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Friday, February 3, 2012

Downton Abbey: Is Amnesia Real?

By Brianne Moore

Downton has always been a bit soapy, but this week they ran right into General Hospital territory with the horribly-burned-returned-from-the-dead-heir-with-amnesia storyline. Is the Canadian Patient really long-lost Patrick Crawley? Who knows? After watching this, what I was wondering was: does amnesia really exist? Is this guy’s story even plausible?

Turns out, it is (at least, as far as the amnesia goes. His story had a lot of other holes in it, which I won’t go into). Dissociative amnesia typically occurs when someone’s been through a particularly stressful or traumatic event (like, say, being unexpectedly plunged into 28-degree water with 1500 of your fellow cruise passengers in the middle of the night). The result is gaps in memory involving the event itself or even longer periods of time. Eventually the memories can resurface, as they allegedly did with Patrick/Peter here. Considering the trauma link and the fact the memories resurfaced (if this is, indeed Patrick we’re dealing with), dissociative amnesia is most likely what he had, although it’s possible he got a whack on the head during the sinking and had simple amnesia, which is usually the result of disease or injury to the brain.

Unfortunately for (maybe) Patrick, most of the treatments for dissociative amnesia (psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, medication, clinical hypnosis) were either in their infancies or didn’t exist at all in the early 20th century. So it is likely that he would have continued to struggle with this memory loss for quite some time before something brought his past back to him.

Elsewhere at Downton, Matthew’s clearly deeply depressed about his injury (not an uncommon result with this sort of injury). As with Patrick’s amnesia, there was little help for depression in 1919; you just had to stiff-upper-lip it and muddle through. But at least he’s got Mary by his side to help him out and, thanks to Carlisle, Lavinia too!

Posted by: Brianne Moore at 4:37 pm