Dissociative Disorders

Imagine not knowing who you were or where you came from. What if your memory was gone, or your perception of self were altered suddenly, without warning? Dissociative disorders involve a dissociation or interruption of an individuals sense of self.[1] Individuals suffering from dissociative disorders can have issues remembering or connecting with:

  • Identity
  • Personal History

Dissociative disorders are often connected to an experienced trauma. The act of disassociating is believed to be a coping mechanism. Essentially, the person disassociates from situations that are too traumatic to process. Symptoms of dissociative disorder are seen in numerous mental illnesses including:

Types of Dissociative Disorder

Dissociative Amnesia

This condition is characterized by an individuals inability to recall critical personal information. Amnesia usually occurs after a traumatic and stressful event. This type of amnesia never occurs from a medical trauma, such as a blow to the head. This disorder has four subtypes including:

  • Selective Amnesia – This type of amnesia involves selective events during a specific period of time.
  • Localized Amnesia – This type of amnesia is limited to specific events.
  • Generalized Amnesia – This type of amnesia encompasses memories of an individuals entire life.
  • Systemized Amnesia – This involves amnesia surrounding specific categories, such as events involving another person or place.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

This condition is also known as multiple personality disorder, and is extremely famous. Individuals suffering from the disorder have multiple identities that surface regularly.

Dissociative Fugue

Individuals suffering from dissociative fugue may suddenly leave his or her life and surroundings. The fugue state inspires sufferers to set off on a journey. The expeditions can last several hours or longer. Individuals with this condition may assume new identities and be missing for some time.

Depersonalization Disorder

This disorder involves a recurring feeling of detachment from one’s own physical being or sense of self. Depersonalization is easily identified with by the general public because it is easy to understand feeling as if one is dreaming, or feeling a general loss of control. However, individuals who have this disorder experience these feelings so frequently and severely that their day to day functioning is severely impaired. The experience can be so severe that an individual may believe that the world is not real or distorted.

Treating Dissociative Disorder

Dissociative disorders are usually triggered by abuse or trauma; individuals suffering from the disorder may benefit from psychotherapy and medications to control anxiety and depression.[2]


  1. “Dissociative disorders – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2012. Retrieved dfrom http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dissociative-disorders/DS00574.
  2. “Memory loss: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2012. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003257.htm.

By C. J. Newton, MA, Therapists.com Editor

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