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Overview of Dissociative Disorders

The Dissociative Disorders are conditions that involve forms of dissociation as their main symptoms. Dissociation occurs when aspects of one's memory, personality or awareness become separated and sequestered into different parts of one's consciousness (see here for further information). This group of disorders includes:

Dissociative Amnesia: This condition involves an inability to remember important personal information (which is not due to any neurological problems).

Dissociative Fugue: This condition involves an unplanned travel, during which time one becomes unable to recall one's past and may even assume a new identity.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Also known as Multiple Personality Disorder, this condition involves a tendency to switch between two or more identities or personalities.

Depersonalization Disorder: This condition involves recurrent experiences of depersonalization or derealization.

Dissociative Disorder Not-Otherwise-Specified: This category includes other situations where dissociation can become a significant problem for an individual.

Conversion Disorder: According to the DSM-IV-TR, this condition is categorized as a Somatoform Disorder, but the ICD-10, along with various experts in the field, consider it to be a Dissociative Disorder [ref]. It involves experiencing neurological-like symptoms, such as convulsions or a loss of feeling or movement of one's limbs, but where it is clear that there is no actual neurological problem.

The Dissociative Disorders are quite prevalent, affecting about 1 in every hundred people. They are thought to be caused by experiences that are highly traumatic, especially when these occur in childhood and on a recurrent basis. The course of these disorders can be long and difficult, and usually they are associated with high rates of other psychiatric conditions. Treatments have not been well established, but most commonly involve long-term psychotherapy.