Dissociative disorders are a group of mental health conditions that involve a disruption or dissociation of a person's normal consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control, or behavior. They are often the result of severe or repeated trauma, abuse, neglect, or other overwhelming stressors that the person is unable to process or integrate into their sense of self or reality. It is the brain’s way of coping with that trauma.
There are several types of dissociative disorders, including dissociative identity disorder (DID), dissociative amnesia, depersonalization (or derealization) disorder, and other specified dissociative disorder. These are fairly rare, only about 200K each year, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can be chronic or last for years (maybe lifelong) and requires a medical diagnosis.
DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states or identities that recurrently take control of the person's behavior. Dissociative amnesia involves the inability to recall important personal information, often related to traumatic events. Depersonalization/derealization disorder involves feeling detached from one's body or surroundings, or experiencing a sense of unreality or disconnection.
Treatment for dissociative disorders typically involves psychotherapy, particularly approaches that focus on integrating the different dissociated aspects of the person's experience and working through the underlying trauma. Medications may also be used to manage symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or dissociative episodes.
It is important to note that dissociative disorder includes anything that might disrupt or impair an individual. Continued stress or trauma can exacerbate this disorder and/or impair memory, emotions, and perception. Therefore, conversing with a professional should be a high priority to improve one’s personal mental health.
If you, or someone you know, struggles with an
dissociative disorder… please seek a mental health professional. If you are in a crisis and need help immediately, text “HOME” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line. Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 support. There is hope. Take your mental health seriously.
You are loved.
Dr. Ray Reynolds
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