Dissociative Disorders

Occasionally everyone has minor problems integrating their memories, perceptions, identity, and consciousness.

For example, an individual may drive somewhere and then realise that they do not remember the drive.

They may not remember it because they are absorbed – with personal concerns, a programme on the radio, or a conversation with a passenger – or are just daydreaming.

Such problems, referred to as normal dissociation, typically do not disrupt everyday activities.

In contrast, individuals with a dissociative disorder may totally forget activities that occurred over minutes, hours, or sometimes much longer. They may sense they are missing a period of time.

In addition, they may feel detached (dissociated) from themselves – that is, from their memories, perceptions, identity, thoughts, emotions, body, and behaviour. Or they may feel detached from the world around them. Thus, their sense of identity, memory, and/or consciousness is fragmented.

Dissociative disorders involve the following:

  • Depersonalisation/Derealisation disorder: Feeling detached from self and/or the surroundings.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: Being unable to recall important personal information, usually related to trauma or stress.
  • Dissociative Fugue.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder: Having a fragmented sense of identity and memory.

Dissociative disorders are usually triggered by overwhelming stress or trauma. For example, the individual may have been abused or mistreated during childhood. They may have experienced or witnessed traumatic events, such as accidents or disasters. Or they may experience inner conflict so intolerable that their mind is forced to separate incompatible or unacceptable information and feelings from conscious thought.

Dissociative disorders are related to trauma and stress-related disorders (acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder).

Individuals with stress-related disorders may have dissociative symptoms, such as amnesia, flashbacks, numbing, and depersonalisation/derealisation.

Did You Know?

A minor blow to the head cannot cause people to suddenly forget who they are and everything they know.

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