Dissociative Disorders: Types and Treatment

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Waking up to a new day seems like a surety to everyone until they face a life-changing situation such as an accident that completely alters their view of reality. Traumatic situations can cause different mental conditions including Posttraumatic stress disorder among others. The paper focuses on dissociative disorders, which are common, but almost ignorable since society cannot equate them to complex counterparts such as bipolar, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. According to the discussion, five different types of disassociation exist, each of which people can manage. The five include dissociative amnesia, derealization, depersonalization, identity confusion, and identity alteration. The conditions relate in one way or the other, especially the final two even though approaches to treatment are different, which brings about the clarity in their disparity. Further, the discussion provides different treatment options available to caregivers, most of which remain effective through early detection as the submission establishes.


Different situations in life warrant memory loss leading to the development of dissociative disorders in people. Commonly referred to as DD, dissociative disorders cause memory loss, and, sometimes, one easily forgets his/her identity (Engdahl, 2013). Amnesia is one scenario through which dissociation occurs. The term dissociation emanates from loss of touch with the reality in the world. Besides finding solace in solitude, people suffering from dissociative disorders become temperamental and overly defensive even when trivial issues arise. Dissociative disorders are reversible, especially when detected early and their causes are clear. When the first diagnostic model from the American Psychiatric Association came up in the early 19th century few conditions met the threshold of falling into the category of mental conditions. In essence, dissociative disorders first appeared in the DSM-III; it exists in the latest catalogue, DSM-V (Ringrose, 2012).



At one point in life, a survivor of an accident or a traumatic incident completely forgets important personal information. It does not occur deliberately, but the victim never remembers even the closest members of his/her family. Relatives and friends go through difficult emotional periods trying to help the victim remember the past in order to make personal identity easy. A feeling of withdrawal from people and reality seems to offer the victim the greatest source of consolation. Dissociative amnesia normally occurs temporarily because the victim begins connecting with reality when exposed to significant images or scripts of events that made a landmark in his/her life. Psychologists initially referred to the disorder as psychogenic amnesia because of the selective episodes that make a patient either forget or remember things around him/her. Amnesia occurs differently, and its longevity depends on the nature of an individual, the type of traumatic situation that caused the change, and the environment of recovery. Some people forget even where they come from leading to years of treatment because the medical experts have to trace their backgrounds with the assistance of the criminal justice system over a long period (Ringrose, 2012). The period taken before seeking medical intervention also affects the response that the victim will display.


Depersonalization is another type of DD, which makes a victim feel unreal. At this point, the person and the body are two different things because the mindset cannot link the body, mind, and reality. Like the media exposes an individual to a world of utopia, individual suffering from depersonalization feels like he/she is in possession of a different body. It offers them extra energy for defense in case they feel that the people surrounding them are threats to their lives. Depersonalization is not easy to manage, but the medical practitioner or social services expert has to display commitment in promoting recovery (Tatarelli, Pompili, & Girardi, 2007). When depersonalization occurs, an individual is likely to think, say, and act in a different manner. Such a moment is not the right one to carry out investigations or try to force the original personality of the victim because it only increases complications. The reality is that the victim is in a world of “escape” in which associating with his/her original personality is the last thing needed. It means that even a mirror image has no consequences on memory boosting because the image in the mirror is foreign to the patient.


Unlike depersonalization in which an individual detaches from his/her reality and body, derealization makes one forget things like shapes, colors, and images within the surrounding environment. Mental models in psychology establish that each rational human being has the ability to form ideas and images around them before they create arguments. For this DD disorder, an individual creates colors, sizes, and shapes that other people cannot relate to during the process of therapy (Engdahl, 2013). In order to encourage healing, the psychiatrist has to understand the world in which the victim belongs and connects to it before introducing new ways of doing things. Counseling coupled with activities that remind the victim of the past obviously demand patience from the psychiatrist (Chu, 2011). The victim needs to draw, listen to music, and identify real things, instead of viewing people as minute or dysfunctional objects. The types of dissociative disorders get worse in each stage of neglect. For instance, when determined that one suffers from amnesia, it means that treatment will stop them from acquiring depersonalization and later derealization. During derealization, the surrounding environment becomes foreign, and the best way a person finds it easy to relate to the world is through isolation from others.

