The weird side effects of stress are all too real

By Refinery29
Updated: October 27, 2016
Tyler Spangler

We've long known stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body. It has the potential to hurt your heart, your immune system, and even your memory.

In an extreme case of stress-induced memory loss, a woman in England forgot her name, her husband's identity, and nearly everything else about her life after a nervous breakdown, The Daily Mail reports.

Marie Coe, 55, was working upwards of 70 hours a week in a demanding job running an events company in the U.K., traveling constantly, all while also juggling a family and taking care of her household.

One day, after she'd gone missing for 24 hours and couldn't remember anything, she asked a stranger at a gas station for help. An ambulance came, and she couldn't answer any of the paramedics' questions. After a CT scan revealed no head injuries, the doctors diagnosed her with "stress-induced amnesia,"according to The Daily Mail.

This is, apparently, a real thing: Memory loss caused by extreme stress or trauma is actually "dissociative amnesia," according to Merck Manuals. It seems to run in families, according to The Cleveland Clinic. It can cause someone to forget everything, as with Coe, or it can concern specific areas of the sufferer's life. Sometimes, a person with the condition will forget who they are and go on to assume an entirely new identity without realizing it (this is known as "dissociative fugue.").

When Coe's husband Mark picked her up from the hospital, she had no idea who he was. She didn't even know she was married. "It was terrifying sitting in the car with a strange man who claimed he was my husband," she told The Daily Mail.

[For the full story, head to Refinery29]

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