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Dissociative Disorders

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Dissociative Disorders

Separation of self. Forgetting who you are. Unable to remember who your family is.

This is a scary scenario. Unfortunately, it is a reality for those who suffer from a dissociative disorder. Those who suffer from this disorder have experienced trauma and as a result, they completely separate mentally from themselves.

  • What is a dissociative disorder?
  • What are symptoms of dissociative disorders?
  • What are the types of dissociative disorders?
  • How are dissociative disorders treated?

What is a Dissociative Disorder in Psychology?

Dissociation is a common response from our psyche so that emotions can be processed. However, a massive separation from self is considered a dissociative disorder.

Dissociative Disorders self split between a man and a woman StudySmarterseparation of self, flaticon.com

In psychology, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a disorder where a person will exhibit two or more distinct personalities that alternate. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Dissociative Disorder Symptoms

Those affected usually have two very distinct personalities, each with its own behaviorism and voice. Most often, individuals with dissociative identity disorder are not violent individuals, but society and depictions in news and popular culture have shaped this disorder into one that seems unpredictable and dark.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has distinct diagnostic criteria for dissociative disorders. These criteria involve the inclusion of what seems to be two or more personalities. These personalities have their behaviors, genders, memories, perceptions, and cognition.

The person who may be affected reports large or frequent gaps in memory. It is likely that the unremembered events involve a traumatic episode or series of events that the patient experienced. These symptoms will also cause a ripple effect into the personal, work, and social lives of the person who may present these symptoms. Also, the DSM-5 mentions that these symptoms are not brought on by drug or substance abuse, or from a medical condition such as seizures.

As with most psychological disorders, there are possible factors that may make them difficult to diagnose. With dissociative disorder, there are cultural implications that should be considered. In some religions, for example, the fragmentation of personalities could be considered an effect of possession by deities, spirits, or mythical creatures. The question of what is "normal" or "culturally accepted" comes to question when making a diagnosis of dissociative disorder.

Examples of Dissociative Disorder in Psychology

A famous case of DID was that of Kenneth Bianchi. Nicknamed the "Hillside Strangler", he raped and murdered 10 women in California. After his arrest, a psychologist named John Watkins performed a therapy session involving hypnosis. Watkins uncovered a hidden personality within Bianchi named Steve, who would respond to Watkins' questioning. "Steve" admitted to the murders and mentioned that Kenneth knew nothing of the happenings and was innocent. These findings posed many questions to the public, and the psychology world.

Was this a ruse to keep Kenneth from being persecuted? Is a split in personality something that could affect another individual?

Causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder

We have already mentioned that a very stressful and impactful event is the usual cause of dissociative identity disorder. But what happens after the stressful event? How does it manifest into DID?

Research claims to have found a connection within the body and brain that supports a differentiation in personalities. Studies have shown that eye-muscle balance shifts as the patient's personalities shift. The same can be said of handedness; a patient who is usually right-handed switched to being left-handed when his other personality was in "control". Most surprisingly, those who were diagnosed with DID showed brain activity in the part of the brain that is associated with control and inhibition of traumatic memories (Myers, 2014).

Why did this happen?

Abuse, sexual abuse, war trauma, natural disasters: These are some of the traumas associated with a dissociative identity disorder. The emotional and psychological toll from these traumas is so great that a separation in cognitive awareness becomes a way to cope. This energy has no outlet for the individual; therefore, the person's mind creates a persona that can act out impulses brought on by high anxiety.

The Four Types of Dissociative Disorders

There have been four identified dissociative disorders; dissociative fugue, dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalization disorder. Each of these has its own set of symptoms and effects on the person who is diagnosed.

Dissociative Fugue

This type of dissociative disorder seems to manifest without warning. The person is unable to remember who they are and has no memory of the past. The person who is experiencing this also has no clue that it is happening. The person's mind creates a new identity as the lapse is happening. Once the episode passes, the person will have no memory of the new identity or of the events that occurred.

Dissociative Amnesia

This type is different in that the person affected is unable to remember the traumatic event leading up to their dissociative amnesia episode (and is aware that they can not remember the traumatic episode). Also, this episode can last for a few days or up to many years. There are four subcategories of dissociative amnesia; generalized amnesia, localized amnesia, selective amnesia, and systemized amnesia.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Previously called multiple personality disorder, DID is shrouded in controversy. There is usually a manifestation of two separate personalities, neither of which is aware of the other personality and their behaviors. It is when under severe stress that there is a sudden switch in personality. Also, this other personality often manifests with a different set of behaviors, voice tones, or memories.

