Dissociative Disorder Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Dissociation is a mental process that nearly everyone experiences at some point in their life. It involves disconnecting memories, feelings, thoughts, or sense of self. A mild dissociation that is experienced by most people, including mentally stable and healthy adults, is forgetting a common experience, such as turning off a light in a room.

The event is so typical and repetitive that a specific instance of turning a light off may be forgotten easily. However, persistent, frequent, or extended periods of dissociation can be symptoms of a larger mental health problem, such as a dissociative disorder.

In this article, you’ll learn what a dissociative disorder is, the signs and symptoms of dissociative disorder, and what treatment options are available for co-occurring dissociative disorder and addiction.

Common Dissociation Symptoms

Symptoms and Signs of a Dissociative Disorder

When a person experiences dissociation, it may look like:

  • Daydreaming, spacing out, or eyes glazed over
  • Acting different, or using a different tone of voice or different gestures
  • Suddenly switching between emotions or reactions to an event, such as appearing frightened and timid, then becoming bombastic and violent

Signs of a Dissociative Disorder

  • Unable to recall specific information (Amnesia)
  • Unable to account for missing time (Fugue)
  • Experience feelings of detachment from self (Depersonalization)
  • Formation of two or more distinct personalities (Identity Disorder)

Types of Dissociative Disorders

There are currently five recognized forms of dissociative disorders. These are:

  • Dissociative Amnesia (Psychogenic Amnesia): This involves people being unable to recall specific information about themselves, often due to a traumatic event or intensely stressful situation. This is not caused by physical illness or injury, such as a concussion, and cannot be explained by forgetfulness. The person will be unable to recall specific events or may appear to suddenly “wake up” to their surroundings and not understand how they got there.
  • Dissociative Fugue: This type of dissociation involves a lengthy period of dissociative amnesia, and it involves traveling away from the individual’s home, place of work, or school. During dissociative fugue, a person will likely appear normal to others and participate in normal activities like driving, riding on a plane, walking, and more. However, the individual will forget these events, and when the episode is over, will likely not be able to account for missing time, how they acted during that missing time, and where they went.
  • Depersonalization Disorder: People experiencing this condition may not show any outward signs of being in a different mental state, but self-report that they frequently experience feelings of detachment from themselves, their identity, and the events around them. They report that they feel as though they are watching their lives like a movie from outside their bodies. This is a common experience among adolescents, and it tends to taper off about age 20.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder: Originally called multiple personality disorder, this condition involves the formation of two or more distinct personalities who “share a body.” Typically, there is a primary personality, with several subordinate personalities who occasionally take over the physical form and express themselves. Personalities may or may not know biographical information about each other, and they can be radically different from the primary individual; for example, one personality may be a large man, but the primary personality and the body is a young, petite woman. The personalities are currently believed to be fragments of a whole sense of identity, which dissociated due to intense, often repeated trauma in early life. This may or may not be observable by loved ones, coworkers, and other people, as personalities may show up to interact with different individuals.
  • Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: This involves consistent or frequent bouts of dissociation from the self or others, which do not meet the criteria for other dissociative disorders.

Dissociative Disorder and Addiction

Clinical dissociative disorder is usually caused by a traumatic event, such as abuse, or being in a terrible accident or war zone. This experience can lead to other issues as well, such as addiction.

Addiction, formally diagnosed as a substance use disorder (SUD), is characterized by the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol that continues despite significant problems associated with use of the substance.1

Signs of a substance use disorder are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition) which is used by professionals to diagnose SUDs. Some of these criteria include the following:1

  • The substance is taken in larger quantities or over a longer duration than intended by the individual.
  • There is an inability to reduce or discontinue use of the substance despite a desire to do so.
  • A lot of time is spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the substance.
  • There is a strong urge or desire to use the substance, also known as craving.
  • A failure to fulfill major obligations at home, school, or work due to continued substance use.

Dissociative Disorder and Addiction Treatment

When a person has such as dissociative disorder and addiction, it is important to find treatment that addresses both disorders. Integrated treatment has been found to result in superior outcomes when compared to treating each diagnosis separately.3

At Sunrise House—an inpatient rehab in New Jersey—we employ integrated treatment that involves the use of evidence-based behavioral therapies to effectively treat co-occurring disorders. Various levels of addiction treatment are available including medical detox and residential rehab. Find out what an average day in inpatient rehab is like.

Paying for Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Sunrise House is a New Jersey addiction treatment center that accepts health insurance. Many of the major insurance carriers are in-network with our facility. If you’d like to check your insurance coverage, simply complete our confidential .

There are also several other ways of paying for addiction treatment including financing. Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to help you determine the payment method that works best for you, and to walk you through the admissions process.

If you or your loved one is ready for recovery, get admitted today by calling .

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