What is Dissociation?
Dissociation is the disconnection of thoughts and memories from your normal consciousness. This defense mechanism does not erase these thoughts, but rather separates them from your conscious mind. Occasionally these thoughts will resurface when triggered by certain people and places.
Mild forms of dissociation sometimes occur but do not mean a mental illness or dissociative disorder is present. Situations where this might occur include: while watching a movie, as a result of sleep deprivation, after a minor accident, while reading a book or as a result of taking laughing gas.
Some one who has gone through moderate or severe trauma may also experience dissociation. In such cases, trauma recovery may be needed. Examples of traumatic situations that might cause extreme dissociation include: experiencing combat, car or plane crashes, brainwashing in hostage situations, childhood abuse and various criminal attacks. Trauma therapy is available for people who have suffered such tragedies.
What are Dissociative Disorders?
Dissociative disorders occur when someone has repeated episodes of dissociation, affecting the way they perceive reality. These disorders greatly affect general functioning, and can cause problems at work, at home or in various relationships. The severity and suddenness of onset for these disorders varies according to individual circumstances.
Common symptoms in Dissociative disorders include:
- Mental heath problems
- Depersonalization (feelings of a lost personality, detachment from oneself)
- Memory loss
- Derealization (feelings of an altered reality)
5 Types of Dissociative Disorders
- Dissociative amnesia
Dissociative amnesia is primarily characterized by the inability to remember certain personal information. This forgetfulness often occurs as a result of severe trauma, and may include memory loss of specific people or from certain events. Other problems that may occur are depersonalization and trance states. Trauma treatment centers can be very helpful for those with this type of disorder.
- Dissociative identity disorder
This condition is the most complex dissociative disorder. Another name for this condition is multiple personality disorder, although it is not a personality disorder. In dissociative identity disorder, a person experiences one or more other identities. Each separate identity may have its own name, personal history, voice, gender and other specific characteristics. These separate identities can take control at any given time and if severe amnesia is present, there may be no recollection of what happened during this time.
- Dissociative fugue
This condition, usually occurring after a stressful event, takes place when someone leaves their home and identity to settle elsewhere. When arriving there, the person takes on a new identity with no recollection of a previous one. This behavior is rarely recognized by others as mental alertness is still maintained. In most cases dissociative fugue lasts only a short time, usually no longer than a few months.
- Depersonalization disorder
In the case of depersonalization disorder, someone may feel distant or outside of themselves, seem to be living in a dream or feel mechanical. Mild sensations of this disorder are sometimes felt by normal individuals under severe stress, as a side effect of medications or as a result of intoxication. Depersonalization disorder may last for only a few moments or stretch out for many years.
- Dissociative disorder not otherwise specified
This disorder is a combination of the other 4 types of dissociative disorders. People categorized as having a dissociative disorder not otherwise specified have similar characteristics of other disorders instead of from only one disorder.