Dissociative disorders are mental health conditions characterized by feelings of disconnection from reality, being outside of one’s own body, or memory loss (amnesia).
Dissociation refers to being disconnected from others, the world around you, or yourself.
Either short-term or long-term trauma commonly causes dissociative disorders.
Dissociative disorder classifications
Dissociative disorders are classified into three types:
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is characterized by the existence of two or more distinct identities. These identities (dubbed “alters”) govern their behavior at different times. Each alters a distinct personality, traits, likes, and dislikes.
Dissociative amnesia occurs when you cannot recall important details about your life. The forgetting could be limited to specific aspects of your life or encompass a large portion of your life history or identity.
Depersonalization/derealization disorder: This is a condition in which you feel disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, and body (depersonalization) or your surroundings (derealization) (derealization).
There’s also a condition known as dissociative fugue. It is a temporary mental state in which a person experiences memory loss and finds themselves in an unexpected location.
Because dissociative disorders are on the trauma spectrum, many people who have them may also have trauma-related mental health conditions, such as:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (PTSD).
Personality disorder with borderline characteristics (BPD).
Substance abuse problems.
Who is affected by dissociative disorders?
Dissociative disorders can affect people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Women and people born female are more likely to have a diagnosis.
People who were physically or sexually abused as children are more likely to develop dissociative identity disorder (DID). Approximately 90% of people with DID experienced childhood abuse and neglect in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
How widespread are dissociative disorders?
Dissociative disorders are uncommon. They affect approximately 2% of the population in the United States.
Causes and Symptoms
What are the signs and symptoms of the dissociative disorder?
The symptoms of dissociative disorders vary according to type. Symptoms usually appear after a traumatic event.
Stressful situations can exacerbate symptoms and interfere with daily functioning.
Dissociative identity disorder symptoms (DID)
DID patients have two or more distinct identities? The person’s “core” identity is their typical personality. Alternate personalities are referred to as “Alters.” The core is your identity before developing DID and how it has changed.
Each alters a distinct set of behaviors, attitudes, preferences, memories, and thought patterns. Other people, as well as the person with DID, may be able to tell the difference between the alters. The transition from one alter to another is unintentional and abrupt.
Another sign of DID is persistent memory gaps about everyday events, personal information, or past traumatic events.
The severity of these symptoms can vary greatly. For some people, the condition has little impact on their lives. It causes significant problems for others.
Dissociative amnesia symptoms
The main symptom of dissociative amnesia is a sudden onset of amnesia (memory loss). It can last for months or even years.
Amnesia is classified into three types:
Localized: You can’t recall an event or time (the most common form of amnesia).
Selective: You cannot recall specific details of events that occurred within a particular time frame.
Generalized: You have no recollection of your identity or life history (the rarest form).
You may be unaware of or have limited awareness of your memory loss. However, loved ones are usually aware of memory loss.
Depersonalization/derealization disorder symptoms
Depersonalization/derealization disorder symptoms include having one or both of the following episodes in a recurring pattern over a long time:
Depersonalization is characterized by feelings of disconnection from one’s mind, body, or self. It’s as if you’re watching your life and events from a distance rather than being an active participant.
Derealization is characterized by feelings of disconnection from one’s surroundings. People and things may appear to be unreal.
You are aware of your surroundings and are aware that what you are experiencing is abnormal.
- Review this week’s Learning Resources on dissociative disorders.
- Use the Library to investigate the controversy regarding dissociative disorders. Locate at least three scholarly articles that you can use to support your Assignment.
The Assignment (2–3 pages)
- Explain the controversy that surrounds dissociative disorders.
- Explain your professional beliefs about dissociative disorders, supporting your rationale with at least three scholarly references from the literature.
- Explain strategies for maintaining the therapeutic relationship with a client that may present with a dissociative disorder.
- Finally, explain ethical and legal considerations related to dissociative disorders that you need to bring to your practice and why they are important.