top of page

Post-Traumatic Amnesia

Author: Jenny Tao


Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) is the time after a period of unconsciousness when the injured person is conscious and awake but is behaving or talking in a bizarre or uncharacteristic manner.



  • loss of memory for the present time

  • Confusion, agitation, distress and anxiety

  • Uncharacteristic behaviors such as violence, aggression, swearing, shouting, disinhibition

  • Inability to recognize familiar people

  • Tendency to wander

  • In some cases, people may be very quiet, docile, loving and friendly


How long can it last?

PTA may last for a few minutes, hours, days, weeks or even, in rare cases, months. There is usually no way of knowing exactly how long it will last.

Long Term Effects

PTA itself does not have any adverse effects, unless the person’s behavior causes them to injure themselves. However, the duration of PTA, along with length of time in coma, is often a good indicator of the severity of the brain injury and its likely long-term effects.


People who experience PTA for more than 24 hours are likely to have sustained a severe brain injury and to experience long-term complications, whereas PTA of less than 1 hour is likely to indicate a minor brain injury. These are rough guidelines, and the long-term effects will only become apparent when the PTA has passed.



  • Always identify yourself when you enter him/her room.

  • Tell him/her that it is morning, afternoon, or evening, to help him/her orient to time.

  • Warn him/her when you are going to touch him/her.

  • When he/she trusts you, talk about him/her favorite things and pleasant, shared experiences.

  • Talk about him/her pre-injury life but avoid suggesting that he/she will need to create a new life.

  • Show him/her photos of familiar people.

  • Surround her with familiar objects.

  • Tell her she has been injured and is in the hospital. Repeat this often.

  • Assure her that she is safe from harm now.

  • Keep a journal 

  • Don’t ask her to recall her injury. 

  • Be patient 

  • Don’t take any of your survivor’s hurtful words or actions personally. Always remember, when a person has post-traumatic amnesia, she truly does 

  • Ensure a peaceful and quiet environment.

  • Reduce the risk of harm

  • Take time out for yourself or to share the visiting and supervision with others



“Post-Traumatic Amnesia After Brain Injury.” BrainLine, 22 Oct. 2018, 

MEDIAmaker. “Post-Traumatic Amnesia.” Headway,

Voices of Brain Injury

  • Instagram @voices_of_braininjury

Instagram @voices_of_braininjury

Bridging the gap between public and brain injury community through shared narratives.

bottom of page