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Dissociative Disorders: Types, Symptoms And Treatment

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Dissociative Disorders Treatment in Chattanooga, TN
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

Dissociative disorders are a spectrum of mental health conditions triggered by traumatic experiences, leading to profound feelings of detachment, extensive memory disruptions, and shifts in perception and identity. This involuntary psychological response often acts as a protective mechanism against trauma but is not a viable long-term coping strategy. It can result in significant distress and dysfunction. Professional treatment, like that provided by Iris Wellness Group, is essential for those affected. At our mental health treatment center in Chattanooga, TN, individuals can address their past traumas and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

What Are Dissociative Disorders?

Dissociative disorders are complex mental health issues characterized by a significant disconnection in a person’s thoughts, identity, consciousness, and memory. Individuals experiencing these disorders may feel disconnected from themselves and their surroundings, which can dramatically disrupt daily activities and reduce the quality of life.

These conditions typically develop as a response to severe psychological stress or trauma, including abuse, military combat, accidents, or natural disasters. In an attempt to manage the overwhelming stress of these experiences, the mind may disconnect from reality, resulting in notable disturbances in memory, awareness, identity, and perception.

Types of Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders encompass a group of conditions marked by disruptions in a person’s normal integration of consciousness, memory, identity, and perception. These disorders are primarily classified into three distinct types:

  • Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): This disorder is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states or “alters,” each with its own unique set of behaviors, memories, and relationships. Individuals with DID may switch between these alters based on triggers or stressors, leading to significant disruptions in daily functioning.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: Often triggered by stress or trauma, dissociative amnesia involves significant gaps in recall that go beyond normal forgetfulness. These gaps can pertain to personal information, past experiences, or traumatic events, impacting the individual’s ability to function.
  • Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: Individuals with this condition experience persistent or recurrent feelings of being detached from their own thoughts, feelings, or body (depersonalization) or a sense of unreality or detachment from their surroundings (derealization).

Dissociative Fugue: Although less common, dissociative fugue is a subtype of dissociative amnesia featuring sudden, unexpected travel away from one’s home or workplace, accompanied by confusion about one’s identity or the assumption of a new identity.

Co-occurring Conditions

Individuals with dissociative disorders frequently contend with co-occurring mental health issues, often stemming from or exacerbating the dissociative condition:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Commonly associated with trauma, which is a significant trigger for dissociative disorders.
  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Often linked with a history of trauma and identity disturbances, overlapping significantly with dissociative symptoms.
  • Substance Use Disorders: Individuals may use substances as a coping mechanism to handle the emotional pain associated with dissociative disorders.
  • Depression and Anxiety Disorders: These are prevalent among those with dissociative disorders, often complicating the treatment and management of the dissociative symptoms.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Dissociative Disorders

The symptoms associated with dissociative disorders can be profound and varied, depending on the type of disorder and the individual’s personal experiences. Diagnosis typically involves comprehensive assessments including interviews, questionnaires, observations, and sometimes discussions with close family members. Key diagnostic criteria and symptoms include:

  • Dissociative Identity Disorder: Presence of multiple personalities, extensive memory lapses, severe distress, and impairment in social and occupational functioning.
  • Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder: Ongoing or episodic feelings of detachment from one’s self or reality, which are intrusive and often cause significant anxiety and dysfunction.
  • Dissociative Amnesia: The inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, which is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

Other symptoms commonly observed in dissociative disorders include emotional numbness, experiences of unreality, out-of-body experiences, identity confusion, mood fluctuations, suicidal ideation, and difficulties in daily functioning due to overwhelming stress or anxiety.

These conditions require a nuanced approach to treatment, often involving a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and support, tailored to each individual’s specific needs and circumstances.

Who Is Affected by Dissociative Disorders?

Dissociative disorders are mental health conditions that know no boundaries—they can affect individuals of any age, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. However, they are diagnosed more frequently in women and those assigned female at birth. Notably, the likelihood of developing conditions such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) increases significantly among individuals who have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse during their childhood.

Gaining an understanding of the complexities surrounding dissociative disorders is crucial for those affected and their loved ones. Recognizing these conditions is the first step towards embarking on a journey of healing, seeking effective support, and securing appropriate treatment options tailored to individual needs.

What Causes Dissociative Disorders?

Dissociative disorders often arise as a protective psychological mechanism in response to intense and prolonged stressors, such as severe trauma or abuse. These disorders are particularly common following traumatic experiences during childhood, a vulnerable time when comprehension of complex situations is still developing and coping mechanisms are immature. During such formative years, the presence of supportive and perceptive adults plays a crucial role in the child’s ability to seek help and protect their mental health.