Depersonalization Disorder

Those with depersonalization disorder often feel separate from their feelings, thoughts, and overall life. They feel so separated from their lives, it is as if they are watching their lives in a movie. An individual with this disorder will also have difficulty recognizing themselves in a mirror.

Treating Dissociative Disorders

There is a lack of knowledge of dissociative disorders and how they manifest; the same can be said about treatment approaches. The choice in treatment is most often based on individual case studies. The most evident approach to help is psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis and cognitive therapies are long-term counseling options. In these counseling sessions, stress management is applied so that possible triggers can be avoided. Pharmacologically speaking, barbiturates are used to help calm the immense amount of anxiety typical of individuals with DID.

Psychological Functions of Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders serve as a coping mechanism. Those who have suffered great trauma in life often have the potential to be diagnosed with these disorders. They are ways for a person to cope with the anxieties and deep feelings associated with those traumas. Essentially, they are an outlet.

Psychodynamic theorists see these disorders as a defense mechanism against sudden impulsive behaviors brought on by traumatic stress.

Dissociative Disorders - Key takeaways

  • In psychology, a dissociative identity disorder (DID) is when a person will exhibit two or more distinct personalities that alternate.
  • Dissociative identity disorder (DID) was once known as multiple personality disorder.
  • There are four identified dissociative disorders; dissociative fugue, dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalization disorder.
  • DID is brought on by severe traumatic stressors.
  • Dissociative disorders are a way for a person to cope with the anxieties and deep feelings that are associated with those traumas and are an outlet.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a disorder where a person will exhibit two or more distinct personalities that alternate with each other.

Abuse, sexual abuse, war trauma, natural disasters are all implicated. The emotional and psychological toll from these traumas is so great that a way to cope is a separation in cognitive awareness.

The choice in treatment is most often based on individual case studies. The most evident approach to help is psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis and cognitive therapies are long-term counseling options. Pharmacologically speaking, barbiturates are used to help calm the immense amount of anxiety that is typical of individuals with DID.

Dissociative fugue, dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalization disorder.

Dissociative disorders serve as a coping mechanism. Often those who have suffered great trauma in life are those who have the potential to be diagnosed with these disorders. Dissociative disorders are a way for a person to cope with the anxieties and deep feelings that are associated with those traumas, and are an outlet.

Final Dissociative Disorders Quiz

Question

In psychology, a ______ is a disorder where a person will exhibit two or more distinct personalities that alternate.

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Answer

Dissociative identity disorder (DID)

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Question

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) was once known as ______.

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Answer

multiple personality disorder

Show question

Question

There are four identified dissociative disorders. What are they?

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Answer

Dissociative fugue, dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalization disorder.

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Question

Dissociative identity disorder is brought on by _______.


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Answer

severe traumatic stressors


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Question

What is the common amount of personalities a person suffering from DID will have?

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Answer

Most often only two

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Question

What is one example of a famous case of dissociative disorder?

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Answer

Kenneth Bianchi, also known as the "Hillside strangler".

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What are some possible treatments for DID?

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Answer

Psychotherapy and the use of barbiturates. 

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Question

What psychological function does dissociative identity disorder serve?

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Answer

Dissociative disorders serve as a coping mechanism. Dissociative disorders are a way for a person to cope with the anxieties and deep feelings that are associated with significant and deep trauma, and are an outlet.

Show question

Question

There are four subcategories of dissociative amnesia. What are they?

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Answer

Generalized amnesia, localized amnesia, selective amnesia, and systemized amnesia.

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Question

What are some symptoms associated with dissociative fugue?

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Answer

The person is unable to remember who they are and has no memory of the past. The person who is experiencing this also has no clue that it is happening. As this lapse is happening, the person's mind creates a new identity. Once the episode seems to pass, the person will have no memory of the new identity or of the events that occurred.

Show question

Question

What are some symptoms of dissociative amnesia?

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Answer

This type is different in that the person affected is unable to remember the traumatic event leading up to their dissociative amnesia episode (and is aware that they can not remember the traumatic episode). This episode can last for a few days, or even many years.

Show question

Question

What are some symptoms of dissociative identity disorder?

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Answer

There is usually a manifestation of two separate personalities, where neither one is aware of the other personality and its behaviors. Severe stress causes the sudden switch in personality. The other personality often has a different set of behaviors, voice tones, or memories.

