What Are Dissociative Disorders?

what are dissociative disorders

What Are Dissociative Disorders?

Dissociative disorders are mental health conditions that involve issues with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior, and sense of self. When you suffer from one of these conditions, it is common to feel like you are disconnected from your own body and struggle with memory issues or amnesia. A common symptom of dissociative disorders is involuntarily escaping reality in an unhealthy manner, making it difficult to function in everyday life.

Oftentimes, people develop dissociative disorders as a response to trauma. Disconnecting from reality allows them to keep painful memories at bay. However, it is important to note that this is done involuntarily and is completely out of the affected individual’s control.

The symptoms of dissociative disorders depend on which type you suffer from. Additionally, experiencing stress can worsen your symptoms and make them more obvious to the people around you. Typically, dissociative disorders require professional treatment from a licensed mental health recovery program.

Symptoms of Dissociative Disorders

Dissociation is a disconnection between your thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, and your sense of who you are. This is a normal process that many people have experienced. For example, daydreaming or experiencing highway hypnosis is a form of dissociation that people may experience naturally.

However, dissociative disorders include more severe forms of dissociation that can cause serious problems in everyday functioning.

Depending on the type of dissociative disorder you experience, you may notice the following symptoms:[1]

  • Memory loss of certain periods, events, people, or personal information
  • Feeling like you are detached from yourself and your emotions
  • Feeling like the people and things around you are distorted or unreal
  • Having a blurred sense of reality
  • Experiencing significant stress or issues in your relationships, work, or other important areas of your life
  • Being unable to cope well with emotional stress
  • Experiencing mental health problems like anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Types of Dissociative Disorders

There are three different types of dissociative disorders: dissociative amnesia, depersonalization disorder, and dissociative identity disorder. Each condition causes symptoms of dissociation, however, they affect people in different ways. Understanding each type of dissociative disorder can help you identify the conditions in yourself or a loved one.

Dissociative Amnesia

Dissociative amnesia is characterized by memory loss that is more severe than normal forgetfulness and cannot be explained by a medical condition. This disorder involves not being able to recall information about yourself and is usually caused by experiencing a traumatic event.

There are three different types of dissociative amnesia, which include:

  • Localized – being unable to remember an event or period of your life
  • Selective – being unable to remember a specific aspect of an event
  • Generalized – experiencing complete loss of identity and life history

It is extremely common for people with dissociative amnesia to be unaware of their memory loss. Oftentimes, dissociative amnesia develops as a coping mechanism for experiencing traumatic events. This condition is commonly associated with a history of childhood trauma, particularly emotional abuse and neglect.

Depersonalization Disorder

Depersonalization or derealization disorder causes ongoing or episodic feelings of detachment or being outside of yourself. This condition is characterized by the symptoms of two different conditions – depersonalization and derealization.

Depersonalization is the feeling of being detached from one’s body. This could make you feel as if you are outside your body and observing your thoughts, actions, and behaviors like you are watching a movie.

Derealization is described as detachment from your reality. You could feel as if the things and people around you are not real or you could see the world in a distorted perception, such as feeling like time is slowed down or sped up.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) was previously referred to as multiple personality disorder. This condition is caused by experiencing severe trauma as a child.

The symptoms of this condition include:

  • Having two or more distinct personalities, each having its own way of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about your environment and self
  • Experiencing ongoing lapses in memory about everyday events, personal information, and trauma
  • Experiencing significant distress or problems in everyday life as a result of the symptoms
  • Involuntary shifts in identities that are unwanted and cause distress
  • Feeling like you have suddenly become an observer of your own speech and actions
  • Believing that your body has become different (i.e. childlike, more muscular, or completely different gender)

It is important to note that dissociative identity disorder is not diagnosed if your symptoms can be explained by physiological conditions like substance abuse or a medical condition like complex partial seizures.

How Are Dissociative Disorders Treated?

While the treatment will depend on which type of dissociative disorder you have, it generally includes psychotherapy and medications. If the symptoms of your dissociative disorder are causing a significant impact on your ability to function in your daily life, you should attend an inpatient mental health treatment program.

Psychotherapy is used to teach you how to cope with your symptoms. When you have dissociative identity disorder, therapy may be used to slowly combine your identities over time. Oftentimes, the end goal of psychotherapy for dissociative disorders is to address and unpack the trauma that caused your condition to develop.

Because it is common to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, medications may be provided. Anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications can help prevent your condition from worsening while you attend therapy to learn how to manage your disorder.

Get Connected to a Mental Health Treatment Program Today

If you or a loved one are experiencing the symptoms of a dissociative disorder, help is available. Dealing with a dissociative disorder can be uncomfortable, distressing, and even scary at times. At Florida Recovery Group, we can assess your symptoms, provide you with a diagnosis, and come up with an individualized treatment plan to help you recover.

Contact Florida Recovery Group to learn more about our top-rated mental health treatment program.


  1. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders