What Is Dissociation? Psychology, Definition and Treatments

What Is Dissociation? Psychology, Definition and Treatments
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 23-03-2023

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Do you ever experience a fleeting moment when you are out having lunch with your pals or seated in a meeting at work and you feel disconnected from what is going on around you?

Or do you completely wipe out when asked about the meeting s topics hours later?

Or perhaps you drove home but don t recall making the actual trip?

You might recognize some of this, and that s just normal. These kinds of incidents are a moderate and typical type of dissociation that most people encounter at least once in their lifetime. You probably felt out of touch in these circumstances because you weren t listening, you were bored, you were daydreaming, or your mind was elsewhere. Psychological dissociation is a severe and persistent medical disorder that causes the person to be divorced from reality. It is not merely a matter of daydreaming or briefly losing yourself in your own thoughts.


A person disconnects from their ideas, feelings, memories, or sense of identity when they dissociate, which is a mental process. Dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalization disorder, and dissociative identity disorder are examples of dissociative disorders.

When someone experiences a traumatic incident, dissociation is frequently present during the event as well as in the hours, days, or weeks that follow. For instance, the person may feel as though they are watching the event on television or that it is "unreal" or separated from what is happening around them. Most of the time, treatment is not necessary to end the dissociation.


Depending on the type and intensity, dissociative disorders can cause symptoms and indicators such as

  1. Difficulties managing strong emotions.
  2. Feeling cut off from oneself.
  3. Issues with anxiety, depression, or both.
  4. Having a sense of obligation to act a specific way
  5. Additional cognitive (thought-related) issues, like concentration issues.
  6. Identity confusion, such as acting in a way that a person would typically find repulsive or objectionable.
  7. Feeling "derealized," or as if the reality is distorted or unreal.
  8. Issues with memory unrelated to physical damage or ailment.
  9. Memory lapses can be significant, like forgetting sensitive personal information
  10. Mood swings that occur suddenly and unexpectedly; for instance, suddenly feeling extremely depressed.
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The majority of mental health practitioners think that persistent childhood trauma is the root cause of dissociative disorders. Continual physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect are a few examples of trauma. In times of stress, unpredictable or terrifying family environments can sometimes make a youngster "disconnect" from reality. It appears that the severity of the childhood trauma has a direct correlation with the severity of the dissociative illness in adults.

Adult traumatic experiences may also result in dissociative disorders. These occurrences could be a war, torture, or a natural calamity.


Dissociative Amnesia

When a person has dissociative amnesia, they struggle to recall details about themselves. As opposed to someone who simply forgot something, this is different. With dissociative amnesia, a person may have trouble recalling a specific time or event from their life, a portion of the experience, or in some extremely rare circumstances, completely forget their identity and life.

Another cause of dissociative amnesia is a specific traumatic event or occurrence. The duration of an amnesic episode might range from a few minutes to many days. Amnesia can linger for years in very severe and uncommon circumstances. An episode might happen quickly and has no prior indicators. The person may experience multiple episodes over the course of their lives.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

The most contentious of the dissociative diseases, dissociative identity disorder (DID), is questioned and discussed by mental health specialists. The most severe type of dissociative illness was previously known as multiple personality disorder.

The syndrome frequently involves more than one personality state coexisting within the same person. While the person s behavior is affected by their various personality states, they are typically unaware of them and only notice them as memory lapses. Different body language, voice tones, outlooks on life, and recollections may be present in the other stages. When stressed, the person may adopt a different personality state. Nearly usually, a person with dissociative identity disorder also has dissociative amnesia.

Depersonalization Disorder

The feature of depersonalization disorder is a sense of detachment from one s life, ideas, and feelings. People who experience this kind of disease claim that it makes them feel emotionally detached from themselves and as though they are just watching a character in a dull movie. Memory and concentration issues are two other common complaints. The subject may claim to feel uncontrollable or "spacey." Time might slouch. In extreme circumstances, people may not be able to recognize themselves in a mirror because they believe their bodies to be different shapes or sizes than typical.


It s crucial to get professional assistance if you think you or a loved one may have a dissociative condition. Dissociative disorders must always be diagnosed and treated by professionals.

Dissociative illnesses are complex, and their symptoms are shared by a number of other conditions, making a diagnosis challenging. For instance:

  • Amnesia and other cognitive issues can be brought on by physical factors (such as brain tumors or head injuries).
  • Similar symptoms to a dissociative disorder can be caused by mental diseases such obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Some drugs used recreationally, and some prescription pharmaceuticals might have side effects that resemble symptoms.
  • When a dissociative illness coexists with another mental health condition, such as depression, the diagnosis may be more complicated.


When a diagnosis of the type of dissociative disorder (if any) present has been made, you and HopeQure’s Expert therapists can discuss treatment choices and strategies. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and antidepressants are all used in the treatment and management of dissociative disorders. Depending on the situation and the client, a combination of both approaches may be employed.

A dissociative disorder cannot be permanently cured, but treatment and adherence to your treatment plan can help you control your symptoms and feel better.


HopeQure’s health services uses a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platform. If you ve chosen to pursue online counseling. Our therapists serve both adults, adolescents, and elderly. You can access the services, programs , and webinars at our site, regardless of where you live. To schedule a online session for you or a loved one Click Here

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