Find a Therapist at NetworkTherapy.com


Find a Therapist or Treatment Center

Highlights
  for Consumers
Find a Local Therapist
Find a Telehealth Therapist
Find a Treatment Center
About Therapy
Research a Condition
Research a Medication
Support Groups
National Hotlines
Featured Articles
What's New
  for Providers
List Your Practice
List Your Treatment Center
Publish an Article
My Account
Webmail

Dissociative Disorders

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Depersonalization Disorder » Featured Article

Dissociative disorders are so-called because they are marked by a dissociation from or interruption of a person's fundamental aspects of waking consciousness (such as one's personal identity, one's personal history, etc.). Dissociative disorders come in many forms, the most famous of which is dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). All of the dissociative disorders are thought to stem from trauma experienced by the individual with this disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience too traumatic to integrate with his conscious self. Symptoms of these disorders, or even one or more of the disorders themselves, are also seen in a number of other mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Dissociative amnesia: This disorder is characterized by a blocking out of critical personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature. Dissociative amnesia, unlike other types of amnesia, does not result from other medical trauma (e.g. a blow to the head). Dissociative amnesia has several subtypes:

  • Localized amnesia is present in an individual who has no memory of specific events that took place, usually traumatic. The loss of memory is localized with a specific window of time. For example, a survivor of a car wreck who has no memory of the experience until two days later is experiencing localized amnesia.

  • Selective amnesia happens when a person can recall only small parts of events that took place in a defined period of time. For example, an abuse victim may recall only some parts of the series of events around the abuse.

  • Generalized amnesia is diagnosed when a person's amnesia encompasses his or her entire life.

  • Systematized amnesia is characterized by a loss of memory for a specific category of information. A person with this disorder might, for example, be missing all memories about one specific family member.

Dissociative fugue is a rare disorder. An individual with dissociative fugue suddenly and unexpectedly takes physical leave of his or her surroundings and sets off on a journey of some kind. These journeys can last hours, or even several days or months. Individuals experiencing a dissociative fugue have traveled over thousands of miles. An individual in a fugue state is unaware of or confused about his identity, and in some cases will assume a new identity (although this is the exception).

Dissociative identity disorder (DID), which has been known as multiple personality disorder, is the most famous of the dissociative disorders. An individual suffering from DID has more than one distinct identity or personality state that surfaces in the individual on a recurring basis. This disorder is also marked by differences in memory which vary with the individual's "alters," or other personalities. For more information on this, see the NAMI factsheet on dissociative identity disorder.

Depersonalization disorder is marked by a feeling of detachment or distance from one's own experience, body, or self. These feelings of depersonalization are recurrent. Of the dissociative disorders, depersonalization is the one most easily identified with by the general public; one can easily relate to feeling as they in a dream, or being "spaced out." Feeling out of control of one's actions and movements is something that people describe when intoxicated. An individual with depersonalization disorder has this experience so frequently and so severely that it interrupts his or her functioning and experience. A person's experience with depersonalization can be so severe that he or she believes the external world is unreal or distorted.

Treatment
Since dissociative disorders seem to be triggered as a response to trauma or abuse, treatment for individuals with such a disorder may stress psychotherapy, although a combination of psychopharmacological and psychosocial treatments is often used. Many of the symptoms of dissociative disorders occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and can be controlled by the same drugs used to treat those disorders. A person in treatment for a dissociative disorder might benefit from antidepressants or antianxiety medication.

Reviewed by Jack D. Maser, Ph.D. of the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, MD

SOURCE: National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (www.nami.org); June 2000



Home  |  Provider Directory  |  Mental Health Library  |  Resource Center  |  For Providers
Find a Therapist  |  Find a Treatment Center  |  List Your Practice  |  List Your Treatment Center
About Us  |  Contact Us  |  User Agreement  |  Privacy Policy  |  Site Map
This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here. The information provided on this site is for educational or informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or behavioral health care advice. The information is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care provider. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about your health.
Copyright © 2000-2021 NetworkTherapy.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
Welcome Guestbook What's New Site Map Find a Therapist Find a Treatment Center About Therapy Frequently Asked Questions Disorders & Conditions Medications Treatment Approaches Featured Articles News Archive Mental Health Dictionary Support Groups National Hotlines Mental Health Books Related Web Sites For Providers Provider Login Back to top of page