Sami was raised in a troubled home where they experienced childhood trauma.
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:
Dissociative identity disorder
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.
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:
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
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
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
The main treatment for these types of dissociative disorders are:
Talking about the trauma can help the person process what happened and find new and healthier ways of coping.
While there is no specific medication for dissociative disorders, medication may be prescribed to treat accompanying symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
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.
May be used as a treatment for dissociative amnesia to help recover memories.
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.