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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

  • Oct 18, 2021
Is the Over-Organization of Youth Sports Taking Away from Their Benefit?

With school back in session and fall sports in full swing, young student athletes face mounting academic, athletic, and social time commitments. Although sports undoubtedly contribute to the positive health and well-being of student athletes, recent cultural changes in youth sports including overtraining, early sport specialization, and increased parental pressure are contributing to burnout and pushing student athletes out of sports. This is a public health concern. Parents and coaches can foster an environment that supports the personal, professional, and athletic development of these student athletes. They are uniquely positioned to identify signs of burnout and mental health illness in order to quickly and effectively get students the care they need. 

  • Oct 05, 2021
Getting Better with Age: Most Older Adults Feel Positive About Their Mental Health

According to new research published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, most older adults are feeling good about their mental health. The research is based on nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 adults aged 50-80, which found that 80% said their mental health was as good or better than it was 20 years ago.

  • Sep 30, 2021
AJ Klein, Linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, Talks Mental Health and the NFL

Austin Kayser, a 4th year medical student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health had the opportunity to sit down and talk with NFL linebacker AJ Klein of the Buffalo Bills. They talked about mental health in the NFL, stigma, recent high-profile cases of athletes sitting out for mental health reasons, and the value of therapy, among other topics.

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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Editor's Choice

APR 30 2021 
6 Truths About Dissociative Identity Disorder, From AnnaLynne McCord's Public Diagnosis

Mind Body Green

When 90210 actress and activist AnnaLynne McCord said she wanted to film her session with me discussing her dissociative identity disorder (DID) diagnosis, I was thrilled. DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is one of the most complex and misunderstood psychiatric conditions. People with the disorder experience tremendous amounts of shame and often suffer in silence for years before getting a diagnosis. 

APR 26 2021

Annalyne Mccord Recently Opened Up About Her Struggle With Dissociative Identity Disorder—What Does That Mean?


Recently, 90210 and Nip/Tuck star AnnaLynne McCord, 33, opened up about her struggle with dissociative identity disorder diagnosis (DID). Trauma is the main cause of dissociative identity disorder. “It occurs predominantly in people who have had extreme trauma in their childhood, especially abuse,” Dr. Gail Saltz, MD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, explains. “It is much more common in women than men. The actual mechanism of cause is unclear but it is believed to be a neurobiological reaction to trauma.” 

APR 12, 2021

Dissociative Identity Disorder & Schizophrenia: What’s the Difference?
Psych Central

Schizophrenia and DID are complex mental health conditions often confused for one another. While they do have overlapping symptoms, they’re different in several ways. People with schizophrenia experience symptoms that affect their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings and not different personalities. Dissociative identity disorder used to be known as multiple personality disorder (and is sometimes called split personality). Someone with DID has two or more distinct identity states. People with schizophrenia don’t have this. While there’s some overlap between the two conditions, DID and schizophrenia are different in many ways.