A dissociative disorder is a defense mechanism in which one's identity, memories, ideas, feelings, or perceptions are separated from conscious awareness. They cannot be recalled or experienced voluntarily
After a traumatic event, dissociation enables a person to numb his or her current feelings. It causes a temporary but drastic experience of feeling separate from one's self, not exisiting, or being in an unreal world. It can cause a dreamlike state.
The signs and symptoms of dissociative disorder include: impulsive traveling or wandering away from homeinability to remember the pastconfusion as to one's own identityintermittently experiencing 2 or more identitiesfeelings of detachment or estrangement from one's selffeeling as though one is living in a dreamfeeling separated from selfinability to remember important personal information, such as one's name and addresslarge gaps of memory
A dissociative disorder is thought to be the result of a person's defense against some form of trauma. Overwhelming stress usually causes dissociative disorders. The stress may be caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, accident, or disaster. It may be also caused by a person experiencing inner conflict. The mind is forced to separate unacceptable information and feelings from conscious thought. Dissociative disorders are often found among children who have experienced sexual abuse.
To help prevent dissociative disorder, prompt treatment should be given to someone who experiences a traumatic event.
Diagnosis of a dissociative disorder is based on the presence of the symptoms. A complete medical examination is performed to determine if a physical condition may be causing the disorder. Also, a complete psychological history will be conducted to assess for possible sources of trauma and stress. Sometimes, psychological tests will be conducted to help make the diagnosis.
A person with a dissociative disorder often has significant adjustment problems in all life areas. The person's ability to perform work tasks or interact interpersonally is often severely impaired.
There are no risks to others, as dissociative disorders are not contagious.
Treatment for a dissociative disorder is aimed at helping the person regain a sense of identity and mastery over his or her environment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is reasonably effective. A counselor should be sensitive and empathetic. This will help the person restore a sense of self and self-esteem.
Clear, direct, and non-threatening communication by the therapist to the person is essential. The therapist will establish firm boundaries for what is expected from both the person and the therapist. In times of acute stress, a person with a dissociative disorder may require short-term hospitalization. Occasionally, antipsychotic or antidepressant medications are used to control symptoms.
Side effects depend on the specific medications used, but may include allergic reactions and drowsiness.
A person with a dissociative disorder often requires long-term psychotherapy and supervision.
Family members and the person's therapist can monitor the person's progress and condition. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
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