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

Question: 

What is confabulation?

Answer: 

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.

Posted on BrainLine April 23, 2012. Reviewed July 26, 2018.

Comments (24)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

My husband does this and it's taken me years to figure out what's happening. He listens carefully about my life and my memories. Then a few weeks later he Will say my own memories back to me. He will change them to be about himself and his family. If I confront him he gets furious and says I just can't admit he could have the same memory as me. He's always been an angry and abusive person and until now I believed he was doing it on purpose as another form of abuse. He was hit by a car on his bicycle when he was 11. I think that could be the injury. I'm trying to get him to speak to a doctor. We are separated and the lying is a big part of it. He's always angry.

I would like more information on residential programs please I’m in the Virginia area. My son has a traumatic brain injury from a 2012 automobile accident and at this point, I don’t know how to help him. He is very angry he says things that are not true he is out of his mind at times and it’s tearing my family apart please help me I’m lost so.

My daughter had a traumatic brain injury many years ago and I have been suffering because of it ever since. She is convinced that I have been a very bad mother to her, even though there is clear evidence to the contrary. I don't think she has said a kind word to me in years. To make matters worse, I have two small granddaughters and she makes it very difficult for me to see them. I am heartbroken.

I'm so sorry. My husband believed the most outrageous (to the point of being funny...although he didn't think so) things. We had a wonderful marriage but after a cerebral fistula he believed he'd been unhappy for a decade and had all sorts of verifiably false memories. It is horrific. I'm so sorry you're living through this

I think my boyfriend has been suffering a TBI for almost 4 years since he was knocked unconscious in a kickboxing match. He thinks his parents are not his biological parents. He constructs elaborate stories about who his mother is, it was the woman across the road who is a different ethnicity to him. He also believes he has children with women he has not had any romantic involvement with. It’s so sad to watch. He refuses to go to hospital. His family and I have tried to get him proper treatment on several occasions. He gets very paranoid and thinks his family and I are going to harm him.

I have a brain-damaged son. Well-meaning social workers are always trying to take him away from me because of the lies he tells.

One of my parents had a TBI as a result of an accident. For a good season there were all these stories that seemed on the edge of fantastical. It was tough and very frustrating to deal with. Over time however it did resolve and go away. The confab has now been gone for years however I do wonder if it can come back. Thanks.

It is so helpful to read these comments. My husband had a stroke. A few months after the stroke he announced he was terribly unhappy in our marriage because of affairs I had the first year of our marriage, the fact that I was mean to and never visited his sister, and took credit for writing a book proposal that I did not write.
In reality, we were happily married, I'd never had an affair, I visited his sister many times..even helped her with their mother as she died, and I wrote a book proposal for him that allowed him to get a very important book deal. There was no convincing him otherwise. He divorced me, and continues to think his memories are real. It's so odd to live in this twilight zone-like world

I thought I was the only one. My husband suffered a tbi ten years ago. He has divorced me and is engaged to a woman who is a grifter. He truly believes that I was mean to him, that I abandoned him, that I didn’t care about him, etc. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s so hard to watch as he marries a woman who just wants his money, the money I fought to get him after the accident. And there is nothing I can do to protect him. I’m broken hearted and angry.

It IS so awful. Especially since my exhusband looks and behaves normally. My husband threw a bomb in our family's life and has gone on living as if all is fine.

I understand what you are going through. My daughter had a TBI years ago and I have been suffering ever since. She thinks that I have been a terrible mother to her, which is simply not true. It's pure fabrication and I feel terribly hurt. I hardly ever see my small granddaughters anymore, as she prevents me from seeing them.

Confabulation can be addressed with high dose thiamine vitamin b6 and vitamin b12, and daily vitamin b complex pills. Consult specialist but also take the vitamins thrice daily as it never hurts. Lot of research point to thiamin and b12 deficiency as cause if there was no known physical injury.

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.

If he is confabulating from a tbi, he wouldn't know he was. He's not going to admit what he doesn't know.
Also, expecting you to eventually believe him sounds like a good sign

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.

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!

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)

Hi,

I had a TBI nearly four years ago. When I am tired I am a different person and struggle to keep up with the reality of life.

I went to a friends place. I had to catch a plane then the train which is really exhausting and then I was at her house and I went to charge my phone and my friend was saying it was her charger and I told her the story of how I know it was mine and how I remember putting it in my bag etc. but when I arrived home my charger was sitting there. I had made this story up.

My vision and a bit of my hearing were also damaged and after the accident, I only managed to get work form friends and I did volunteer work also to try and keep my brain busy. But I started to notice things going wrong and I would not recognise people. People started borrowing money off me, I was getting conversations confused and mixed up and I would not notice until someone told me. I was slowly asked to get medical clearance to even do volunteer work and noticed I was no longer being invited to peoples houses etc. It was just too strange I guess. I realise how humiliating it is.

I was misdiagnosed as a PTSD case with a mild brain injury but I met a witness and he told me I was not breathing and knocked out for a fair while, they thought I was dead and left me until they heard me gasp for air.

It’s a terrible lonely world to live in. No one wants to know you or give you a job. People discard you. I have to really be careful about what I say if it’s true or cofabulated. Even the other day I was told I got a story all wrong.

Best of luck survivors if that’s what they call it.

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.

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.

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.

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?

My husband confabulates, it's bizarre.

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