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What Are the 5 Types of Dissociation?

Many people have a skewed understanding of what dissociative disorders and dissociation are. The reason for this is that there has long been a stigma that surrounds one specific dissociative disorder known as dissociative identity disorder (DID). In the past, DID was referred to as multiple personality disorder. When it was known as multiple personality disorder, it was used as a sort of “catch-all” for “extreme” mental illness and it was portrayed poorly, negatively, and often violently. Fortunately, there is now a much better understanding of dissociative disorders and the 5 types of dissociation.

Understanding Dissociative Disorders

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) clinical write-up, “What Are Dissociative Disorders?”, “Dissociative disorders involve problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior, and sense of self. Dissociative symptoms can potentially disrupt every area of mental functioning. Examples of dissociative symptoms include the experience of detachment or feeling as if one is outside one’s body and loss of memory or amnesia.” These symptoms are just a few examples of dissociation.

Furthermore, there are actually 5 types of dissociation: Depersonalization, derealization, amnesia, identity confusion, and identity alteration. Not all of them have to be present to constitute a dissociative disorder, but quite often they manifest in tandem and they can intensify if the disorder is not treated.

Understanding Depersonalization

It should be noted that many dissociative disorders arise out of some form of trauma or traumatic event. The types of dissociation, and their related symptoms are side effects or “coping mechanisms” that manifest as a way to work through the trauma. Depersonalization is one of those symptoms.

Depersonalization is the feeling that someone is detached from or not existing in their own body. Individuals who experience this describe it as an “out of body” feeling. Yet, others describe it as a feeling in which they feel wholly unfamiliar with who they are. They describe themselves as unrecognizable.

Understanding Derealization

The next type of dissociation is derealization. Derealization is the feeling that the world around someone is not real.

This feeling has been described as though one were watching a film. It has also been described as feeling like the world is behind some type of fog or mist, making it difficult to connect with.

Understanding Amnesia

Amnesia is perhaps the most recognizable of the 5 types of dissociation. Though, like DID, it has long been misrepresented in popular culture. It is often used as a “cute” plot point in movies. However, in real life, it is anything but.

Amnesia refers to when someone has trouble recollecting information about themselves to a degree that is much more extreme than simple forgetfulness. When it comes to dissociative amnesia, the most common occurrence is when someone blocks out a specific event. Usually, this is a traumatic event or series of traumatic events.

Amnesia can be particularly disconcerting because the person experiencing it can slip in and out of it as though in a “black-out” state.

Understanding Identity Confusion

Identity confusion is when someone struggles to understand who they are. They often find themselves engaging in activities that are wholly unlike them.

For example, a person may become excited when engaging in activities that they otherwise would find objectionable. This could be substance or alcohol use, violent acts, or risky sexual behaviors.

Understanding Identity Alteration

Identity alteration is what many people think of when they think of DID and dissociation. This is also where the “multiple personality” moniker first derived from.

Identity alteration is when a person feels separated from different parts of themself. This separation is often represented by a shift in personality or an “alteration” of persona. These shifts can also come on very suddenly and disappear just as fast.

Identity alteration can also manifest in such a way that the individual may believe that they are living in a different time in their lives. For example, they may feel as though they are a version of their younger selves. These alterations can also take on physical changes, such as a change in voice, use of accents, and different types of body articulations and facial expressions.

Treating All Types of Dissociation at The Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we know that DID and the various types of dissociation have long been stigmatized. This is why we not only treat dissociative disorders but also work diligently to inform the public and eliminate the stigmas that surround them.

Our aim is that with the right types of treatment and comprehensive recovery plans those struggling with dissociative disorders can get back to feeling like themselves again; because everyone deserves a chance to be whoever they really are, and whoever they truly wish to be.

If you feel like you or someone you love may be struggling with a dissociative disorder or any other issues of mental illness, don’t wait to call. We can help you and your loved ones get on the road to recovery. For more information on some evidence-based treatments for alleviating dissociation, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT