Trauma and Disassociation

Dissociation is a mental process where a person disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories, or sense of identity. Dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalisation disorder, and dissociative identity disorder.

How common is it?

Dissociative disorders have been previously believed to be rare. However, a recent analysis of international studies suggestion up to 10-11% of the population can be affected at some point in their lives – making it nearly as common as mood disorders. Read the study here.

Are there different types of disassociation?

There are four main types of dissociative disorders: 

  • Dissociative amnesia is when a person can’t remember the details of a traumatic or stressful event, although they do realise, they are experiencing memory loss. This is also known as psychogenic amnesia.  
  • Dissociative fugue is also known as psychogenic fugue. The person suddenly, and without any warning, can’t remember who they are and has no memory of their past. They don’t realise they are experiencing memory loss and may invent a new identity.  
  • Depersonalisation disorder is characterised by feeling detached from one’s life, thoughts and feelings. People with this type of disorder say they feel distant and emotionally unconnected to themselves, as if they are watching a character in a boring movie.  
  • Dissociative identity disorder (DID) was previously called multiple personality disorder, and typically involves the co-existence of two or more personality states within the same person. While the different personality states influence the person’s behaviour, the person is usually not aware of these personality states and experiences them as memory lapses. The other states may have different body language, voice tone, outlook on life and memories. The person may switch to another personality state when under stress. A person who has dissociative identity disorder almost always has dissociative amnesia too.