks (I get them of my teenage years) but literally split second images in my head, or overwhelming emotions for no reason, or even sounds and smells… but I don’t know what any of these relate to…

My earliest memory it went I was very young, living with my grandparents. I only really remember being in the garden jumping from rock to rock over the flower beds before trying to climb across a pipe over a river lol. After that I remember being locked outside at about the age of 4, but I don’t know why… And I remember cold water being poured on me when I cried…

I don’t remember my mum and step-dad getting married when I was 5, nor my brother being born when I was 6. But I do remember my mum  attempting suicide not long after my brothers birth… I remember her laying on the floor in her own blood… apparently I called for an ambulance and went with her to the hospital, but I don’t remember this…

I have a scar on my stomach, it’s always been there and I’ve always wondered why, all I knew is when I looked at it I got a sharp burning sensation theere and felt intense fear… but then a few months ago I put my hand over it and *FALSH* I was 10 years old, in my parents kitchen, and my mum was coming at me with a knife… she stabed me… next thing I knew I was laying in our shower 22 years old with the water running again crying… but at least now I know where it came from.

I used to keep a dream diary, in the hope that it would uncover some of these memories, but no such luck… there are other things like that scar, things that I feel pain or fear when exposed to, but I don’t know why… I guess the main point its that it’s hard to recover when you have no idea what you are recovering from… that and thanks to the false memory people noone believes the memories anyway, so then you start to doubt them yourself… and then because you doubt the “recovered” memories you start to doubt ALL of your memories… I don’t know what is and isn”t real, I have no way to be sure… I’m not even sure that I am real, I mean meybe I have no memories because I am not the core/host as I thought, but an alter created to replace the host when they were 14?

this book is  a fantastic one about repressed memories, it’s one of the only things that has helped me regain any degree of confidence in who I am and what I remember.

The alternative of course is to remember everything, and to be haunted by it… I do remember my abusicve relationship between ages 16 and 19 fairly well, there are a few months and weeks missing here and there but it’s almost in tact. From this I get flashbacks and nightmares often…

The problem is I can never be 100% on which symptoms/effects are from what I do remember and which are from what I do not… Makes a comparison kind of difficult… That and I am so so so scared of the false memory syndrome people coming and telling me I’ve made it all up, etc. and belittling me…

In conclusion I guess…the options are both ****, I think it’s a bit like comparing apples and oragnes… there are good and bad points to each, or maybe it depends on the person, maybe some people cope better with knowing and some with repressing…

Why I love the NHS

Ok, there has been a lt of NHS moaning recently… and to be hnest it’s upset me, I know it’s tupid but earlier I was literally crying…

The NHS has saved my life on more occations than I can count. They have even sent a taxi for me and paid for it when I couldn’t get to hospital. They have given me a safe place to stay when I’m unsafe. They have given me treatment that would have cost several thousend pounds if I had to pay myself. They have kept me alive, they have saved my life, etc.

When I was 18 I even had a non-essential opperation to remove some keloids the size f golf ball. Before the opperation they tried steroids (which will have cost a bit) and then some pressure pads which were worth over £500 each!!! In the end it took 4 opperations and 2 doses of radiotherapy to get  rid of them, none of which I had to pay for. Can you imagine if I did have to???

3 times I have considered going private, each time I’ve changed my mind after meeting the staff… I even had one doctor call me “poor scum”, why  would I want a doctor invlved in my treatment who thought I was scum???

Therapy wise I will admit the NHS waiting list is long. But when I tried to ind a private therapist they were all unsuitable, one was even one of those “false memory syndrome” people, which isn’t a good mix wwith someone who has DID. Another told me that the abuse was my own fault!!! I honestly do not see why I should pay to be insulted, not that I can afford it anyway as I cannot work currently and so my partner and I have £360 a mnth to live on which doesn’t even cover our rent. So without the NHS what would I do?

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