Definition, Causes, Facts

What Are Dissociative Disorders? Definition, Causes, FactsDissociation (disconnection from aspects of oneself and/or the environment) is something that people do naturally, so what, then, are dissociative disorders? Like all disorders, dissociative disorders have symptoms so severe as to cause great distress to a person and his or her life, and this is distinctly different from an individual who may experience dissociation occasionally and without harm.

What Is Dissociation?

If you’ve ever driven to work or the grocery store, gotten there and not remembered how you got there, you have experienced a very normal form of dissociation.
Dissociation is a lack of connection between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and/or identity. Normal forms of dissociation are minor and not problematic whereas when dissociative disorders are defined, they have severe symptoms that cause problems in a person’s life.


Causes of Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are typically caused through trauma as a way of coping with this stress. According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Dissociative disorders most often form in children subjected to long-term physical, sexual or emotional abuse or, less often, a home environment that’s frightening or highly unpredictable. The stress of war or natural disasters also can bring on dissociative disorders.”

Dissociative Disorders in the DSM-5 The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines four types of dissociative disorders: Dissociative amnesia (with a possible subdiagnosis of dissociative fugue, which involves confused wandering with amnesia) – an inability to recall important information to the extent that it cannot be explained by normal forgetfulness. Dissociative identity disorder – characterized by two or more identities or personality traits within a single individual. Depersonalization/derealisation disorder – major detachment wherein a person feels that objects around him or her are changing in shape or size or that people are automated and inhuman. A person may also feel detached from his or her own body. Other dissociative identity disorder not specified – a dissociative disorder that doesn’t fall specifically into one of the other three diagnoses. – See more at: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/dissociative-identity-disorder/dissociative-disorders-definition-causes-facts/#sthash.DHKGwAyg.dpuf

See more at: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/dissociative-identity-disorder/dissociative-disorders-definition-causes-facts/#sthash.S1ZT76Wa.dpuf

– See more at: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/dissociative-identity-disorder/dissociative-amnesia-deeply-buried-memories/#sthash.CW8Jp0lK.e2BmnWRV.dpuf

The Brain in Defense Mode: How Dissociation Helps Us Survive

April 29, 2015 • By Anastasia Pollock, LCMHC, Posttraumatic Stress Topic Expert Contributor

profile portrait with brain explosion fragmentsAccording to Ross and Halpern (2011), there are several definitions of dissociation. One of them (referred to as “the general systems meaning of dissociation”) is “the opposite of association” or the disconnection of two or more things that were once associated with each other. Another definition, presented by Steinberg and Schnall (2001), defines dissociation as “an adaptive defense in response to high stress or trauma characterized by memory loss and a sense of disconnection from oneself or one’s surroundings.”

Dissociation occurs when someone disconnects from some part of himself or herself or the environment. It can occur in a number of different ways, including disconnection from one’s emotions, body sensations, memories, senses, etc. A normal and common phenomenon, dissociation can happen in mild forms even when there is not imminent danger or stress. Think of a time you drove somewhere, arrived, and then couldn’t remember the drive because your mind was wandering; an instance when you lost track of time because you were engrossed in a riveting television show; or when you disconnected from body sensations to avoid going to the bathroom when you were on a tight deadline at work.

Dissociation is something we all do, and it is a vital part of our ingrained survival system. It is a part of the system that helps us to cope with stressful situations, which may otherwise feel overwhelming (Steinberg and Schnall, 2001). It is built in and is not pathological (Ross and Halpern, 2011). However, when a trauma occurs, sometimes this built-in system disconnects to a greater degree in an effort to protect the individual from traumatic material, body sensations, emotions, or memories that may be overwhelming.

Dissociation related to trauma occurs in varying degrees. On the lower end of the dissociation spectrum, for example, let’s say someone was in a car accident. A few days after the accident, the person finds that he or she cannot recall parts of the accident, even though reports of others were that he or she was conscious and responsive during those times he or she cannot recall. On the other end of the spectrum, someone who was severely abused throughout life can dissociate to the point that he or she has more than one personality, all of whom display and contain their own characteristics and who hold different memories associated with the trauma