Sami was raised in a troubled home where they experienced childhood trauma.

Flaticon Icon

Sami was adopted as a teenager by a loving couple. Recently, their parents have noticed very concerning signs. Sami:

  • Forgets large chunks of their past

  • Says the world isn't real

  • Seems confused and disoriented

  • Talks about wanting to hurt themself

What's going on with Sami?

Sami may be experiencing a dissociative disorder, a mental health condition that requires professional intervention and treatment.

Types of Dissociative Disorders

There are 3 main types of dissociative disorders:

  1. Dissociative amnesia

  2. Dissociative identity disorder

  3. Depersonalization-derealization disorder

Flaticon Icon

All 3 types of dissociative disorders have some common characteristics:

  • Periods of amnesia

  • A sense of detachment

  • Feelings that the world or oneself is not real

  • Accompanying issues such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts

  • Problems maintaining work commitments and relationships

What Causes Dissociative Disorders?

Dissociation typically occurs as the result of trauma as the mind tries to protect itself from the terrible event(s) that occurred.

Hands protectively holding a cactus plant Photo by M. on Unsplash

Moments of dissociation can happen to anyone. We've all probably experienced it. For example, when you're hyper-focused on a task you enjoy, you might lose track of time and the world around you.

Some dissociative disorders, such as dissociative amnesia, can happen as the result of a single traumatic incident like an accident or assault. For example, if you're in a car accident, you might forget the details surrounding it.

Longer-term dissociative disorders are usually the result of:

Flaticon Icon

The child can't escape, so protects themself by disconnecting from what's happening.

Flaticon Icon

  • Ongoing exposure to violence, combat, or war

The person blocks out the events as a way to cope, and experiences episodes of dissociation long after.


Imogene loves to read and often gets lost in stories for hours. Is she experiencing a dissociative disorder?

1. Dissociative Amnesia

Young woman with hand raised to back of head, looking confused and distressed.

This happens when a person suddenly loses chunks of information or time from their memory.


  • Sudden loss of memory beyond normal forgetfulness

  • Important information about self/identity may be forgotten, such as life history and even skills

  • May be accompanied by wandering

  • The person is usually unaware of their amnesia

2. Dissociative Identity Disorder ("DID")

Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, this mental health condition is extremely rare.


  • Having two or more identities or personas with distinct traits

  • Feeling as if certain memories happened to different people

  • Hearing voices that are taking control

  • Memory and time gaps

3. Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder

A child sitting in a cloud covering their face with their arms.

This disorder is often the result of combat/war and may accompany PTSD.


  • Feeling that you're outside yourself and watching what is happening, like in a movie

  • Feeling that your surroundings aren't real, like you're living in a dream

  • Feeling as if your body parts or your surroundings are distorted

  • Unable to discern time, as if recent events may be in the past

Treatment for Dissociative Disorders

Person wearing a denim jacket, hands clasped, facing towards another person whose hands are also clasped. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The main treatment for these types of dissociative disorders are:

Flaticon Icon Psychotherapy

Talking about the trauma can help the person process what happened and find new and healthier ways of coping.

Flaticon Icon Medication

While there is no specific medication for dissociative disorders, medication may be prescribed to treat accompanying symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

Flaticon Icon

EMDR(Eye Movement Desenzitization and Reprocessing)

Because dissociative disorder is usually the result of trauma, this treatment, typically used for PTSD, can be beneficial in some cases.

Flaticon Icon Hypnotherapy

May be used as a treatment for dissociative amnesia to help recover memories.

Take Action

When people are exposed to trauma, their minds react in a protective manner.

Dissasociation may serve as a coping mechanism that provides immediate relief, but it can interfere with normal functioning if it continues too long.

If you notice any unusual symptoms or suspect that something doesn’t feel right following any kind of trauma, it's important to seek professional help. A doctor or qualified mental health professional can help screen you to determine if you have any of these types of dissociative disorders.

GIF: Your trauma is valid no matter how big or small it is.


Your feedback matters to us.

This Byte helped me better understand the topic.

Get support to take action on this Byte