an infinite mind

What is a Dissociative Disorder?

Dissociation is a coping skill that disconnects traumatic memories from one’s consciousness, shielding them from the pain or fear associated with the trauma. The traumatic memories still exist but are deeply buried within the mind. The memories may resurface on their own or after being triggered by something in the person’s life, usually appearing as panic, anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares.

Dissociation itself does not always suggest a disorder. Everyone has the ability to dissociate. Daydreaming or getting lost in music, a book or movie is a form of dissociation. To cross over into a disorder, the dissociation must interfere with everyday functioning.

What are the types of Dissociative Disorders?

There are five dissociative disorders in total. While our main focus is on Dissociative Identity Disorder, below are brief summaries of the other dissociative disorders. For more information, please consult a trained professional who can help you or visit our resource page for helpful links.

  1. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

    DID, formerly called multiple personality disorder, develops as a childhood coping mechanism. To escape pain and trauma in childhood, the mind splits off feelings, personality traits, characteristics, and memories, into separate compartments which then develop into unique personality states. Each identity can have its own name and personal history. These personality states recurrently take control of the individual's behavior, accompanied by an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

    DID is a spectrum disorder with varying degrees of severity. In some cases, certain parts of a person's personalities are aware of important personal information, whereas other personalities are unaware. Some personalities appear to know and interact with one another in an elaborate inner world. In other cases, a person with DID may be completely aware of all the parts of their internal system.

    Because the personalities often interact with each other, people with DID report hearing inner dialogue and the voices will comment on their behavior or talk directly to them. It is important to note the voices are heard on the inside verses the outside as this is one of the main distinguishers from schizophrenia.

    People with DID will often lose track of time and have amnesia to life events. They may not be able to recall things they have done or account for changes in their behavior. Some may lose track of hours while some lose track of days. They have feelings of detachment from one's self and feelings that one's surroundings are unreal.

    While most people cannot recall much about the first 3 to 5 years of life, people with dissociative identity disorder may have considerable amnesia for the period between the ages of 6 and 11 as well. Often times, people with DID will refer to themselves in the plural.
  2. Dissociative Amnesia

    The most common of all dissociative disorders and usually seen in conjunction with other mental illness, dissociative amnesia occurs when a person blocks out information, usually associated with a stressful or traumatic event, leaving him or her unable to remember important personal information. The degree of memory loss goes beyond normal forgetfulness and includes gaps in memory for long periods of time or of memories involving the traumatic event.
  3. Depersonalization Disorder

    Having depersonalization has sometimes been described as being numb or in a dream, or feeling like you are watching yourself from outside your body. There is a sense of being disconnected or detached from one's body. This often occurs after a person experiences life-threatening danger, such as an accident, assault, or serious illness or injury. Symptoms may be temporary or persist or recur for many years. People with the disorder often have a great deal of difficulty describing their symptoms and may fear or believe that they are going crazy.
  4. Unspecified Dissociative Disorder

    (UDD) Symptoms do not meet the full criteria for any other dissociative disorder and clinician chooses not to specify the reason that the criteria are not met
  5. Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD)

    The other specified dissociative disorder category is used in situation in which the clinician chooses to communicate the specific reason that the presentation does not meet the criteria for any specific dissociative disorder.