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

  • Apr 12, 2021
Pandemic Experience Shows Benefits of Telepsychiatry in Increasing Access to Care

One of the challenges for successful mental health treatment is consistent participation in appointments with mental healthcare professionals. The rates of no-shows and cancellations for psychiatric appointments are often high. New research finds that after the shift to mostly remote appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance at psychiatric appointments increased significantly, potentially leading to more effective treatment. The research was published online in March in Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association. 

  • Apr 08, 2021
Autism, Anxiety and Sensory Challenges

Anxiety disorders are common in children and adolescents, and sensory reactivity is also common among young children. Both conditions are more common in children with autism than children without autism. Researchers are exploring the connections and relationships between these conditions.

  • Mar 26, 2021
Only One in 10 Youths in Community Justice Systems Who Need It Are Getting Behavioral Health Treatment

Youths entering the juvenile justice system are often identified as needing help for substance use and mental health concerns, yet very few—only one in ten—receive needed behavioral health services, according to a new study in Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association.  

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

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

JAN 12 2021

OSCAR Contender Live Action Short Film Created During the Pandemic

PR Newswire

Announcing the official release of THE GREAT ARTIST Official Trailer for public viewing. Purpose Co. presents an epically diverse and moving narrative short film endorsed by major mental health organizations — The Great Artist - Matthew Postlethwaite. Sometimes the most silent struggles come at the greatest cost; The Great Artist reveals the story of a gifted artist who finds himself in a broken balance between creating world class art and the all too silent struggle of self care as his life begins to unravel because of his Dissociative Identity Disorder.. 

JAN 11 2021

New California law requires insurance companies to cover more mental health treatment
Mountain View Voice

mental health parity laws that have been ineffectual for years. It requires commercial insurance companies to provide full coverage for treatment of all mental health conditions and substance use disorders, creating "parity" with coverage of physical medical conditions. The law builds on state and federal parity laws that have huge limitations and loopholes that insurance companies frequently use to shortchange its customers. 

JAN 11, 202

‘The Most Broken of the Broken’
Brennan Center for Justice

Decades of trauma and sexual abuse culminated in a dissociative disorder and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) that significantly impaired her neurological functioning. As a result of this trauma, she relies on psychotropic medications and becomes panicked and breaks out in hives if left alone in a room with a man. Sentencing authorities have failed to fully hear and consider her history of abuse and her mental condition.