Dissociative Disorders – What Are They?

Link to my tumblr post on dissociation: https://gay-osdd-kid.tumblr.com/post/169372760108/what-is-dissociation-and-what-are-dissociative

In this, I’ll be writing about the four main types of dissociative disorders and the required criteria to have a diagnosis. If you feel you have one of these, please talk to someone. Holding this in could be harmful to yourself, and getting needed help, if available, is always a good choice.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): DID is a psychobiological response to traumas suffered in the time window of about 5 to 11 years of age; it’s a complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and a dissociative disorder, but not a personality disorder. DID was previously classified as Multiple Personality Disorder until 1994 when the DSM-4 was released. It isn’t as rare as it once was believed to be, as it affects 1-3% of the population. Most with DID, have a mixture of dissociative, post-traumatic stress, and non-trauma related symptoms. DID amnesia can occur at any time whether it be for an everyday event like taking medicine, or something big like trauma.

The criteria for a valid DID diagnosis is: a disruption of identity, classified by specifically two or more distinct personalities; a break in responsiveness to outside stimuli, behavior, memory, perception, and cognition; recurring gaps in memory (regardless of the importance of the events); and the previous symptoms causing major distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of daily function. The diagnosis can only be sound if the symptoms aren’t caused by substance abuse, another medical condition, or cultural practice.

Dissociative Amnesia: This is the most common of dissociative disorders. It is classified by amnesia not caused by physical brain trauma, but rather psychological trauma, and is usually comorbid with other mental disorders.

There are three types of dissociative amnesia. Localized is a failure to recall events during a specific period of time. Selective is remembering some, but not all events during a space of time. (i.e. only parts of a traumatic may be recalled.) Generalized is complete amnesia of one’s life and history.

The criteria for dissociative amnesia is: an inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic/stressful nature inconsistent with normal forgetting; These symptoms have to cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of function; not be attributable to drug abuse or another medical condition or neurological syndrome. It must also not be better explained by DID, PTSD, acute stress disorder, or major or mild neurocognitive disorder.

Depersonalization/Derealization: these two are caused usually by emotional abuse/neglect, but also could be attributed to witnessing domestic violence, being raised by a mentally unstable parent, or the sudden loss of a relative/loved one. They can also be temporarily caused by recreational drug use, but the diagnosis is only viable if it persists after the drug has worn off.

The criteria for a depersonalization diagnosis is: unreality, detachment, and feeling like an “outsider” to one’s own thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, and/or actions. Derealization is the same, but with regards to surroundings and outside stimuli. During an occurence of depersonalization/derealization, reality testing remains unimpaired. These symptoms have to cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of function. They also must not be caused by physiological effects of a drug or another medical condition or mental illness.

Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD): condition in which there are dissociative symptoms, not meeting any other dissociative disorder’s criteria. This disorder’s symptoms apply ONLY to symptom characteristics that do not meet the full criteria. It replaced DDNOS in 2013, and is caused typically by psychological trauma.

The symptoms include: chronic and recurrent syndromes of mixed symptoms- including identity disturbance with lesser noticeable gaps in sense of self, alterations of identity, or episodes of “possession” with no amnesia; acute dissociative reactions to stress, and going into a dissociative trance. A dissociative trance is an acute narrowing or complete loss of awareness of immediate surroundings that manifests as intensive unresponsiveness or insensitivity to stimuli.

OSDD can be caused by environmental factors such as brainwashing, thought reform, indoctrination while in captivity, torture, recruitments by sects and/or cults, etc.

SOURCES:

Dissociative Identity Disorder. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/dissociativeidentitydisorder.html

Dissociative Amnesia & Fugue. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/dissociativeamnesia.html

Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/depersonalization.html

Other Specified Dissociative Disorder. Retrieved Jan 4, 2018 from http://traumadissociation.com/osdd.html

http://freeminds.org/psych/thought_reform.htm

(Google dictionary/thesaurus was also used)

 

What Is Dissociation?

Here are a few definitions you’ll need while reading this:

  1. maladaptive – not providing appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation
  2. adaptive – conforming, conversion
  3. trauma – a deeply distressing or disturbing experience
  4. dysregulation – abnormality or impairment in the regulation of a metabolic, physiological, or psychological process
  5. amnesia – recurrent memory problems, often described as “losing time”, these gaps in memory can vary from several minutes to years

The medical and official definition of dissociation is “a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other.” In this sense, it could mean a disconnect from reality, identity, emotions, or even actions. This is also my personal definition/view on dissociation.

Dissociative disorders are caused only by some form of trauma, usually repetitive sexual or physical abuse, but emotional abuse is definitely a cause (depending on the disorder) . With that frame of reference in mind, childhood dissociation can be considered adaptive to help the child deal with the stressful situation, but when it continues into adulthood or if there is no longer any abuse, it becomes maladaptive. People with maladaptive dissociation tend to space out randomly, even when there isn’t any danger, or in a situation without immediate danger. This can cause the sufferer to end up in places they don’t remember going to, doing things they don’t remember, and saying things they wouldn’t usually because of how the conscious brain “shuts down” temporarily.

People with these symptoms are often misdiagnosed as schizophrenic due to similarities in the criteria. This can cause incorrect medicines to be prescribed and the wrong therapy techniques to be used.

There are four main types of dissociative disorders: DID, OSDD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Dissociative Amnesia. I have a post written on this as well. Here’s the tumblr link: https://gay-osdd-kid.tumblr.com/post/169372801868/dissociative-disorders

So, what is it like to dissociate? It differs for everyone, but for me personally, it’s like being out of my own body. I’ll look at my hands or my feet and I don’t even realize they’re mine. I disconnect from my environment and disconnect from both my physical and mental self. It’s almost as if my brain has turned off. Sometimes, this trance-like state lasts for minutes, hours, or even days. I have lots of days where I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast or I’ll find myself in a room I don’t remember walking into.

Dissociation is a scary thing, and it’s something to take seriously. If you experience this, please talk to someone you trust, and a therapist that you have access to.