Paramnesia: false memories

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The brain can often play tricks on us. For example, two different people experienced the same event together, and their impressions of it may be radically different. What is it: ordinary lies or signs of amnesia?

It turns out that not everything is as simple as it might seem at first glance. Any memory can be distorted and replace one event with another, as a result of which, in addition to some main memories, people may also have false memories. In this case, it becomes very difficult to distinguish fiction from real truth. Scientifically, this problem is called “paramnesia” [, 2017 ].

What is it, what is its essence, causes and whether it is necessary to deal with it somehow, we will try to figure it out in this article.

What is paramnesia?

Paramnesia is a specific memory disorder , when, in addition to real memories of past moments, people may have memories of some fictional events. Often they are able to form at the moment when the brain begins to fill in the gaps directly in the memory storage.

To fill such gaps, a person usually begins to use different information, which is not always suitable for him personally. This can be stories watched on TV, books read, various information regarding some historical events, as well as other information that can mislead him. Therefore, it is better to use reliable and accurate sources or contact specialists directly [, 2020 ].

As a rule, the distortion of information in a person occurs unconsciously. He does not have any ulterior motive for telling his untruthful memories and is incapable of realizing that the words he has said do not actually correspond to the real reality. It is a kind of taste for non-existent life.

In psychology, paramnesia is some kind of incorrect / inaccurate interpretation of the moments of a human autobiography. As a result, quite often there is a combination of past, present, imaginary or real events.

The difference between this problem and others is that memory is not lost/weakened, but only distorted. In other words, it can be called a kind of perversion of memory. What gives rise to such mysteries of the brain?

Causes of paramnesia

The most common causes of paramnesia are overwork and constant stress . Most often this is due to the fact that people attach too much importance to certain events that happened in their past.

False memories may not necessarily be indicative of mental or neurological illness. In different manifestations, they can be expressed in too impressionable personalities. For example, people often refer to paramnesia in a creative or artistic environment .

Also, paramnesia is inherent in childhood and old age , when, for obvious reasons, there is still (or already) no strength and ability to cope with all this.

Disabled people can be classified as a special category, but not by birth, when the brain and feelings remained forever unawakened, but people with acquired disabilities, when they were able to know the power of life, but due to some specific events they irretrievably lost it:

  • as a result of a stroke;
  • due to traumatic brain injury;
  • in the event of vascular dementia;
  • when symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear;
  • as a result of atherosclerosis of the arteries.

Very often, the cause of memory impairment, amnesia, hypermnesia, hypomnesia and paramnesia are incessant intoxications, for example, in alcoholism or chronic infections and tuberculosis. Paramnesia can occur due to severe fatigue, a state of passion, as well as experienced stress.

If the signs of this disorder are permanent, this indicates damage to the brain and those of its structures that are directly responsible for the memory departments [, 2020 ].

In case of memory impairment, amnesia, paramnesia, as a rule, special disorders are distinguished associated with inaccurate actions, when sources of different memories can overlap and lead to changes in phantom memory areas. Therefore, a person prone to such problems can compare his reasoning with the reasoning of a medium or a parapsychologist, when it seems to him that he is able to understand the thoughts of the people around him and even travel in time space.

Such a problem is expressed in the manifestation of the separation between fictional fantasies and real actions, when a person is not able to remember what happened to him in fact, and what is part of his own imagination.

Also, paramnesia can manifest itself even at a fairly young age. The main feature of the violation is the substitution of various negative memories or some facts from life for pleasant events.

This includes an inferiority complex or a sense of one’s own inferiority of an immature personality, its susceptibility to various kinds of self-hypnosis and external influences.

Such people can often be dependent on the opinions of other people. They are able to trust dubious sources, all kinds of advertising, and in general all the stereotypes that society forms [, 2020 ].

Paramnesia: symptoms

Paramnesia is quite common in healthy people. It manifests itself as a conscious replacement of some bad events with positive moments in life. This is the simplest form of self-defense .

For example, some people who recently lost their loved ones for one reason or another, sincerely believe that they are alive and are currently somewhere abroad.

People who have fallen under external negative influences, as a rule, have certain types of false memories. They are very susceptible to such influences and do not have the opportunity to get rid of them so easily.

“Deceptions of Memory”

The concept of false memory was introduced in 1986 by German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin. It is designated as a kind of deception of memory and has varieties. Paramnesias include :

  • Ordinary deceptions in memory, where incorrect memories of various imaginary actions stand out [, 2021 ].
  • Reproductive paramnesia is such a memory deception in which a person who sees someone for the first time in his life begins to firmly insist that he definitely met him before.
  • Confabulation paramnesias are all kinds of deceptions and errors in one’s own memory, having a similar origin and false memories of those events that have never happened before. In principle, they could not be in reality, but a person in his mind is sure that he is reproducing something from his own life experience. These are false memories of either fictional or real, but it is not clear at what time the events took place.
  • Cryptomnesia is the inability to remember when an event happened, either in reality or in a dream. At the same time, the source of information is forgotten. Also, these are situations in which what is seen or read somewhere is perceived as part of one’s life, or vice versa, it seems to be an episode of a movie.
  • Phantasms are situations invented or imagined by a person that seem to him to have actually happened.
  • Expansive – appear with strange ideaswhen a person expresses complete nonsense about the greatness of his personality.
  • Suggested by someone – arise after various prompts or questions asked by strangers.
  • Substitute – refer to memory lapses. They may have a connection with current and some past events.
  • Various false memories – caused by delusional ideas of a person, which are completely unrelated to any obscurations of the mind and generally with impaired memory [ Bortnevsky A. E, 2021 ].
  • Oneiric – appear with intoxication, schizophrenia and after infectious diseases. Associated with malfunctions in memory, leading to its complete loss and dementia. They rarely occur after the stress caused, they develop for the most part as a temporary phenomenon.
  • Ekmnestic – when a person can lose an idea of ​​the present reality, for example, about his age, and somehow connects current events with the past. Usually it can be some time from his childhood.
  • Fantastic – containing many fake, fictional stories that are actually well identified, since they are obvious from the outside.
  • Mnemonic – false memories associated with real events, relating, for the most part, career and professional activities , as well as various everyday events [, 2021 ].
  • Paramnesia pseudo-reminiscence – occurs when the memory shifts the time period of events that really happened in a person’s life. This is a kind of transfer of reality from the past to the present events.

