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Help With Dissociative Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Dissociative disorders involve problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior and sense of self. Dissociative symptoms can potentially disrupt every area of mental functioning.

Examples of dissociative symptoms include the experience of detachment or feeling as if one is outside one’s body, and loss of memory or amnesia. Dissociative disorders are frequently associated with previous experience of trauma.

There are three types of dissociative disorders:

  • Dissociative identity disorder
  • Dissociative amnesia
  • Depersonalization/derealization disorder

See more on symptoms & treatment

  • Nov 15, 2021
How Historical Trauma Impacts Native Americans Today

November is Native American Heritage Month and one issue impacting many Native American  is the historical trauma associated with  American Indian boarding schools operated by the U.S. government. As many as 100 American Indian residential schools operated in the U.S. from the mid-1800s until the 1960s. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, noted in a memo earlier this year that the purpose of these boarding schools “was to culturally assimilate Indigenous children by forcibly relocating them from their families and communities to distant residential facilities where their American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian identities, languages, and beliefs were to be forcibly suppressed.”

  • Nov 08, 2021
Technology Playing Role in Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Services

As we approach Veteran’s Day and look to honor the work and sacrifices of members of the military and their families, we look at several recent reports on veterans and mental health services.

  • Oct 29, 2021
10 Steps to Help Your Child Prevent and Address Cyberbullying

Your tween or teenager spends a lot of time on the internet, smart phones, and video games. I’m sure you wonder if this is ok, but you trust your child and you know this is common among their peers. In this digital era, technology has become intertwined with socialization, education, creativity, and play. And it is always available. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the use on virtual social interactions as the main form of interacting among peers. Close friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and even bullies have constant access to them through digital devices.

Can people actually have “multiple personalities” or a “split personality”?

Dissociative identity disorder involves a lack of connection among a person’s sense of identity, memory and consciousness. People with this disorder do not have more than one personality but rather less than one personality. (The name was changed recently from ‘multiple personality disorder’ to ‘dissociative identity disorder.’) This disorder usually arises in response to physical and sexual abuse in childhood as a means of surviving mistreatment by people who should be nurturing and protecting. Read More

Are people with dissociative identity disorder often misdiagnosed?

Yes. They are sometimes misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia, because their belief that they have different identities could be interpreted as a delusion. They sometimes experience dissociated identities as auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). Their symptoms do not improve with antipsychotic medication, but the emotions they display get flatter. This can leading to the mistaken belief that they have schizophrenia and to further ineffective increases in medication. Another common misdiagnosis is borderline personality disorder. People with dissociative identity disorder frequently also have depression. Read More

What symptoms would family members see in a person had dissociative identity disorder? Can friends/family members tell when a person with dissociative identity disorder “switches”?

You may notice sudden changes in mood and behavior. People with dissociative identity disorder may forget or deny saying or doing things that family members witnessed. Family members can usually tell when a person “switches.” The transitions can be sudden and startling. The person may go from being fearful, dependent and excessively apologetic to being angry and domineering. He or she may report not remembering something they said or did just minutes earlier. Read More

Once a person is being treated for a dissociative disorder, how can family members best support and help him/her?

Be open and accepting in your responses. Do not ‘take sides’ with one or another component of their identity. Rather view them as portions of the person as a whole. We are all different in different situations, but we see this as different sides of ourselves. Try to maintain that perspective with the person with dissociative disorder. Also, help them to protect themselves from any trauma, abuse, or self harm. Read More


About the Expert:

Dr. David Spiegel
Professor and Associate Chair of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Director, Center on Stress and Health
Medical Director, Center for Integrative Medicine
Stanford University School of Medicine

Sandra's Story

Sandra was a 25-year-old soldier hospitalized for sudden changes in behavior and episodes of apparently poor memory. She was confused about her recent history, and believed that she was in a different hospital located 800 miles from the place where she had in fact been admitted. The diagnoses initially considered included schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder and substance abuse. She was started on neuroleptics (tranquilizers) with little benefit.

Read More

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OCT 20 2021 

We still stigmatize mental illness, and that needs to stop
The Conversation

Media’s impact on mental illness:  This raises the question as to where misconceptions about mental illness come from, and why so many people still hold them. Often, the representations of people with mental illness we have are based on portrayals from film or television which frequently exaggerate stereotypes and negative attributes for the sake of entertainment. The 2016 movie Split, for example, portrays a character struggling with dissociative identity disorder. Not only does this movie vilify individuals with dissociative identity disorder, but the personalities of the character are also mocked.

OCT 11 2021

What Is Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder (DPDR)?
Very Well Health

Depersonalization-derealization disorder (DPDR) is a mental condition that causes you to feel detached from your body, thoughts, and environment. It used to be called depersonalization disorder, but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) changed the name. DPDR is not related to substance use and is considered a separate condition by the DSM-5. DPDR is one type of dissociative disorder. Dissociative disorders are mental conditions that make you feel disconnected from your subjective experience. They can affect your thoughts, memories, or actions.

SEP 24, 2021

What are dissociative seizures?

Medical News Today

Dissociative seizures are similar to epileptic seizures in that they cause episodes of involuntary movements and behaviors. However, while epileptic seizures result from abnormal electrical signals in the brain, dissociative seizures happen for psychological reasons. Dissociative seizures can look similar to epileptic seizures, which means that many people initially receive an incorrect diagnosis. This can be harmful, as the treatments and medications for epilepsy will not work for someone who has dissociative seizures. However, once doctors make the correct diagnosis, people can begin psychotherapy to address the underlying cause of the seizures. With treatment, dissociative seizures can significantly improve or go away entirely.