Evaluation and Treatment for Dissociative Disorders is Very Complex

In the movies, those with multiple personalities have often been the stars of frightening events. The Three Faces of Eve, Sybil and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde come to mind. But for some, living with a type of dissociative disorder is far more real.

Dissociative disorders were commonly known as multiple personality disorders until the mid-1990s when the term was changed to better reflect understanding. In the years since, the American Psychological Association has identified three types of dissociative disorders:

  • Dissociative identity disorder. With this disorder, a person endures two or more distinct identities (or “personality states”), which may include changes in behavior, memory and thinking. They may have significant differences in likes and dislikes.
  • Dissociative amnesia. The person is unable to remember an event or period of time. The amnesia may be selective. Some with the most serious forms may have a complete loss of identity or life history, though this is rare.
  • Depersonalization/derealization disorder. In this scenario, the person may feel detached from one’s mind, self or body, or may feel as if things or people around them are not real.

Those with acute stress disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have some dissociative symptoms as well.

People with dissociative disorders have typically experienced severe physical or sexual abuse in childhood. One study showed that 90 percent of those with a dissociative disorder in the U.S., Canada and Europe had been the victim of abuse or neglect in childhood.

Suicide attempts are extremely high, with more than 70 percent of outpatients with dissociative disorder attempting to harm themselves, APA reports.

When diagnosing a person with a dissociative disorder, a doctor may test to rule out any physical conditions that might cause symptoms, such as a head injury or brain lesions. Mental health professionals may be brought in to make an evaluation. Treatment can include cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) or medications.

 

 


Sources:
American Psychiatric Association https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/dissociative-disorders/what-are-dissociative-disorders
Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute http://www.sidran.org/resources/for-survivors-and-loved-ones/what-is-a-dissociative-disorder/