Quite often in life there are situations that exactly repeat the events that happened to a person in the past. They are called deja vu.

Deja vu and related phenomena

Deja vu is a mental phenomenon, which in French means “already seen”. This is not just a memory disorder, but a disturbance associated with a certain sense of familiarity, usually accompanied by some previously experienced actions.

In each new situation, a person has a strong feeling that everything that happens to him has already happened once. Elements of the environment become familiar and the person can “remember” what will happen to him literally within the next few minutes. And at the moment when this really happens, he gets the feeling that this is how everything should be.

At such moments, a person manages to flash through his head the thought that he has already seen all this once and has “déjà vu” [, 2015 ].

Deja vu is a very common phenomenon, but it should be borne in mind that this may indicate poor circulation in the brain or the presence of temporal lobe epilepsy.

If you notice that your loved one is telling some implausible stories or looks a little strange at the same time, there is a reason to contact a specialist.

Diagnosis of paramnesia

Often, paramnesia can be detected during an examination, which includes:

  • compiling an anamnesis and the nature of the disease;
  • passing special psychological tests that are able to assess the level of memory and adequate susceptibility to the reality that is happening;
  • MRI of the brain, which makes it possible to observe changes in different brain structures, as well as the functional activity of various zones;
  • complete blood count [ ru, 2020 ].

Based on these examinations, appropriate treatment is carried out.

treatment of false memories

To get rid of various incorrect memories, first a person must be cured of the underlying ailment. To achieve the maximum effect, drugs are usually prescribed that stabilize its internal state and prevent the progression of the disease.

Often, along with this, different methods of influence from psychology are used . They are necessary in order to restore the work of memory and significantly speed up the adaptation period of a person.

Of the drugs, nootropics can be prescribed, the function of which is the ability to improve blood circulation and significantly restore the central nervous system. Preference is also given to vitamins and antioxidants.

For the treatment of incorrect memories, an individual course is selected for a person and appropriate procedures are prescribed [ I. V. Avdeeva, 2017 ].

To restore the processes of remembering a specific drug treatment does not exist today. However, some indirect methods can be noted :

  • diagnosing and subsequent exclusion of psychotraumatic events from life;
  • therapeutic treatment of underlying mental illness;
  • restoration and stabilization of the blood vessels of the brain ;
  • the use of psychotherapy;
  • relief and elimination of the effects of stress.

Treatment must be carried out exclusively in the conditions of a dispensary and constant monitoring by specialists, since constant registration of each occurring change will be required.

The success of the entire treatment as a whole will depend on the specific features of the main pathology to which the person is exposed [, 2021 ].

It is important to create a favorable environment around him and limit him from any factors that can provoke a stressful situation.

A balanced diet with a high content of minerals and trace elements useful for the body, as well as moderate physical activity, will play a significant role. It is very important to engage in distracting outdoor games in the fresh air.

Of the psychological methods of influence, relaxation therapy and hypnotherapy can be used. To achieve maximum concentration of attention on the current moments, it is recommended to use the methods of oriental medicine, namely: yoga, acupuncture and qigong. They will allow you to “not run away” both to past and future life events.

In treatment, an important key to success is the desire of a person to cooperate with a specialist [, 2020 ].

In general, any predictions for the occurrence of paramnesia and amnesia always depend on the start of their treatment. Most often, timely treatment will stabilize a person’s condition and more or less correct the presence of memory impairment.

Some diseases, first of all, are dangerous for their complications. For example, previous strokes usually result in sensory problems and partial or total paralysis. And with some other diseases, there is a danger of developing dementia with the inability to fully restore memory [ E. N. Yakusheva, 2017 ].

Prevention of false memories

Due to the fact that the true causes of the appearance of false memories cannot be clearly established, it is best to always try to prevent them in advance. Therefore, without exception, people should adhere to the basic recommendations and rules:

  • always monitor your health;
  • keep the pressure within the normal range, not allowing a stroke to occur;
  • give up bad habits and the presence of any intoxication;
  • be careful and be careful when playing sports, especially power;
  • do not overstrain during physical activity, avoid head injuries;
  • periodically observed by a neurologist and treated in time for all identified diseases.


Paramnesia is a poorly understood phenomenon. False memory can appear as a result of trauma, a disease, or any stressful situation.

In most cases, with proper and adequate treatment in the early stages, paramnesia can be corrected. If the symptoms continue to intensify during treatment and continue to appear, this indicates a worsening of the condition [ K. T. Sarsembaev, 2015 ].

The goal of prevention is to prevent organic damage to the central nervous system. Therefore, it is extremely important to carefully monitor your health.

Take care of yourself and your mind! And don’t forget to take part in this short survey:


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