Dissociative disorders are a group of conditions characterized by disruptions in consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, and/or perception. These disorders can make it difficult for a person to process and make sense of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
There are several types of dissociative disorders, including:
- Dissociative amnesia: This is characterized by the inability to recall important personal information, usually due to a traumatic event.
- Dissociative fugue: This is characterized by sudden, unexpected travel away from home or one’s customary place of work, accompanied by an inability to recall one’s past.
- Depersonalization disorder: This is characterized by feelings of detachment or estrangement from one’s self.
- Dissociative identity disorder (DID) previously known as multiple personality disorder, is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states that control an individual’s behavior at different times.
The causes of dissociative disorders are not fully understood, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors, particularly traumatic experiences in childhood.
Symptoms of dissociative disorders can include:
- Memory loss or gaps in memory
- Depersonalization or feeling detached from oneself
- Derealization or feeling detached from one’s surroundings
- Identity confusion or feeling like a different person
- Unusual changes in behavior or identity
- Physical symptoms such as headaches or pain for which no medical cause can be found
Diagnosis of dissociative disorders is typically made by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist, through a combination of a clinical interview, a review of the person’s symptoms, and a review of the person’s medical history.
Treatment options for dissociative disorders include:
- Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help a person learn how to manage their symptoms and improve their mood
- Trauma-focused therapies such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
- Medication, such as antidepressants, to help with symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Supportive services, such as case management and vocational rehabilitation, to help a person with dissociative disorders lead a more independent life
It’s important to note that dissociative disorders are treatable conditions and that with the right treatment, many people with dissociative disorders are able to lead fulfilling lives. It’s important to seek professional help if you suspect that you or a loved one might have dissociative disorders as it can have a significant impact on the person’s well-being.
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To learn more about dissociative disorders, please click on https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/dissociative-disorders/
Dr Ibrahim Yahli MD MRCPsych