All Topics

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

  • Jul 31, 2020
Susceptibility to Conspiracy Theories and Fake News

Conspiracy theories, which explain events or a set of circumstances as the result of secret plot by usually powerful and malevolent groups, are quite common. One study reported in JAMA estimated that about half of Americans believe at least one medical conspiracy theory, such as those relating to cancer cures, vaccines or cell phones. Research has provided some understanding about why people are drawn to conspiracy theories and what makes some people more likely to believe than others.

  • Jul 17, 2020
Grieving During a Pandemic

Coronavirus has taken the lives of more than 130,000 Americans and it continues devastating communities across the nation. It has also drastically changed the way families and friends can grieve their losses—those lost to COVID-19 and deaths from other causes that are also continuing during the pandemic.

  • Jul 08, 2020
Practicing Gratitude to Boost Mental Well-being

Good mental health means emotional, social and psychological well-being, healthy relationships, effective functioning and productive activities, and an ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity. One approach that has been shown to foster mental well-being is focusing on gratitude. Many studies have found an association between being more grateful and a greater sense  of overall well-being.

Upcoming Events
Apr
2020
01

Mental Health America

Apr
2020
01
Family to Family Training – Find a Local Training
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Apr
2020
01
Find a NAMI Family Support Group
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness

May
2020
20

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 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 or abuse. Read More

spiegel-expert

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

APA Resources
Find a Psychiatrist

Find a psychiatrist in your area today

Search Now

Editor's Choice

JUNE 25 2020

Columnist Susan Wozniak: Words can, and do, hurt

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Considered by some as a coping mechanism related to chronic childhood trauma, DID causes patients to experience their thoughts, emotions, memories, and behaviors as unfamiliar, resulting in a lack of a cohesive sense of self. Recovery may involve the process of integration, which refers to “the development of a sense of self-ownership over one’s mental and bodily experience.” 

JUNE  24, 2020

The one

Get Split Off Netflix Petition Demands Movie's Removal For Portrayal Of DID
Screen Rant

A new petition alleges M. Night Shyamalan's Split should be removed from Netflix due to its portrayal of a Dissociative Identity Disorder sufferer. The petition’s creator, Kairos Collaborative, insists the film is harmful and insensitive to the realities of those who suffer from DID and that Split’s depiction of DID leads to the incorrect public assumption that people with the disorder are likely to be violent criminals.

JUNE 10, 2020

My Trauma Was Unlocked In Lockdown
Refinery 29

I can't help but wonder if somehow the isolation of the last few months brought back the isolation I felt in the aftermath of assault," she reflects. Harriet is not the only woman who’s taken the time during lockdown to process trauma – whether from a sexual or a physical assault – which they experienced long before the pandemic struck. Dissociation is a common experience for rape and assault survivors. It is when the mind 'disconnects' from what is happening and goes somewhere safe to tap out.

Physician Reviewed

Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H.
August 2018