Is it possible to repress memories of a traumatic event, only to have them surface years later?

8 Answers
Last Updated: 05/04/2018 at 2:41am
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Adam Brown, PhD, LICSW (WA & MA) LCSW (NY & IL)

Clinical Social Work/Therapist

Asking for help can be a challenge, especially when feeling shameful, guilty, or embarrassed of our thoughts and/or behaviors. I am happy to support you work through this.

Top Rated Answers
March 5th, 2017 4:02pm
Yes! It's your body's way of telling you it is ready to begin healing. As children, repression and dissociation from the traumatic event saves our lives, however, as an adult, repression no longer serves us and keeps us living in the past. Once the repressed memory is faced and dealt with, we can move on from that event.
November 17th, 2016 7:20am
Yes. I have personally experienced this as I get older. It can be very emotional, re-traumatizing and disorienting when it happens for the first time, or when you aren't exactly sure why/what is happening (eg, a memory comes during meditation, or as something as mundane as washing the dishes). It's important to be patient and kind with yourself, practice self-care during and after a flashback or returning memory, and as always, reach out to someone if you are in need of support. It can be helpful to start journaling, or privately writing about your experiences and what you remember. There are counselors and therapists specifically trained to help and support those with selective amnesia, repressed memories, flashbacks, dissociation, etc.
November 7th, 2016 1:18am
Yes. A friend of mine was raped as a child and had memories of the event resurface when she was in her late teens. They could only remember after they did something that reminded them of the event.
June 27th, 2017 3:42am
Having repressed memories that surface years later is entirely possible. A well known example of this is a woman who didn't know she was abused until she was an adult, and had memories surface after years of not remembering anything had happened to her. You can learn more about her story by searching for Miss America By Day.
March 5th, 2018 2:51pm
It is, it happened with me, I experience some bad events around the age of 6, and around my 13 it all came back to surface after a trigger. I was very surplice on how my brain did that, but I guest it is a way for our brain to protect us.
KristenHR - Expert in PTSD/Trauma
April 3rd, 2017 5:08am
Yes, it is possible to repress memories and have them surface years later, The brain is an awesome tool that protects us from remembering danger and trauma until we need to address it, or it is triggered by something. When this happens, if at all possible it's good to seek professional help to work through the trauma.
April 2nd, 2018 4:33pm
yes, PTSD can be triggered years later. If something reminds you of the event or you go through something similar.
May 4th, 2018 2:41am
It’s very possible. Sometimes we repress memories as our brains are protecting us from the traumatic event, stopping us from reliving it. When they surface later on, it’s likely that you’re ready to deal with the trauma.