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Dissociative disorders represent a separation from reality where people block out memories and disconnect from their surroundings.
What are Dissociative Disorders?
People with dissociative disorders cope with major internal breaks between their thoughts, emotions, memories, and their experience of the world around them. Many people have a brief, mild time with daydreaming or getting lost in a good book. This is very different. People with dissociative disorders have much more intense symptoms. They feel removed from their emotions and have out-of-body experiences. They can block out memories of trauma or anything that reminds them of a connection to trauma. The sensation of a real ‘self’ and personal identity frequently seem distant or fractured.
Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder, represents the most widely known issue in this section. These people possess multiple internal identities or ‘alters’, with different moods, emotions, names, and perceptions of themselves. These alters are born out of a need to contain the affects of traumatic experiences, usually from childhood.
People with Dissociative Amnesia lack memories of their own lives that most people would normally recall. These missing memories surround tragic or traumatic events, and they offer another survival mechanism in the absence of regular emotional processing.
The last disorder in this category is Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder, where people feel removed from themselves and their surroundings. People describe these sensations as dream-like or watching a movie of their own lives in real time. They are there but disconnected at the same time.
Who gets Dissociative Disorders?
Trauma in childhood
The common theme for all these disorders is major trauma, be it emotional, physical, or sexual, usually early in life. Victims of war, famine, or natural disasters are also at risk of these disorders.
Lack of healthy processing
Not all survivors of trauma will develop mental health consequences, however. The potential for these disorders really appears when children in these situations lack emotional support from their family. Guidance from caregivers during these times is crucial to proper development, and, without it, children can develop dissociative disorders.