Different Types of Dissociative Disorders

~By: Jess Mei


First – let me say that I’m no expert. I’m just one woman who went searching for answers to this ‘thing’ that has both saved my life and changed it so profoundly.

There is a term for the progression of dissociation called the Dissociative Continuum. The presence of this continuum is now widely accepted by those psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who are familiar with dissociative states. Let’s take a look at this together. I will present them from least to greatest – in terms of the dissociation only. In no way am I minimizing the impact of any of the disorders.

I. Psycogenic Amnesia
[Definition]: A sudden inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to merely explain away by normal forgetfulness and is not associated with an organic mental disorder (like Alzheimers Disease).

There are 4 classifications psychogenic amnesia:

  1. Localized – where all memory is loss that occurred in a specific period of time
  2. Selective – where some, but not all memory is loss of events that occurred during a specific period of time
  3. Generalized – where memory of important events that occurred over the course of life is loss
  4. Continuous – where all memory is loss for the entire past and the memory loss continues into the present

Psychogenic Amnesia is the most common form of dissociative disorders and appears to be caused by either blunt trauma to the head or as response to an immediate traumatic event.

II. Psychogenic Fugue
[Definition]: A sudden act of traveling far away from home or place of work, and having no recall of doing so or why. Many assume a new identity or personality trait completely uncharacteristic of the ‘norm’.

Research has shown that this new identity is usual really ‘free-loving’ and less inhabited than the ‘normal’ identity. This dissociative disorder does not include those moments when we all drive from point A to point B without recalling the road or things around us. Those occurrence fit better in the Psycogenic Amnesia category. It appears that people who suffer from psychogenic fugue states have no memory of the actions and experiences done while the ‘free-loving’ personality is present.

III. Depersonalization Disorder
[Definition]: The chronic experience of a profound loss of sense of self, of feeling unreal – as if in a dream. The experience of feeling like your are completely outside of yourself.

People who have depersonalization disorder have memories that feel like dreams that sometimes cannot be recognized as real versus fantasy. They can easily tell themselves that certain real life experiences didn’t happen because they [the memories] feel like dreams. Because of the ability of the person who has depersonalization disorder to mentally step outside of self, past memories can be seen as occurring to someone else. The onset of this disorder is abrupt; however recover can be very slow.

IV. Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS)
[Definition]: This is a bit of a ‘catch all’ category for any dissociative behavior that doesn’t fit solidly in the definition of the other categories. There is still marked dysfunction in memory, identity and consciousness.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with someone who has DDNOS and she says that for her, she doesn’t hear the internal conversations and she retains co-consciousness for much of the time with no distinctive personality taking full control of the body at any time.

 

 

 

V. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD))
[Definition]: The presence of at least two distinct personalities within the body of one person.

People with DID typically display symptoms of other categories of dissociation. People tell of loss time, amnesia, profound feelings of being outside of self, and hearing internal dialogs that are not those of the primary identity. DID is a chronic, but allegedly treatable disorder. This dissociative disorder holds the most societal stigma than any of the others and if often mistaken for Schizophrenia – a disorder that can be controlled with drug therapy.

From everything that I have read thus far, there are no medications specific to treating DID. Drugs are given to assist with symptoms of things like insomnia, depression, and anxiety; however these drugs cannot address the disorder itself.

In my next post, I will speak about various forms of trauma that cause dissociative disorders. Until then, friends.

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