Dissociative Disorders

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Dissociative Disorders

What are dissociative disorders?

A dissociative disorder is the breakdown of one's perception of his/her surroundings, memory, identity, or consciousness.

There are four main kinds of dissociative disorders:
1.Dissociative amnesia
2.Dissociative fugue
3.Dissociative identity disorder (previously called multiple personality disorder) 4.Depersonalization disorder
What are the main characteristics of each dissociative disorder? Dissociative amnesia:
A dissociative amnesia may be present when a person is unable to remember important personal information, which is usually associated with a traumatic event in his/her life. The loss of memory creates gaps in this individual's personal history. Dissociative fugue:

A dissociative fugue may be present when a person impulsively wanders or travels away from home and upon arrival in the new location is unable to remember his/her past. The individual's personal identity is lost because that person is confused about who he/she is. The travel from home generally occurs following a stressful event. The person in the fugue appears to be functioning normally to other people. However, after the fugue experience, the individual may not be able to recall what happened during the fugue state. The condition is usually diagnosed when relatives find their lost family member living in another community with a new identity.

Dissociative identity disorder:
Dissociative identity disorder was formerly called "multiple personality disorder." When a person intermittently experiences two or more identities, he/she may have a dissociative identity disorder. While experiencing a new identity, a separate personality takes control, and the person is unable to remember important and personal information about himself/herself. Each personality has its own personal history and identity and takes on a totally separate name. Depersonalization disorder:

Feelings of detachment or estrangement from one's self are signs of depersonalization. Although these feelings are difficult to describe, individuals with this disorder will report feeling as if they are living in a dream or watching themselves on a movie screen. They feel separated from themselves or outside their own bodies. People with this disorder feel like they are "going crazy" and they frequently become anxious and depressed. Are there genetic factors associated with dissociative disorders?

Yes, people with dissociative identity disorder usually have close relatives who have also had similar experiences.

Do dissociative disorders affect males, females, or both?

Females are more frequently affected. More than five times as many women than men have problems with dissociative identity disorder.

At what age do dissociative disorders appear?

Dissociative amnesia is generally a problem in adulthood, but it can be found in children and adolescents.

Dissociative fugue happens mostly during adulthood.

Dissociative identity disorder occurs most frequently in adulthood.

Depersonalization disorder usually occurs during late adolescence or adulthood.

How often is a dissociative disorder seen in our society?

Dissociative disorders are uncommon. However, there has been significant interest in dissociative amnesia in the past few years. Much of the interest has been related to forgotten childhood traumas and repressed memories. There is considerable debate regarding the authenticity of repressed memories.

How are dissociative disorders diagnosed?

A mental health professional makes a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder by taking a careful personal history from the client/patient and family members. It is important that the therapist learn the details of the person's life. No laboratory tests are required to make a diagnosis of dissociative disorder nor are there any physical conditions that must be met. However, it is very important not to overlook a physical illness that...
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