Dissociative Disorders

Table of Contents

Dissociative disorders affect a variety of different people from any age, race, ethnicity, social demographic or religion. In other words, anyone can have a dissociative disorder. The disorder is characterized by a complete disconnection between the person and their thoughts, identity, and consciousness. To have a dissociative episode is to involuntarily escape from reality without realizing it.

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What is Dissociative Disorder?

The thing is, dissociation is incredibly common. When someone is having a traumatic event, almost 75% of those people will dissociate. But, only about 2% of the American population meets the criteria for having the disorder. Also, there is a gender gap in the disorder, as women are more likely to develop it than men. 

For the most part, the disorder manifests as the brain responds to a traumatic life event. Many people with the disorder suffer or suffered from some sort of abuse. It is also common to see members of the military dissociate because of the trauma of combat. Stressful situations make the disorder worse. It may be hard for some to get back to normal life when symptoms are presenting. Treatment for the disorder usually involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Both are extremely effective and lead to the patient being able to fulfill a happy and productive life. But, some with the disorder have a difficult time finding an effective treatment plan and following through with it.

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What are the Symptoms of Dissociative Disorder?

Dissociative Disorder is characterized by certain symptoms, here they are: 

  • A loss of memory, especially surrounding a traumatic event. Trouble remembering people, places, and specific times. 
  • Out-of-body experiences where the patient feels as though they’re looking in on a movie about themselves; feeling disconnected to one’s own body and mind. 
  • Other coexisting mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and OCD; thoughts of suicide, suicidal ideation. 
  • A detachment from one’s own emotions; an emotional numbness.
  • No sense of self-identity or a weak sense of self-identity; the patient doesn’t know who they are and what they like.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) there are three different types of dissociative disorders, here they are:

  1. Dissociative Amnesia – Dissociative Amnesia is similar to regular amnesia. It’s all about not remembering, in this case it’s not remembering important information about oneself. A traumatic event usually sparks this form of amnesia. For example, physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, combat, war, and death. It usually happens suddenly, out-of-the-blue. It can last for a few minutes or even hours, days, and years! Though it’s rare to last years. 
  2. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – People most often think of dissociation as an identity disorder. It was once known as “multiple personality disorder” but that changed. The disorder is characterized by several different identities that the patient alternates between. The patient may feel as though the personalities are trying to take over. They may hear voices in their head. The identities are all distinct, usually. They might have names, mannerisms, even voices and entire backstories. For those with DID, life can be a struggle. They often go through lengths of time where they’ll have no idea what went on. They were lost in another personality. Women are more likely to have DID than men, but when men do have it it is often a more violent form.
  3. Depersonalization – This disorder happens when a patient has ongoing feelings of detachment. There are two forms of the disorder: depersonalization and derealization. With depersonalization, they aren’t attached to their own thoughts, feelings, actions, sensations, or moods. Their entire life feels as though they’re looking at a movie. On the other hand, someone with derealization feels as though the world around them is synthesized (it isn’t real.) Symptoms of these two versions of the disorder can last for minutes, days, or weeks. A person might be afflicted with depersonalization and derealization numerous times over the years.
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In Conclusion: What is the Treatment for Dissociative Disorders?

There are several different courses of treatment for those with dissociative disorders, including: 

In addition to the above treatment methods, those with the disorder may find it helpful to explore similar disorders. Some of these disorders are on the trauma spectrum, while others are related in other ways, here they are: 

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