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Question

What are some symptoms of depersonalization disorder? 

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Answer

Those with depersonalization disorder often feel separate from their feelings, thoughts, and overall life. It is often described that they feel so separate from their lives, it is as though they are watching their lives in a movie. An individual with this disorder will also have difficulty recognizing themselves in a mirror.

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Question

What is alternating personality disorder?

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Answer

Trick question! That doesn't exist. 

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Is violence a symptom of DID?

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Answer

No! That is a common misconception due to media representation. 

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Why do patients with DID have memory loss?

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Answer

They most often repressed the traumatic event(s) that resulted in them developing DID

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Can substances cause someone to dissociate?

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Answer

Yes and it would be DID

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Question

Does culture matter when diagnosing someone with DID?

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Answer

Yes. There are some cultures who view multiple personalities as a possession from a higher power, while other cultures view multiple personalities as cursed. 

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Can DID cause any other changes to a person besides their personality?

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Answer

It can cause them to write with their right hand instead of left (and vice-versa)

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Which is not a common reason for someone developing DID?

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Divorce

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How is dissociative fugue different from dissociative amnesia?

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Fugue: Bob completely forgets who he is and his entire past. Bob makes up a completely new identity.

Amnesia: Bob completely forgets the traumatic event. 

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Question

How is dissociative fugue different from dissociative identity disorder?

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Answer

Fugue: Lamorne can't remember who he is and creates a completely new identity during the episode. 

Identity disorder: Lamorne will switch to an alternate personality when stressed. 

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In DID, do the personalities know they the others exist?

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Answer

No

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Question

How is dissociative amnesia different from depersonalization disorder?

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Answer

Amnesia: Mai cannot remember the traumatic event that led her to develop a dissociative disorder. 

Depersonalization: Mai feels like she is completely separate from her life and feelings. 

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Question

In which dissociative disorder is someone unable to recognize themselves in a mirror?

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Answer

Dissociative Fugue

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Question

In which dissociative disorder does someone create a new identity and personality on the spot?

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Answer

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

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Why and how does DID happen?

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Answer

Stress and trauma

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Is there a treatment that is 100% effective for dissociative disorders?

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Answer

Nope! Not much is known about the treatment of dissociative disorders. 

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Why is psychotherapy a recommended treatment for dissociative disorders?

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Answer

People learn stress management so stress does not trigger their dissociative disorder 

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Why are barbiturates a recommended treatment for dissociative disorders?

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Answer

They help ease anxiety to lower stress levels

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Question

________ is the capacity to detach one's experiences, thoughts, or personality from a conscious state.

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Answer

Dissociation

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Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) was previously called?

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Multiple personality disorder

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The different identities are called:


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Alters

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True or false? Dissociative Identity Disorder happens most commonly to victims of childhood abuse.


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Answer

True

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Question

Dissociative Identity Disorder manifests itself in what two ways?


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Possession and non-possession

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This symptom occurs when the person loses his sense of agency, where he is instead a viewer of his behavior, word, thoughts, and feelings.


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Answer

Depersonalization

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What are the three signs of an identity change?


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Answer

Trance-like state

Eye movements

Postural changes

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A person with DID sees his cupboard replenished, but he doesn't remember going to the grocery the other day. Which DID symptom is described in this situation?


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Answer

Amnesia

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Which situation can occur in a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder?


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An angry identity can cause violent behavior and harm others

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Which describes hallucination in Dissociative Identity Disorder?


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Answer

Hallucinatory symptoms seem to originate from an alternate identity

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Question

People who suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder are more vulnerable to ________ and _________.


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Answer

hypnosis and dissociation

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Question

True or false. A child's identity emerges over time due to multiple influences and experiences.


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Answer

True

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True or false. Substance abuse can cause Dissociative Identity Disorder.


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Answer

False

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What is the treatment goal for Dissociative Identity Disorder?


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Answer

The treatment goal is to help the patient integrate his multiple personalities into a single, coherent self. 

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Which is the most common treatment strategy for DID?


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Psychotherapy

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True or false. Dissociative amnesia is memory loss resulting from medical conditions such as stroke.

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Answer

False

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Which is correct? A person with dissociative amnesia:

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Answer

Feels agitated when others bring back to mind the traumatic memory

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True or false. Dissociative amnesia is usually reversible.

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Answer

True

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Which of the following aspects are not affected by dissociative amnesia?


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Answer

Physical traits

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Question

What is the most common symptom of dissociative amnesia?

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Answer

Memory loss

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