I'm Ava and sometimes I pretend to be a roleplay helper. I spend way too much time making gifs, roleplaying, and reading.
How to Play a Character with Amnesia:
I was asked for some advice on playing a character with amnesia, so I’m giving writing a little guide a shot. I’ve seen a lot of people play amnesia pretty incorrectly, so I’m hoping that I can help some people play it a little bit better. *I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic.*
Types of Amnesia →
There are many different types of amnesia, and they really can all be played in a roleplay. The most common kind that I’ve seen in roleplays is traumatic amnesia, which can be caused by a car accident. I think that’s something that’s fun to play out in a roleplay, but you could also branch out and try a different kind of amnesia.
Anterograde Amnesia → In this type of amnesia, the person can’t remember new information. Things that happened recently, information that should be stored in the short-term memory, disappear. This amnesia is often caused by brain trauma; maybe brain damage from a blow to the head. A patient with anterograde amnesia can remember data and events which happened before the injury: events that are stored in the long-term memory.Retrograde Amnesia → This type of amnesia is quite often thought of as the opposite of anterograde amnesia. In this, the patient can’t remember events that occurred before the accident, but they can usually remember things that happen after it.
Transient Global Amnesia → This is a temporary loss of all memory. With this type of amnesia, the patient finds it very hard to form new memories; he/she essentially has severe anterograde amnesia. The loss of past memories is milder, but they cannot always remember everything. Transient global amnesia is very rare, and the people who suffer from it tend to be older and have a vascular disease.Traumatic Amnesia → Traumatic amnesia is memory loss caused by a blow to the head. People who lose their memory as the result of a car accident may have traumatic amnesia. With this, people may experience a brief loss of consciousness, or even go into a coma. The majority of traumatic amnesia patients only suffer from it temporarily, but how long it last depends on how severe the injury is.
Wenike-Korsakoff’s Psychosis → This type of memory loss is caused by extended alcohol abuse. In this type of amnesia, the loss of memory gradually gets worse over time. Patients with this tend to have neurological problems; such as poor coordination and the loss of feelings in toes and fingers. This may also be caused by malnutrition.
Hysterical Amnesia → In this very rare type of amnesia, patients not only forget their past, but also their identity. A person with this could wake up and suddenly not have any sense at all of who they are. They may look in a mirror and not recognize their own reflection. This type of amnesia is often triggered by an event that the person’s mind is unable to cope with properly. In most cases of hysterical amnesia, the memory either slowly or suddenly comes back within a few days. In some cases, though, the memory of the shocking event that caused it may never come back completely.
Childhood Amnesia → If your character cannot recall events from their early childhood, they have childhood amnesia. In this, it’s possible that some of the memory areas of the person’s brain were not fully matured during childhood.
Symptoms of Amnesia →
- Ability to learn new information following the onset of amnesia is impaired. The patient cannot remember new things. (Anterograde amnesia).
- Ability to remember past events and previously familiar information is impaired. The patient cannot remember past things. (Retrograde amnesia).
- False memories.
- Uncoordinated movements, sometimes tremors.
- Confusion or disorientation.
- Problems with short-term memory.
- Partial loss of memory.
- Total loss of memory.
- Failure to recognize faces.
- Inability to recognize places.
Causes of Amnesia →
- Encephalitis (brain inflammation). This can be caused by a virus infection or an autoimmune reaction to cancer in another part of the body.
- Oxygen deprivation - any illness or situation which undermines the supply of oxygen to the brain, such as a heart attack, respiratory distress, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Some medications - such as the sleeping drug, ambien.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage - bleeding in the area between the skull and the brain.
- A brain tumor that lies in a memory-controlling part of the brain.
- Some seizure disorders.
- Electroshock therapy - can be used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and catatonia. The memory loss from ECT is nearly always temporary.
- Head injuries - such as those that occur in car accidents, can lead to memory problems. In most cases, the amnesia is not severe and is not long-lasting.
- Emotional shocks - being the victim of a violent crime, sexual abuse, child abuse, being involved in combat (soldiers), being involved in a natural disaster, being present during a terrorist act.
