What is Dissociative Disorder?

Through dissociative disorder, individuals find methods of escape from stress and day to day life that often involve loss of their identity. The actual disorders range from temporary amnesia to complex alternate identities. The main four are the dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, dissociative fugue, and depersonalization disorder.

In most cases, the individual struggling with the dissociative disorder is not aware that she has the disorder. She may recognize certain symptoms, but the symptoms are typically similar to that of depression initially. At one time, it was known as multiple personality disorder as it involves a switching between different identities, though in highly stressful situation this can result in multiple personalities attempting to express themselves at once. This means that in most cases, friends and family members will be the ones to first notice the problem unless there is a severe episode. The memory loss may or may not be permanent depending on the stress levels involved and the severity of the disorder.

The dissociative fugue involves the individual pushing herself away from and out of her true identity. During the fugue, she may wander, travel, start new relationships, and sometimes even start a whole new life that revolves around this new identity. It can last for anywhere from a few minutes to months. Upon waking, the individual may not realize that she has been gone, though she will generally not remember what has happened. It typically takes a severe case to bring matters to a head.

Methods Typically Used in Therapy for Dissociative Disorder

The three primary methods of treatment for individuals with dissociative disorders are psychotherapy, hypnosis, and medication.

Dissociative Identity Disorder
What is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Therapy?

Psychotherapy itself includes a number of possible courses, though it is always time consuming. The most common are creative art therapy and cognitive therapy. In creative art therapy, the analysis focuses on what is being expressed as well as the cultivation of self awareness and coping mechanisms. Cognitive therapy focuses on the identification of unhealthy and negative behaviors and then replacing them with positive ones. In both cases, the therapist will work to understand the underlying cause as well as to develop better coping mechanisms.

Hypnosis and medication are used to supplement these. Through hypnosis, the patient is taught to relax or perhaps to better remember. The medication used is not specifically for dissociative disorders since no such medication exists. However, the medication is typically that of antidepressants or anti anxiety medications to help make it less likely that an episode will trigger due to stress.

Reasons for Hiring a Therapist / Psychologist

While medication and hypnosis can help to control some of the symptoms, to this day there is no true cure for a dissociative disorder. Dissociative disorders are such that they easily worsen under stress or changed circumstances. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals struggling with any form of dissociative disorder need to choose a therapist to assist them in developing new methods of coping so that they can lead healthy lives.

What to Look for in a Therapist / Psychologist

Ideally, you will want a therapist who has experience in handling individuals with dissociative disorders. A therapist whose general practice is in psychotherapy or abnormal behavioral psychology or cognitive therapy will also be good. These therapists all train to understand better how to treat issues like the underlying root that causes individuals to push away their true identity and form new ones or simply black out.

Your connection to the therapist is essential. This needs to be someone whom you trust and who does not trigger episodes unless the therapist is attempting a form of shock treatment. Dissociative disorders typically require long lasting relationships with a therapist. Search TherapyTribe for a Psychologist specializing in dissociative identity disorder in your area.