Difference Between Dementia and Amnesia

Mental illness or disorders affect the thinking, mood, and behavior of an individual. The day-to-day activities are also affected and several changes in emotions, personality and feelings can be observed. The two main types of mental disorders that appear the same are dementia and amnesia. Both mental conditions have distinct differences.

Dementia vs Amnesia

The main difference between dementia and amnesia is that dementia is a series of symptoms while amnesia is a serious mental sickness. Dementia causes memory loss, affects behavior, relationship, and speech while amnesia causes isolated memory loss.

Dementia vs Amnesia

Dementia can be caused due to various neurological disorders, vascular disorders, or other infections like HIV that can affect the CNS ( Central Nervous System). The meaning of Dementia in Latin is madness. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are considered the main causes of dementia. The intelligence and awareness of the patient are affected.

On the other hand, amnesia can be forced or induced due to past events, traumatic stress, or injury to the brain cells. Amnesia can be treated with psychotherapy, hypnosis, rehabilitation, withdrawal from drugs, and a balanced diet.

Comparison Table Between Dementia and Amnesia

Parameters of ComparisonDementiaAmnesia
Cause From neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s Disease or from vascular disorders like infarct dementia, strokes or through other infections that can affect the CNS (Central Nervous System) Due to brain damage of injury like stroke, encephalitis, respiratory distress, subarachnoid hemorrhage, tumor, or other seizure disorders
TypeTwo types – Alzheimer’s type and non-Alzheimer’s type Two types – anterograde amnesia and retrograde amnesia
SymptomsMemory loss, forgetting usual details or recent events, mood change and feeling emotionally low Loss of recent memories, disorientation, confabulation, confusion, and remote memories are spared
Diagnosis After reviewing symptoms, imaging tests like PET, MRI, and CT scans are done and several mental functioning tests are done to identify the issue Symptoms and previous medical history is monitored and assessments are done to determine the extent of loss in memory and imaging scans like MRI, CT or EEG are also done
TreatmentCan be treated but not reversed or completely cured. Medications and drugs like cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA receptors are prescribed Some symptoms resolve by psychotherapy, hypnosis, digital aids, medications, and a balanced diet can help

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a type of decline in mental functioning that hinders the daily functioning of the individual. Dementia affects the parts of the brain that are involved in decision-making, learning, of memory. It is a wider term that covers various clinical symptoms. It hinders the cognitive ability of the brain.

There are two main types of dementia – Alzheimer’s Dementia which includes memory loss as well as other impairments in the functioning of the brain, and Non-Alzheimer’s Dementia which can degenerate the frontotemporal lobe and can affect speech and behavior. Dementia affects behavior, relationships, and feelings.

The symptoms of dementia are short-term memory loss, forgetting usual daily items or recent information and events, severe mood swings, and anxiety. Most of the cases of dementia are from the older age groups, but even young people can develop dementia if they had a history of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s Disease, or from vascular disorders like infarct dementia, strokes, and other infections.

Dementia can affect distinct regions of the brain that is responsible for a particular function. Dementia can rapidly worsen and cause other complications. Early diagnosis can treat dementia to the root level. It is important to understand the minor symptoms and be under a specialist or doctor’s guidance constantly.

What is Amnesia?

Amnesia causes damage to the brain cells which are responsible for memory processing. The memory loss in amnesia is usually permanent. The loss of memory can include experiences, events, information, or facts. People who develop amnesia are called to develop the amnestic syndrome.

There are two main types of amnesia – Anterograde amnesia which hinders learning new information and Retrograde Amnesia which causes difficulty in remembering past events and information. The common symptoms of amnesia include loss of recent memories, confabulation (occurrence of false memories), confusion, and remote memories are spared. There is no major effect on relationships and behavior and causes isolated memory loss.

Amnesia can be caused due to various reasons. The most common reasons are due to brain damage or injury like stroke, encephalitis, respiratory distress, oxygen deprivation, subarachnoid hemorrhage, tumor, other seizure disorders, or by treatment of other psychiatric diseases which can include Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Though there are two main types of amnesia, there are some other types too like transient global amnesia, traumatic amnesia, Wernicke-Korsakoff’s psychosis, hysterical amnesia, infantile amnesia, posthypnotic amnesia, prosopamnesia, and many other types. Some cases of amnesia resolve by themselves. But is essential to consult a doctor, even if any minor symptom is noticed.

Main Differences Between Dementia and Amnesia

  1. Dementia leads to a decline in daily functioning while amnesia leads to just memory loss.
  2. Dementia affects behavior, relationship, and speech while amnesia affects the power of remembering past and present events.
  3. Dementia is not considered as a disease but series of symptoms while amnesia is a serious mental disease or disorder and is not a symptom.
  4. Dementia generally occurs at old age but amnesia can occur in people of any age group.
  5. Dementia affects cognitive power and decision-making ability while amnesia does not affect the cognitive power and decision-making power of the individual.


Dementia and amnesia are often confused and people end up thinking that the disease is the same. Though both have a common symptom that is memory loss, the cause, effects, complications, diagnosis, and treatment procedure for both of the mental conditions are different.

Mental illness and disorders are often ignored and not given enough importance. That helps the condition to rapidly grow and cause other complications. The body gives signals, it is important to be conscious, aware, and recognize them at the right stage and consult a specialist.


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/0735-7044.101.3.347
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037/0096-3445.117.1.34
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