How to Diagnose Amnesia →
- Can the patient remember recent events, and/or remote events (events further back in time)?
- When did the memory problems start?
- How did the memory problems evolve?
- Were there any factors which may have caused the memory loss, such as a head injury, surgery, or stroke?
- Is there a family history of any neurological or psychiatric diseases or conditions?
- Details about the patient’s alcohol intake.
- Is the patient currently on any medication?
- Has the patient taken illegal drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana, etc.?
- Are the patient’s symptoms undermining his/her ability to look after himself/herself?
- Does the patient have a history of depression?
- Has the patient ever had cancer?
- Does the patient have a history of seizures?
Treatments for Amnesia →
Occupational Therapy → An occupational therapist may be helpful in learning new information to replace what was lost for a person with amnesia. They may use intact memories as a basis for taking in new information. Memory training may also include a variety of strategies for organizing information so that it’s easier to remember.
Technological Assistance → Many people with amnesia find it helpful to use a technological device to help them remember everything. With some training and practice, even people with severe amnesia can use an electronic device for help with day-to-day tasks. They can set alarms to remember to do various things through the day, such as take pills.
Medications or Supplements → Surprisingly, there aren’t any medications to treat most types of amnesia.
Amnesia in the Media →
- The Blind Side - Sean mentions halfway through the movie that Michael’s gift is his ability to forget his dark and troubled past. Near the end, Michael explains how he would close his eyes when bad things happened.
- Finding Nemo - Dory is one of very few fictional characters to suffer from anterograde amnesia. She has profound difficulty retaining new memories without constant repetition. She never finds a cure, but learns to deal with it by finding a constant in her life to serve as an anchor.
- Full House - In one of the final episodes of Full House, Michelle falls off a horse and forgets who she is and who her entire family is. With the help of her friends and family (and inner self) she remembers everything in time.
- Hannah Montana - In an episode of Hannah Montana, Jackson develops amnesia from a blow to the head, and Miley uses it to her advantage. She convinces him to be her idea of the perfect older brother. It turns out that his amnesia reminds her that she’d miss him if he were any different.
- 50 First Dates - In the movie 50 First Dates, Drew Barrymore’s character suffers from anterograde amnesia. She remembers her past, but cannot remember what happened yesterday or the day before or the day before. Every morning, they remind her of what’s happened since her short-term memory was lost.
Advice on How to Roleplay It →
Have a plot outside the amnesia →Think about your life. When something happens or you have an illness, it’s not the only thing you think about or the only thing you talk about. People who have amnesia can live fairly standard lives, so not everything for them will revolve around the fact that they have amnesia. You could incorporate your subplots into your main plot (the amnesia), by having your characters’ relationships affected by loss of memory, or having their future - maybe college plans - be injured because of their condition.
It takes time to cure →Please, please, please, don’t decide that you’re done with your amnesia plot and just *boom* have everything in your character’s life go back to normal right away. Generally, a person who suffers from amnesia’s memory won’t come back all at once, and even when the memories come back, they won’t go back to their normal life right away. Remembering everything you’ve forgotten for so long can be a traumatic and life-changing experience, so roleplay it as such. I’d recommend that you know how your character is going to slowly regain their memory before you even begin.
Do your research →I’m not telling you everything about amnesia in this guide, so if you want to do a plot revolving around amnesia, I’d recommend doing some more research. It’s incredibly insulting to people with the condition for you to just make up what you think amnesia is and play it out as such. (This really applies to all conditions and disorders.)
Don’t stress yourself out over it →At the end of the day, roleplaying is *supposed* to be fun. An amnesia storyline can be very fun and interesting to play, but don’t bog yourself down in making it perfect. Do your research, plan out how you want it to go, and do it. If something happens and your plot goes off course, don’t stress out, make some changes and move on. Roleplaying isn’t the most important thing in life - don’t forget that.
Further Reading →
I hope my guide has helped you out quite a bit, but I, of course, have not covered anything. If you’re serious about doing an amnesia plot, here are some additional places you can find information.