The Ghislaine Maxwell trial produced many horrifying and terrible things. I was disgusted by the abuse and trafficking of young girls.

But another aspect of the trial that sickened me was the way the defence tried to discredit the brave testimonies of the victims by claiming they had ‘false memory syndrome’.

This is a hugely controversial subject within psychiatry, and too often it’s used as a way to introduce doubt into the minds of a jury and give a medical-sounding reason as to why someone might falsely accuse someone else.

There’s no doubt that our memories of events can be surprisingly bad, and this is very well supported by evidence.

We are not perfect and, despite what we may think, our brains aren’t infallible.

A psychologist will say that a person who believes in their own memory of events is more foolish than someone else. Research after research has shown us that our memories are shoddy. Our memory forgets things and we invent events, combine them, and make up timings.

Dr Max Pemberton (pictured) discusses the condition of ‘false memory syndrome'

Dr Max Pemberton (pictured) discusses the condition of ‘false memory syndrome’

Our recollections become increasingly skewed over time.

After 9/11, a fascinating study was done. After 9/11, researchers interviewed individuals to find out where and what they did at that time.

The researchers interviewed the same people years later and asked the same questions. But the answers were astonishingly different — around 60 per cent of the details had changed.

More than half of the things people remembered were wrong. Yet, they claimed blindly that it was what they had actually experienced. But — and this is the incredible part — when the researchers confronted the interviewees with this, they were adamant that the most recent version of events they had shared with the researchers was, in fact, the correct one.

When they were played back recordings of the first interviews, the participants sat stunned and confused and said things such as, ‘I don’t know why I said that; it’s not true’ and still stuck to their new version of events.

Dr Max Pemberton: There were plenty of awful, horrifying things to come out of the Ghislaine Maxwell case. It turned my stomach listening to the way young girls were trafficked and abused

Dr Max Pemberton: There were plenty of awful, horrifying things to come out of the Ghislaine Maxwell case. I was disgusted by the abuse and trafficking of young girls.

False memories syndrome is based on the idea that memory can be faulty, but goes one step further. This theory states that rather than remembering incorrect events, it is possible to recall the entire story as fiction.

Recovered-memory Therapy, which allowed for the retrieval of trauma memories from the past, was very popular in 1990s.

People who have suffered severe trauma may try to forget it by suppressing it.

This was the role of the therapist. He or she had to seek out these memories and examine the trauma. This therapy failed to recognize the fact that people can be incredibly suggestive and it’s easy to create memories about events that have never happened.

The practice was widely condemned for being unreliable, and itself traumatising — not least for innocent people who were being wrongly accused.

The term ‘false memory syndrome’ was used to describe these ‘recovered’, but entirely untrue, recollections.

Now, however, it’s more broadly used as a term to discredit testimonies of victims of abuse.

Dr Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist and well-known expert in memory, told the court in the Ghislaine Maxwell case that people ‘can be subjected to post-event suggestion’.

David Beckham again misses out on the knighthood 

There’s no doubt he’s done good things for charity, but often I think of the nurses I work with, who care for people with severe mental illness and go above and beyond to help them — yet get no recognition.

They are deserving of more honours than any celebrity.

It’s true. It is true. We can add detail to news stories, talk with our friends after, etc., to make the event more interesting. Sometimes, we also manipulate and edit the memories to better suit our perceptions, sometimes to be more positive.

However, when Dr Loftus was cross-examined she conceded that, while ‘peripheral memories’ from a traumatic event may be forgotten, the event’s ‘core memories’ — the recollection of the actual, key event — may in fact become stronger.

There’s no doubt that some people, for a variety of reasons, confabulate and lie about being the victim of abuse.

There’s also no doubt that our memories are often inaccurate, vague or confused.

However, the notion that you might misremember your experience as a victim in sextrafficking and rape can be quite another.

It is distasteful and desperate to rely on such a defense, to place a shadow upon the courageous testimony of victims.

I’m so pleased the jury saw through this.

■ Early retirees are going back to work to find a sense of purpose, according to a recent survey.

Sixty-six percent of those who had retired prior to the age 66 decided they wanted to go back to work. Over a quarter of them did this to restore meaning to their lives. A similar percentage missed social interaction. This is something I often see. Many retirees are confused about what their identity is now that they have lost the job status. It’s a normal response to an enormous upheaval. This seems to be the case particularly with professionals such as lawyers, doctors, businessmen — probably because they dedicated the best years of their lives to their careers. But people from all walks of life have told me it’s the routine they miss. To avoid the adverse effects of work stopping, it’s important to ensure we have new interests and are able to interact with others every day.

I’m a fan Missing Out, too

Dakota Johnson has said that, despite being 32, she feels like she’s pushing 50 because, while being the toast of Hollywood with her pick of star-studded events and glamorous parties to attend, she has started to enjoy ‘cosy and private’ time in with her boyfriend, Coldplay singer Chris Martin.

Although she claimed that her social life is quiet makes her feel older, I believe she should accept it.

A slower pace of living is one of the positive aspects of the pandemic. I used to be a rush-person, trying to fit everything in. Pre-pandemic, I was out and about most evenings, sometimes doing several things in one night, always with a sense of FOMO — fear of missing out. Now I’ve realised that there is some bliss in staying in and sitting down.

It doesn’t matter what is happening elsewhere. It’s been termed JOMO — the joy of missing out and, like Dakota, I’m a fan!

Who cares what else is going on? It’s been termed JOMO — the joy of missing out and, like Dakota, I’m a fan!

It doesn’t matter what is happening elsewhere. It’s been termed JOMO — the joy of missing out and, like Dakota, I’m a fan!

Dr Max recommends… Work out hard at the gym

We all understand depression. However, we often view anxiety as less serious than it is. My patients suffering from both depression and anxiety say they have to deal with it more. A programme that included exercises at different intensities for three hours per week, over 12 weeks, was found to reduce anxiety in patients. Cardio and strength training, as well as circuit training, reduced muscle tension and increased endorphins.

Circuit training and strength and cardio exercises decreased muscle tension and boosted endorphins (stock image)

Circuit training and strength- and cardio exercises reduced muscle tension, and increased endorphins. (Stock image).