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What Is Confabulation and How Does It Relate to Brain Injury?

Comments [10]

Dr. Celeste Campbell, BrainLine

What Is Confabulation and How Does It Relate to Brain Injury?

What is confabulation?


Confabulation is a memory disorder in which the individual produces false memories. When people confabulate, they either report remembering events that never occurred, or remember events as having occurred at an incorrect time or place. For example, a person who is confabulating may report a conversation that never occurred, or may report a conversation that occurred three years ago as having happened today.

What is important to remember is that confabulation is a direct result of damage to the brain — the person is not making things up as we traditionally understand it, but truly believes what he or she is reporting. The areas of the brain generally associated with confabulation are the frontal lobes and basal forebrain.

Confabulation can be addressed with psychotherapy and/or cognitive rehabilitation that involve helping people become more aware of their inaccuracies. Sometimes it will resolve on its own with time.

Click here to go to About Ask the Expert.

Celeste Campbell, PsyDCeleste Campbell, PsyD, Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, DC Veterans Administration Medical Center. She has a long history of providing cognitive psychotherapy and developing residential behavioral management programs for children and adults.

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Comments [10]

I am currently 6 months into a relationship with someone who I highly believe is confabulating. He does seem to have had a really full life with a lot of unusual experiences, so this makes it even harder. He went through a hard childhood, to say the least, and then suffered TBI multiple times. He truly does believe he is telling the truth when he relates these grandiose and wild memories, and so has a grandiose view of himself. He knows I suspect confabulation and at first got ragefully angry at me. Now, though, it seems he sees it's worth it to stay in the relationship, though I fear he suspects in time I will definitely believe him fully. 
Honestly I want to believe he really is a unique guy whose huge tales are all true...it would be easier that way! But my logic won't let me without proof. I guess I'd just love to hear anyone's feedback on whether I should keep pursuing this relationship. I love him so dearly and would be willing to continue if he could admit to the possibility of confabulation. I feel him staying with me is a sign that he is or will be willing...I don't know.

Sep 25th, 2016 11:08am

Confabulation could be very frustrating for the a TBI person, it could jeopardize their job and relationships. Speaking as a caregiver of a loved one(my son), the best treatment is cognitive therapy . The family role is to present the facts to the person with love, calm and being non-judgmental to maintain an open communication and avoid the person to feel isolated with their thoughts but rather feel the support of the family while discussing the facts. It could take few hours to bring the person to be rational. I noticed that as years has passed the confabulation episodes have decreased, but every brain injury is different. It's helpful not to present the facts alone but with someone else helping you that understand the tbi and shows compassion as well. Most of all a lot of prayer to God for strength before you begin the conversation with your loved one.

Sep 13th, 2016 8:43pm

Love understanding the things my husband says are not his fault! No sense arguing stuff! Like the quilt I made my mother years ago is on our bed, he is sure he bought it for me for my birthday! No harm! But at least I know why!

Sep 13th, 2016 1:24am

I have a brain injury.  When I confabulate... it's so real/true to me!  It took me 15 years to recognize "my truth"  was not the TRUTH!

A tad disturbing to me as I'm not one to get things wrong   BC(before my crash)

Mar 27th, 2016 8:43pm

As a person who has brain damage and confabulates, First I just want to say I am so sorry for what you are going through. I had gastric bypass and due to malnutrition I go through episodes of confabulation. It is destroying my marriage and motherhood. I was always so strong and intelligent, with a memory for everything. Now I can barely function because I don't know what's real from day to day. I am alienating the people I love the most and it's killing me. I hope your husband seeks help because this could kill him, it is that serious.

Mar 12th, 2016 11:26pm

My husband had a head injury six years ago.  After the head injury (complete with untreated concussion), he became very mean, manipulative, bullying and told stories about our marriage that were nowhere near true.  Needless to say it destroyed our marriage.  Through the divorce, he came up with crazy notions and harassed my daughter and me constantly with these notions.  He even snatched our baby right out of the church nursery - using a bulletin that allegedly stated his custodial rights (he had no custody at this point).  Right around the divorce, he became reasonable and we were able to finalize a 2 year battle peaceably and create a type of "friendship".

Now, 6 months post divorce, he has reported a 6 hour total memory loss where he did not even know his name.  He is back to making up stories (which I can prove to be false) but are very real to him.  These stories are so fabulous in his mind and he uses them to attempt to scare me and force me into agreements that no sane person would ever agree to. 

He has visitation with our son who just turned four and I fight the urge to be terrified every time my son is with him.  I will never know if what my ex says happens during those visits is even remotely true.  Even if they are not, no one can tell him any different.

The neurologist has recommended cognitive therapy, by my ex does not believe anything is wrong and will not do any kind of recommended treatment.

I pray for protection for the kids on a regular basis...  who know what he may try to do next!

Confabulation can be a very dangerous situation.

Oct 26th, 2015 1:33pm

30 years ago my wife while a passenger in a car and not wearing a seat belt was thrown into the windshield and suffered injuries on the left side of her forehead. It was a bizarre 25 or so years pointing things out to my wife who would then argue with me. until I witnessed my daughter in the same type of discussions with her Mom, I realized I wasn't crazy. then a year ago in her college  Psych class she studied Confabulation and told me about it. I feel for those out there that are dealing with a family member or close one, and aren't aware of what they are dealing with.

Apr 3rd, 2015 12:32am

My husband vanished from our kids and I months ago telling all sorts of lies even dragging us into the court system. It has been a nightmare but now truly believe he is confabulating and he has been untreated with PTSD and multiple TBI's for a long time. His parents are in denial and we have lost everything and the kids and I have now lost our home and live in one room. If he doesn't know he is doing it and has almost we feel forgotten his own kids and I because we haven't heard from him since June and last we did know we were his enemy, will he break through on his own and remember?

Nov 2nd, 2014 4:58am

My husband confabulates, it's bizarre.

Feb 28th, 2014 8:40pm

Do you ever see this in children and young adults? Can it be confused with ADHD?

Feb 24th, 2013 7:41pm

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