Mental Health & Family Practice

Dissociative Disorders

What Are Dissociative Disorders?

Memory, identity, emotion, perception, conduct, and sense of self are all affected by dissociative disorders. Dissociative symptoms have the ability to disturb all aspects of mental functioning. Dissociative symptoms include feelings of detachment or being beyond one’s body, as well as loss of memory or amnesia. Dissociative disorders are typically linked to a history of trauma.

There are three types of dissociative disorders


  • Dissociative identity disorder
  • Dissociative amnesia
  • Depersonalization/derealization disorder


The Sidran Institute, which aims to help people understand and live with traumatic stress and dissociative disorders, explains dissociation and its potential applications as follows:

Dissociation is defined as a disconnect between a person’s ideas, memories, feelings, behaviors, or sense of self. This is a natural procedure that everyone has gone through. Daydreaming, highway hypnosis, or “getting lost” in a book or movie are all examples of mild, common dissociation, all of which involve “losing touch” with awareness of one’s immediate surroundings.

Dissociation can aid in a person’s ability to cope with what might otherwise be too tough to bear after a traumatic experience like an accident, tragedy, or being the victim of a crime. In these circumstances, a person may mentally run away from the terror, suffering, and horror by dissociating the recollection of the scene, the circumstances, or the sensations related to the overpowering incident. According to many catastrophe and accident survivors, this may make it difficult to afterward recall the specifics of the experience.



People suffering from dissociative disorders are more likely to have problems and complications and associated disorders, such as:

  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Alcoholism and drug use disorders
  • Depression and anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Sleep disorders, including nightmares, insomnia, and sleepwalking
  • Eating disorders
  • Physical symptoms such as lightheadedness or non-epileptic seizures
  • Major difficulties in personal relationships and at work

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Childhood maltreatment, traumatic events, and/or overpowering experiences are all linked to dissociative identity disorder. Previously, multiple personality disorder was used to describe dissociative identity disorder.

symptoms of Dissociative Disorders

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Dissociative identity disorder symptoms (diagnostic criteria) include:

Two or more separate identities (or “personality states”) exist. Changes in behavior, memory, and reasoning accompany the separate identities. Others may notice the signs and symptoms, or the individual may report them. Gaps in memory of everyday activities, personal information, and/or past traumatic events that persist. Significant distress or issues in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning are caused by the symptoms. Furthermore, the disruption must not be a routine element of a widely accepted cultural or religious activity. As stated in the DSM-5, experiences of being possessed are a common aspect of spiritual practice in many cultures across the world and are not dissociative disorders. A person with dissociative identity disorder’s attitude and personal preferences (for example, concerning food, activities, and clothing) may abruptly shift and then shift again. Identity shifts occur involuntarily, are unwelcome, and create distress. People suffering from dissociative identity disorder may experience the sensation of abruptly becoming spectators of their own speech and actions, or their bodies may feel different (e.g., like a small child, like the opposite gender, huge and muscular).



With the right treatment, a lot of people are successful in addressing the main dissociative identity disorder symptoms and regaining their ability to function and lead productive happy lives. Psychotherapy is often used as part of treatment. Therapy can assist patients in taking control of their dissociative symptoms and process. Integrating the various components of identity is the aim of therapy. Due to the fact that therapy requires recalling and coping with past traumatic experiences, it may be intense and challenging. Two popular forms of therapy are cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Dissociative identity disorder can also be treated using hypnosis, according to research. The signs and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder cannot be treated with drugs. However, using medication to address diseases or symptoms that are connected to them may be beneficial, such as using antidepressants to alleviate depressive symptoms.


Depersonalization/ Derealization Disorder

Depersonalization/derealization disorder is characterized by a significant ongoing or recurring encounter with one or both of the following conditions:

Depersonalization refers to feelings of disconnection from one’s thinking, self, or body. People may feel as though they are outside of their bodies, observing events unfold around them.

Derealization refers to feelings of disconnection from one’s environment. People may have the impression that the things and people around them are not genuine.

The person is aware of reality and that their experience is odd throughout these altered states. Even if the person appears to be unresponsive or emotionless, the experience is extremely distressing. Symptoms can appear as early as childhood, with the average person experiencing the illness at the age of 16. Only about 20% of patients with depersonalization/derealization condition exhibit symptoms after the age of 20


Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative amnesia is the inability to recall knowledge about oneself (not normal forgetting). This amnesia is frequently caused by a traumatic or stressful incident and might manifest as:

localized – unable to recall a specific event or period of time (most common type)

Selective – unable to recall a specific component of an event or a series of occurrences over a period of time.

Generic – loss of identity and life history (rare)

Dissociative amnesia is related to a history of childhood trauma, particularly emotional abuse and neglect. People may be unaware of or have limited awareness of their memory loss. People may also downplay the significance of memory loss related to a certain event or time period.