Identity confusion

Identity confusion has a close semblance to dissociative amnesia because one completely forgets his/her identity. Similarly, it has links to depersonalization because an individual does not remember significant events in his/her life irrespective of seeing or listening to music that the victim initially understood. Unlike the first two, the victim does not understand himself/herself, thus affecting the way the individual relates to others. The DD condition might also occur in a way that the victim knows other people, but refrains from talking to them because they are likely to remind him/her of events that caused the condition (Chu, 2011). Victims struggle to understand why they are in a particular condition, and they always prefer solitude in order to manage the changes. Psychologists over the past years linked the condition to the bipolar condition because of the occurrence of multiple personalities in the same person. According to Gillig (2009), of the first three identified conditions, dissociative identity disorder is the most severe. In the moment of confusion, one does not know who they are, and neither can they define the environment around them. Occasionally, different personalities battle for prominence in the patients’ life. It would not be strange for one to forget about their sexual orientations, gender, year of birth, and place of residence or even their names. Since multiple personalities define the person, their taste for food, color, and handling things changes rapidly.

Identity alteration

One thing people need to understand is that people suffering from different forms of dissociative disorders do not have to stay in confined rooms throughout recovery. In the early stages of identity alteration, most people do not even know that they suffer from DD. Even in the work place or in social institutions, patients of identity alteration would prefer staying in isolation to avoid attention from the rest of the team concerning their change of attitude. It means that bed rest and psychiatric attention only come in when a patient is a in a critical condition. Additionally, the patient undergoes treatment when he/she threatens his/her life including the lives of other people within the surrounding (Ringrose, 2012).

Effects and Treatment

Dissociative disorders lead to memory loss in critical stages; they can change the lives of people completely with late intervention. Its effects can cause loss of jobs, interference with close relations or family ties, and loss of interest in activities that initially motivated the individual. During the period of detachment from reality, an individual endures listening to strange voices and seeing images that probably do not exist. In addition, they have to connect with the past through therapy since the patients forget significant occurrences in life, and their social cycles. The degree of damage to the brain reflects on the seriousness of the condition. Psychologists mostly link dissociative disorders to the occurrence of a traumatic event in life. Therefore, dissociative disorder patients need to overcome their fears after recovery by revisiting the places or images, and occurrences that changed their lives (Sachs, 2013). That should happen voluntarily to avoid awakening the feelings of solitude and confusion in victims.

Treatment varies with the severity of a condition. It means that other people will also maintain distance with the victim of DD, especially when they face the risk of attack from the overly defensive individual. Sometimes, dissociation occurs in patients suffering from mental conditions such as the bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. When detected early, psychotherapy is very helpful. However, supplements can also help in improving the victim’s memory. During therapy, it is important to introduce images, songs, or people that initially developed close ties with the victim (Chu, 2011). When in a state of denial and disillusionment, chances are that the victim might always try to fight back even when the people they talk to do not pose any harm. For that reason, the people working with the patient and relatives have to understand that the condition requires patience and understanding. Identification of the condition early becomes easy through regular health care checks.


The discussion on dissociative disorder remains very important to both affected people and the ones who take interest in understanding occurrences in workmates or friends. Nobody chooses to have a mental condition even though chances are that prolonged exposure to risk factors can prompt the occurrence of one. Dissociative disorders have stages of development even as they occur in five different types. One condition is likely to lead to the other, especially when the former undergoes poor management. Of the recommended treatment approaches, psychotherapy is the best because it offers a holistic approach to recovery. However, it takes a long period, and it is costly in comparison to supplements offered to boost memory gain and to suppress fear. Irrespective of the longevity of treatment procedures and the costs incurred when making a patient reconnect with reality, friends and family members play crucial role in defining the outcome of such procedures.


Chu, J. A. (2011). Rebuilding shattered lives: Treating complex PTSD and dissociative disorders. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons.

Engdahl, S. (2013). Dissociative disorders. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

Gillig, P. M. (2009). Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Controversial Diagnosis. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 6(3), 24–29.

Ringrose, J. L. (2012). Understanding and treating dissociative identity disorder (or multiple personality disorder). London: Karnac Books.

Sachs, A. (2013). Boundary Modifications in the Treatment of People with Dissociative Disorders: A Pilot Study. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 14(2), 159-69.

Tatarelli, R., Pompili, M., & Girardi, P. (2007). Suicide in psychiatric disorders. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

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1. NursingBird. "Dissociative Disorders: Types and Treatment." April 27, 2022. https://nursingbird.com/dissociative-disorders-types-and-treatment/.


NursingBird. "Dissociative Disorders: Types and Treatment." April 27, 2022. https://nursingbird.com/dissociative-disorders-types-and-treatment/.