Traumatic events or seemingly unsolvable problems can lead to psychic reaction known as dissociative disorder. It is characterized by a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity. People with a dissociative disorder experience their body or the world around them as unreal and they are uncertain about who they are. They could feel like having many different identities which often leads to problems with functioning in everyday life. They may escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy.
Signs and symptoms of dissociative disorder could include memory loss (amnesia) of certain time periods, events and people, an inability to recall key personal information that is too far-reaching to be explained as mere forgetfulness, a sense of being detached from yourself and a blurred sense of identity. Along with the dissociation and multiple or split personalities people may also experience depression, mood swings, sleep disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders and more.
Dissociative disorder is separated into three major disorders:
1. Dissociative amnesia: People with this disorder are blocking out critical personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature. They can’t recall information about themselves or events and people in their life, especially from a traumatic time. These gaps in memory are much more severe than normal forgetfulness, and are not the result of an underlying medical condition.
2. Dissociative identity disorder: This disorder is characterized by alternate identities. People may feel the presence of one or more other people talking or living inside their head and a feeling as though they are possessed by other identities. This disorder was formerly known as multiple personality disorder and it is the most famous of the dissociative disorders. People with dissociative identity disorder typically also have dissociative amnesia and often have dissociative fugue.
3. Depersonalization-derealization disorder: People with this disorder experience a feeling of being outside themselves. They observe their actions, feelings and thoughts from a distance as though watching a movie. A person with depersonalization disorder has this experience so frequently and so severely that it interrupts his or her functioning and experience.
The main causes for dissociative disorder are traumatic events in the past such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse suffered during childhood, although some people ‘dissociate’ after experiencing war, kidnapping or even an invasive medical procedure. Switching off from reality is a normal defense mechanism to cope during a traumatic time but it becomes dysfunctional when the environment is no longer traumatic but the person still acts and lives as if it is.
The primary treatment for dissociative disorder is psychotherapy. The psychotherapist will help the patient to understand the cause of the condition and to form new ways of coping with stressful circumstances. A person with dissociative disorder might also benefit from drugs such as antidepressants or antianxiety medication. These medications can help to control the mental health symptoms associated with dissociative disorders.
Knowing from long years of experience that neurological or psychiatric illnesses are very often considered to be better not mentioned or talked about, we would nonetheless like to introduce you briefly to the world of neurology and psychiatry. There are no other medical sciences that have achieved more progress and improvement over the past decades than these. Especially the “Decade of the brain” led to a definite change for the better in diagnostics and therapies. Today we can offer a wide range of modern diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities for nearly all psychiatric and neurological disorders. Yet, when it comes to neurological deficits or mental illness there are still many prejudices and unnecessary fears prevalent.
Whereas usually everybody accepts the fact that illness is normal and happens to everyone from time to time, normal illnesses are most often considered to be solely physical such as a broken leg, colds, diarrhoea or similar. Diabetes mellitus is as normal an illness as is backache or headache.
Illnesses of the brain, the psyche or neurological deficiencies are also as normal as any other illnesses and moreover, they are not only very common but on the increase. Their patterns may sometimes be worrying or frightening but this is largely due to a huge lack of information in general public.
According to the study “The Global Burden of disease” carried out by the WHO (World Health Organization) depression for instance is the most important disease of all, more important even than diseases of the heart, asthma or cancer. And yet, the majority of people suffering from depression do not seek professional help or are not treated sufficiently. We should therefore not only like to contribute to health education but we offer practical help and assistance to everyone suffering from or fearing psychiatric and/or neurological disorders.