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  1. #1

    Types of dissociative disorders

    Dissociative Disorders (NAMI)

    Dissociative disorders are so-called because they are marked by a dissociation from or interruption of a person's fundamental aspects of waking consciousness (such as one's personal identity, one's personal history, etc.). Dissociative disorders come in many forms, the most famous of which is dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). All of the dissociative disorders are thought to stem from trauma experienced by the individual with this disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience too traumatic to integrate with his conscious self. Symptoms of these disorders, or even one or more of the disorders themselves, are also seen in a number of other mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

    Dissociative amnesia
    This disorder is characterized by a blocking out of critical personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature. Dissociative amnesia, unlike other types of amnesia, does not result from other medical trauma (e.g. a blow to the head). Dissociative amnesia has several subtypes:

    Localized amnesia is present in an individual who has no memory of specific events that took place, usually traumatic. The loss of memory is localized with a specific window of time. For example, a survivor of a car wreck who has no memory of the experience until two days later is experiencing localized amnesia.

    Selective amnesia happens when a person can recall only small parts of events that took place in a defined period of time. For example, an abuse victim may recall only some parts of the series of events around the abuse.

    Generalized amnesia is diagnosed when a person's amnesia encompasses his or her entire life.

    Systematized amnesia is characterized by a loss of memory for a specific category of information. A person with this disorder might, for example, be missing all memories about one specific family member.

    Dissociative fugue is a rare disorder. An individual with dissociative fugue suddenly and unexpectedly takes physical leave of his or her surroundings and sets off on a journey of some kind. These journeys can last hours, or even several days or months. Individuals experiencing a dissociative fugue have traveled over thousands of miles. An individual in a fugue state is unaware of or confused about his identity, and in some cases will assume a new identity (although this is the exception).

    Dissociative identity disorder (DID), which has been known as multiple personality disorder, is the most famous of the dissociative disorders. An individual suffering from DID has more than one distinct identity or personality state that surfaces in the individual on a recurring basis. This disorder is also marked by differences in memory which vary with the individual's "alters," or other personalities. For more information on this, see the NAMI factsheet on dissociative identity disorder.

    Depersonalization disorder is marked by a feeling of detachment or distance from one's own experience, body, or self. These feelings of depersonalization are recurrent. Of the dissociative disorders, depersonalization is the one most easily identified with by the general public; one can easily relate to feeling as they in a dream, or being "spaced out." Feeling out of control of one's actions and movements is something that people describe when intoxicated. An individual with depersonalization disorder has this experience so frequently and so severely that it interrupts his or her functioning and experience. A person's experience with depersonalization can be so severe that he or she believes the external world is unreal or distorted.

    Treatment
    Since dissociative disorders seem to be triggered as a response to trauma or abuse, treatment for individuals with such a disorder may stress psychotherapy, although a combination of psychopharmacological and psychosocial treatments is often used. Many of the symptoms of dissociative disorders occur with other disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and can be controlled by the same drugs used to treat those disorders. A person in treatment for a dissociative disorder might benefit from antidepressants or antianxiety medication.

  2. #2

    Re: Types of dissociative disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter
    Selective amnesia
    Interesting. I have spots in my memory like that. For example... When I was younger, I was walking up the stairs to my room one day. My dad called my name and (I don't know why) I ignored him. Wow did he get mad. I was scared and ended up locking myself in my room and hiding under the bed. I vaguely remember him getting into my room and after that, it's all a blank. There aren't as many episodes where I recall parts of the situation so well but not all of it.

    Depersonalization
    One of my best friends is a social worker and after I explain what I go through, she brought this up. I don't do it very often but there are times when I'm triggered and overwhelmed to the point where I don't feel that I'm there. I suppose I should say it isn't SEVERE very often.

    I understand what's going on around me but everything's different and nothing matters. I'm completely unresponsive. It's so hard to explain. Sometimes it scares me afterwards but other times I don't mind so much because it takes me away. I think that's determined by the severity of the episode.

    Hope that I'm not chiming in too much!

  3. #3

    Re: Types of dissociative disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by Ash
    Hope that I'm not chiming in too much!
    Certainly not... we don't even call it "chiming in" here... we call it "a conversation" :o)

  4. #4

    Re: Types of dissociative disorders

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter
    Quote Originally Posted by Ash
    Hope that I'm not chiming in too much!
    Certainly not... we don't even call it "chiming in" here... we call it "a conversation" :o)
    LOL Well, thanks!! I hate sounding like I only talk about me, me, me but I can really only speak for myself! And my kids. ;-)

  5. #5

    Types of dissociative disorders

    I met someone in a psych ward who focused really well when she was doing some editing work for me, but when not focused on her work she began to believe that she was an angelic being, or a good witch, or the Holy Spirit. They weren't permitted to tell me her diagnosis. Might that have been dissociative?

  6. #6

    Types of dissociative disorders

    Probably not, minstrelite. It's hard to say what that was but it sounds more delusional than dissociative to me.

  7. #7

    Types of dissociative disorders

    Just curious: when you say "delusional" is that a specific disorder; i.e., delusional disorder? I don't know much about this, of course, but I was taken by the fact that when she was focused on a work-oriented task she seemed perfectly fine, but in casual conversation she tended to drift into that delusion, usually thinking she was an Angel.

  8. #8

    Types of dissociative disorders

    It may have been a delusional disorder, paranoid disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or something else along those lines -- it's difficult to say based on the information given but my guess is that is was only partially or incompletely controlled so that without a concrete task or object to focus on her attention wandered and reverted to delusional thoughts.

  9. #9

    Types of dissociative disorders

    That makes sense, given my memory of her. Thanks.

  10. #10

    Types of dissociative disorders

    I've heard of selective amnesia before, but could someone give him/herself selective amnesia on purpose? It seems as though if the mind were capable of unconsiously blocking out a traumatic event, then it would also be capable of consciously doing it. Any thoughts? I'd really like to do this.

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