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Get 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.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Jun 22, 2017
Building Resilient Communities: Embracing Trauma-Informed Care

While many people are very resilient, people can experience difficulties in response to trauma, including nightmares, flashbacks, problems focusing, depression or anxiety. Trauma exposure can also result in physical health challenges such as sleep difficulties, headaches, stomachaches and fatigue. Children, teenagers, and young adults can be more vulnerable to the effects of trauma.

  • Jun 21, 2017
Relax, Take a Deep Breath

Most of us have probably heard, or made the suggestion to someone, to “relax, take a deep breath” as a way to help calm down and reduce stress or anxiety. Breathing techniques have long been used as part of traditional stress reduction practices and their use is supported by much research. Practices involving consciously controlling and focusing on your breathing can be powerful tools for relaxation, stress reduction and mental health.

  • Jun 13, 2017
Exploring Mind Body Connections

New research continues to explore the many ways physical and mental health are connected and to understand how these connections might lead to better treatments or even prevention.

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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


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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APRIL 24, 2017

Psychogenic (dissociative) amnesia: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

Bel Marra Health

Psychogenic amnesia (also known as functional or dissociative amnesia) is an abnormality of memory function that is not attributed to structural brain damage or of a known neurobiological origin. The common presenting symptom is retrograde amnesia, whereby the individual is unable to recall any event leading up to the onset of amnesia itself. This includes all previously stored memories, especially ones that are stressful or traumatic in nature. They are able to form new memories moving forward.

MARCH 8, 2017

‘Split' movie not accurate portrayal of Dissociative Identity Disorder

Sandusky Register

In the movie, James McAvoy plays the role of Kevin Wendell Crumb, an individual with 23 distinct personalities. The 24th personality is about to be unleashed, “The beast,” a personality that transforms into a violent, killing, wall-crawling, impossible-to-kill person. The character in the movie has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 2 percent live with worldwide. Dissociative Identity Disorder most often occurs in individuals who have experienced and lived through extensive, repetitive trauma. The diagnosis was previously known as multiple personality disorder, and it can cause an individual to disassociate their identities into multiple alters or personalities.

APRIL 17, 2017

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder

Trinidad News

We often refer to some individuals as having a split personality in the absence of understanding why the imbalance. Such individuals are affected by dissociative identity disorder (DID), the causes of which are complex based on research studies. Dissociative identity disorder is a condition wherein a person’s identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personality states. US-based psychiatrist Richard Kluft who is also an expert in this field, suggests that DID is caused by four main factors.