Dissociative disorder is a psychological condition characterised by the involuntary loss of grip on reality. This can manifest as isolated incidents, short-term recurring incidents, or chronic experiences of dissociation.
A person suffering from dissociative disorder will typically have trouble connecting two or more abstract concepts, such as thought processes, memories, relationships, identities, and consequences of actions. As the name suggests, someone who suffers from dissociative disorder will feel disconnected from things to which they are in fact connected. For example, they may be unable to recall their relationships with certain people, or be unable to identify when a dangerous situation is occurring around them. Many people who are diagnosed with dissociative disorder often feel as disconnected from their own identity. Rather than viewing their actions as their own, they may feel as though they are a third party observing what occurs, similar to watching a movie or having an out of body experience.
Dissociative disorder affects about 2% of the global population, a figure which remains reasonably static across all demographics, such as race, nationality, age, or socioeconomic background. Although women are more likely to be diagnosed than men, this is due to the fact that dissociative disorder is usually brought on as a result of a traumatic experience, and women are largely more likely to suffer abuse than men.
This is an important aspect of the disorder, as it is in fact a sort of defence mechanism. After suffering a traumatic experience, the mind may try to suppress the memories and distance the patient from the event in order to avoid dealing with the trauma. This is why therapy can be so effective in treating dissociative disorder, as it allows the patient to deal with their experience(s) in a safe and timely manner.
There are 3 main symptoms of dissociative disorder. The first major symptom is dissociative identity disorder (DID), which is often referred to as split or multiple personality disorder. This differs from schizophrenia in two major ways. A person suffering from schizophrenia is likely to have hallucinations of things that do not exist at all outside their own mind, while someone suffering from DID may feel removed from reality, but tend not to imagine things that do not exist. Secondly, a patient suffering from DID may have a number of clearly established identities and switch between them with a large amount of consistency for each personality. While a schizophrenic patient may feel like they are someone else, they rarely have and switch between recurring personalities or identities.
The second of these is referred to as dissociative amnesia, which is when a person forgets about an event. This is usually the traumatic events they have experienced, although it can also cause them to forget parts of their own personal history or identity. This will usually occur suddenly and last only a short while, although it is possible for the memories to be suppressed in the long-term also.
Another major symptom is depersonalization-derealisation disorder, which refers to the aforementioned symptoms of feeling as though you are disconnected from the world around you, either feeling as though you are watching reality, or that what you are experiencing is not real.
These symptoms can lead to the onset of other mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.
How Can Therapy Help
The effectiveness of therapy can vary quite widely between patients, as each person’s experiences are completely unique. It is quite common for a combination of therapy and medication to be used when treating dissociative disorder. Although treatments and results can vary, the overwhelming majority of the scientific community believes that therapy is the most effective way to treat dissociative disorder, and most patients’ situations can be greatly improved with proper therapy.