Amnesia, flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociation in aging concentration camp survivors

H.L.G.J. Merckelbach*, Th. Dekkers, I. Wessel, A.J. Roefs

*Corresponding author for this work

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The current study examined to what extent war memories of Dutch survivors of Japanese/Indonesian concentration camps display characteristics that are often believed to be typical for traumatic memories. Twenty-nine survivors were interviewed about amnesia, flashbacks, nightmares and the sensory quality of their most upsetting war memories. In addition, they completed self-report scales measuring post-traumatic stress symptoms and dissociation. In contrast to prevailing notions, amnesia, flashbacks and nightmares were not typical for this sample. Neither were traumatic memories characterized by a particularly strong sensory loading. Post-traumatic stress symptoms were not related to dissociative experiences. At least for this group of aging survivors, it appears that the pathogenic potential of traumatic memories has more to do with their extremely aversive content than with a qualitatively different type of organization of these memories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-360
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

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