Types of Dissociative Disorders


At Palm Springs Behavioral Health, we understand the complexities of mental health, especially pertaining to diagnoses that alter your sense of self and reality. Dissociative disorders are one such group of conditions. This blog explores the intricacies of these disorders, with a particular emphasis on dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.

Understanding Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are a spectrum of mental health conditions marked by a disconnection between your thoughts, memories, feelings, surroundings, behavior, and identity. Instead of a coherent, unified sense of self, you feel fragmented, with parts of your personality or experiences seeming alien or disconnected.

These disorders often arise as protective mechanisms, helping you distance yourself from traumatic, distressing, or painful events. By pushing away these difficult memories, the mind seeks a form of escape from reality – albeit an unwanted and unhealthy one. While symptoms can vary, stress can make them more pronounced and noticeable.

Major Dissociative Disorders

The American Psychiatric Association recognizes three predominant dissociative disorders.

  1. Depersonalization/derealization disorder: This condition involves feeling that you or your surroundings are unreal or distant. You may become so detached that it seems like you’re viewing your life as a distant observer.
  2. Dissociative amnesia: As the name suggests, significant memory loss characterizes this disorder. It’s not about forgetting simple things but more profound, such as not recalling significant life events or personal information.
  3. Dissociative identity disorder: Formerly termed multiple personality disorder, DID is perhaps the most sensationalized and misunderstood of the dissociative disorders. People with DID have two or more distinct identities or personas that take control of their behavior and consciousness at various times.

What Is DID?

Dissociative identity disorder stands out due to its striking symptomatology. Imagine feeling like there are several people inside your head, each with a different name, history, characteristics, and even physical attributes. People with DID develop multiple personas and switch between them. These transitions can be sudden and can last from minutes to months.

These individual identities can have several distinctions.

  • Voice and mannerisms: One identity might be timid and soft-spoken, while another could be aggressive and loud.
  • Physical attributes: For instance, only one identity may have a speech impediment or need reading glasses.
  • Gender and age: A person with DID might switch to a persona of a different gender or age.
  • Awareness levels: Some identities may not know the others exist.

People with DID also experience episodes of amnesia, often forgetting significant parts of their life. Instances of confused wandering, where they might suddenly find themselves in places without recalling how they got there, are also common.

The Journey to Healing

Living with a dissociative disorder, especially DID, can be incredibly challenging. Relationships, work, and day-to-day functioning can become disrupted. But there’s hope. Treatment, often involving a combination of psychotherapy and medication, can provide a path to understanding, coping, and recovery.

If you are struggling with dissociative symptoms or any other mental health concerns, please seek professional help as soon as possible. Early intervention and support can make a significant difference. At Palm Springs Behavioral Health, we provide comprehensive mental health assessments as part of our compassionate and expert approach to well-being. Our admissions counselors are standing by to take your call and help you start on the road to wellness.