Differences between amnesia and dementia
How to easily distinguish between the concepts of amnesia and dementia?
Amnesia is a clinical manifestation that involves the loss or alteration of memory, and can occur due to multiple causes, such as trauma, neurological disease or mental disorder. This condition can be part of another condition known as dementia, a clinical picture that includes cognitive, motor and functional disturbances that go beyond memory loss alone. And although they share some characteristics, there are several differences between amnesia and dementia, there are several differences between amnesia and dementia..
Throughout the article we explain what amnesia and dementia are, and address the main differences between the two.
What is amnesia?
Amnesia is a condition in which a person's memory is lost or altered.. This condition can have organic or neurological causes (due to brain damage, physical injury, neurological disease or the use of certain substances) or functional or psychogenic causes (psychological factors, mental disorders, post-traumatic stress or psychological defense mechanisms).
There are two main types of amnesia: anterograde amnesia (where the ability to memorize new things is impaired or lost because data is not transferred correctly from conscious short-term memory to permanent long-term memory); and retrograde amnesia (where a person's pre-existing memories are lost in conscious recall, beyond an ordinary degree of forgetfulness, even though they can memorize new things that occur after the onset of amnesia).
Anterograde amnesia is the more common of the two. Sometimes these two types of amnesia can occur together and are called total or global amnesia. Another type of amnesia is post-traumatic amnesia, a state of confusion and memory loss that occurs after a traumatic brain injury. Amnesia that occurs due to psychological factors is generally referred to as psychogenic amnesia.
Many types of amnesia are associated with damage to the hippocampus and other related areas of the brain that are used in the encoding, coding, and processing of memory. that are used in encoding, storing and retrieving memories. If there is a blockage in the pathways along which information travels during memory encoding or retrieval processes, or if entire regions of the brain are missing or damaged, then the brain may be unable to form new memories or retrieve old ones.
Dementia: what is the disorder?
Dementia is the term used to define a class of disorders characterized by progressive deterioration of thinking ability and memory as the brain becomes damaged. as the brain becomes damaged. Generally, when memory loss is so severe that it interferes with normal daily functioning, the condition is called dementia. Less severe memory loss is known as mild cognitive impairment.
Dementia is characterized by a severe loss of memory and cognitive ability (primarily in the areas of attention, language and problem solving), along with one or more of the following impairments: aphasia (loss of the ability to produce or understand language), apraxia (inability to carry out learned movements), agnosia (difficulty recognizing and identifying objects or people without damage to the senses) or executive dysfunction (inability to plan, organize or reason).
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, which accounts for 50-75% of all dementias.which accounts for 50-75% of all dementias. The second most common type, accounting for up to 20% of dementia cases, is vascular dementia, which has similar symptoms to Alzheimer's disease but usually results from damage caused to the brain by a Blood clot or hemorrhage that cuts off the brain's blood supply due to trauma.
Dementia can be caused by specific events such as a traumatic brain injury or stroke, or it can develop gradually as a result of a neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain's neurons or as a secondary symptom of other disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Some drugs used to treat other age-related diseases and conditions may also have a detrimental effect on memory and accelerate the onset of dementia.
Differences between amnesia and dementia
To address the differences between amnesia and dementia we must look at what defines each of these clinical pictures. Amnesia is a symptom that can occur in many situations and for many different causes.This is something that differentiates it from a condition such as dementia, since the latter is defined as a set of disorders that can lead to other diseases or more serious conditions, and not only as a symptom or clinical manifestation.
Another clear difference between amnesia and dementia is the variety of cognitive symptoms that occur in both conditions. symptoms that occur in both conditions. In amnesia, memory is usually the only cognitive function that is altered, while in dementia, as we have seen above, there may be alterations in language, attention or problem-solving ability, regardless of the memory problems that the dementia patient may present.
People suffering from dementia have an impaired ability to adequately perform the tasks of daily living, something that does not usually occur in a very short period of time.This is not as evident in people with amnesia. In addition, dementia usually worsens over time and cognitive abilities are progressively reduced; however, the vast majority of amnesias are reversible, with the exception of those that present precisely as a clinical sign of ongoing dementia.
In short, amnesia is rather a symptom that may occur as part of dementia, but does not have to be the result of it, and usually includes only memory loss in its various forms; and dementia is a much more global alteration of brain functioning and involves the alteration of multiple cognitive areas that go beyond memory abilities, and include alterations at the motor and functional level.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
- Belloch, A.; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual de Psicopatología. Volume I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.