Dissociation and Dissociative Disorders


Dissociative disorders are sometimes referred to as multiple personality disorder or formerly split personality disorder and it is a complex psychological condition.  It is relatively rare, affecting around one percent of the population and is more common in women than men.

It’s a mental health condition where a person feels a severe form of dissociation that causes them to feel detached, not only from themselves, but from other people and the world around them.  It can cause them to suffer from memory loss, sometimes blanking out long periods of time, to have doubts about who they are, and to have at least two separate personalities. Dissociation is the bodies defence mechanism, used to help us deal with short-term trauma, which is fine, but can become problematic when it continues long after the event.

Types of dissociative disorder

There are three types of dissociative disorder these are:

Dissociative Amnesia

Which causes memory loss for periods which can last for hours or days, and in rare cases several months or even years.  This can result in them not only losing memories but abilities or skills. They can find themselves somewhere but have no memory of why they are there or how they got there.  There are four types of dissociative amnesia:

  • Generalised amnesia where a person has difficulty remembering details of their entire life
  • Localised amnesia having no memory of a specific traumatic event
  • Selective amnesia having some memories but they are incomplete or vague
  • Systematised amnesia when the memory loss is specific to one thing like an event or person

Depersonalization/Derealisation Disorder

Causes a person to feel detached from their mind, body and actions, making them feel detached from their feelings and emotions.  They may describe it as like having an outer body experience when they feel like they are watching themselves.  It can cause them to feel spaced out or out of control.  They can feel like time has slowed, and in severe cases it can result in them having a changed perception of how they look or an inability to recognise themselves.

Dissociative identity disorder

The most severe and sometimes controversial form which involves the presence of coexisting personalities in the same individual. These personalities will be distinctly different to each other with different likes, dislikes, personality traits and histories.  They can be different ages and sexes and sound different as well as having different mannerisms.  They will be dominant at different times and may not be aware that other personalities exist so suffer from amnesia when they are not in control.


Dissociative disorders are often a result of childhood abuse, trauma or neglect or having suffered a traumatic event like a physical or sexual assault or abuse.  It can also result from serving in the armed forces, having invasive medical procedures or being the victim of natural disasters.

Symptoms of dissociative disorders

Symptoms will vary dependant on the type of disorder and its severity, but may include:

  • Feeling disconnected from yourself or like you don’t know who you are
  • Being unsure of what is real and what is imaginary
  • Struggling with intense emotions
  • Memory loss or feeling like you’ve lost time,
  • Concentration problems
  • Finding yourself somewhere with no explanation as to why or how you got there
  • Sleep disorders such as insomnia, nightmares or sleep walking
  • Feeling compelled to behave in a certain way or behaving unlike yourself
  • Having sudden mood swings
  • Developing distinct multiple personalities

Associated Conditions and Behaviours

Dissociation and dissociative disorders can lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Panic Attacks
  • Phobias
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Relationship, school or work problems
  • Self-Harming and high risk behaviours
  • Suicidal Thoughts

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you think that you or someone you know might be suffering from a form of dissociative disorder you should speak to your doctor.  They can prescribe medications for associated conditions like anxiety and depression, and refer you for therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy and cognitive therapies.  Whilst there is no cure for dissociative disorders therapy can help you to manage the condition.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more free information click above link.

Previous post Three Warning Signs Your Car Brakes Are At Stake
Next post Top Reasons Why Latvia is an Ideal Destination for Indian Students to Study MBBS