In instances of trauma, dissociation serves as a means to mentally escape from severe immediate pain and distress. This detachment, while initially a survival tactic, can persist and become maladaptive, leading to significant memory loss that can affect large portions of an individual’s life, thereby complicating their long-term mental health and functioning.

Common Traumatic Triggers Include:

  • Repeated instances of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • Traumatic accidents.
  • Experiences of natural disasters.
  • Exposure to military combat.
  • Being a victim of a crime.

Recent studies have enhanced our understanding of how dissociation impacts brain function. Research indicates that during dissociative episodes, specific patterns of rhythmic activity are observed in the brain’s memory-related regions. These patterns suggest a disconnection from the brain areas responsible for coherent thought and planning, underlying the complex nature of these disorders and highlighting the critical need for specialized therapeutic interventions.

Risk Factors for Dissociative Disorders

The development of dissociative disorders is closely linked to prolonged exposure to trauma. The risk is particularly elevated in those who have experienced long-term abuse, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, especially during childhood. Moreover, other intensely distressing or traumatic life events can also act as catalysts for these disorders. Such events include involvement in warfare, surviving natural disasters, being a victim of kidnapping or torture, or undergoing invasive medical procedures at a young age.

Understanding these risk factors is crucial for identifying potential cases of dissociative disorders early and providing necessary intervention and support to those at risk.

Common Characteristics of Dissociative Disorders

While dissociative disorders encompass a range of conditions, each with its own specific manifestations, there are common characteristics that many share. Typically, individuals with these disorders experience profound memory loss, a pervasive feeling of detachment from themselves, confusion over their identity, and a perception of the world that feels dreamlike and unreal.

Additional Signs and Symptoms Include:

  • Feeling like an observer of one’s own life or body, rather than being fully engaged.
  • A sense of estrangement or disconnection from one’s own memories or emotions.
  • Abrupt and inexplicable changes in mood or behavior.
  • Flashbacks to traumatic events, which can be vivid and jarring.
  • Auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices.

Recognizing these symptoms in oneself or in a loved one is a crucial step toward seeking help. These experiences can be distressing and disorienting, significantly disrupting daily life. However, with professional support and tailored treatment strategies, individuals suffering from dissociative disorders can manage their symptoms effectively and work towards recovery. It is vital for anyone experiencing such symptoms to consult mental health professionals who can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate therapeutic approaches. If you’re looking dissociative disorder treatment in Chattanooga, consider reaching out to Iris Wellness Group. You can contact us at 423-541-0656 or fill out our online contact form.

Dissociative Disorders Treatment in Chattanooga, TN

The treatment for dissociative disorders in Chattanooga, TN,  involves a comprehensive approach that combines medication with psychotherapy. Medication serves primarily to alleviate symptoms such as anxiety or depression, which often accompany dissociative disorders, rather than the dissociative episodes themselves. This pharmacological intervention provides essential stability, enabling patients to participate more effectively in psychotherapy.

During psychotherapy sessions, patients focus on identifying, understanding, and managing the triggers and symptoms of their dissociative experiences. Several key psychotherapeutic techniques are integral to this treatment:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is particularly effective for addressing the negative thought patterns that exacerbate symptoms of dissociative disorders, including depression. It teaches patients to recognize detrimental thoughts early on and implement strategies to alter them before they lead to emotional distress.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT helps enhance emotional regulation and impulse control through practical skills such as mindfulness and meditation. These skills empower patients to manage their emotions and respond to stress more constructively.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a specialized therapy that helps patients process and diminish the distress linked to traumatic memories. This technique involves guided eye movements that reduce the intensity of emotionally charged memories.

Other methods like hypnosis may also be utilized to facilitate a controlled, therapeutic engagement with symptoms, helping patients access and manage their experiences in a safe environment.

Finding Treatment for Dissociative Disorders

Receiving a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder might seem overwhelming, but effective treatment is accessible, and recovery is achievable. The journey to healing is incremental, demanding active engagement and the application of therapeutic strategies learned during treatment. It’s crucial to recognize that with perseverance and appropriate support, a healthier, more stable life is attainable.

If you are seeking treatment for a dissociative disorder in Chattanooga, consider reaching out to Iris Wellness Group. Our team is committed to providing empathetic, informed care tailored to your unique needs. Contact us at 423-541-0656 or through our online contact form to learn more about how we can assist you. Our compassionate admissions team is prepared to answer your questions and guide you on the path to recovery. Do not hesitate to reach out and take your first step towards a brighter future.

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