Dissociative Disorders and PTSD

 Dissociation is a disconnection between the person and their consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, body representation, motor control and behaviour (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).  It is “a defence mechanism in which conflicting impulses are kept apart or threatening ideas and feelings are separated from the rest of the psyche” (APA Dictionary of Psychology, 2020). Dissociation becomes a disorder when it affects the normal functions of the human being without being in a situation in which the person is in danger, there is no need for the line of defence. The DSM-5 classifies dissociative disorders into 3 types: Depersonalisation - derealisation disorder, Dissociative identity disorder, and dissociative amnesia. 

Some of the most common risk factors for developing a dissociative disorder is previous trauma, such as chid abuse, natural disasters, war, crimes, as it is considered to be a coping strategy for the victims (Matthew Tull, 2019). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is closely linked with dissociative disorders for this very reason. Some of the difference between the two is that age does not seem to affect the development of PTSD, while it does in dissociative disorders, these being more common in children (Matthew Tull, 2019).

To be able to diagnose both PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder there has to be dissociative symptoms that are not exclusive part of PTSD. Some of the common dissociative symptoms in PTSD what can also occur is amnesia for some aspects of the trauma, flashbacks of trauma, symptoms of intrusion and avoidance (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Dissociative Identity Disorder can have amnesias of everyday life not only of the past traumatic event, flashbacks followed by amnesia of the flashbacks, intrusions that are not related tot he trauma (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). 

These dissociative disorders also have high rates of attempted suicide, over 70% of outpatients with dissociative identity disorder having attempted (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The treatment for dissociation and PTSD are centred around psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy and even some medications if the situation warrants them (Matthew Tull, 2019). 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

APA Dictionary of Psychology. (2020). Dictionary.apa.org. https://dictionary.apa.org/dissociation

Matthew Tull. (2019). The Double-Edged Sword of Childhood Trauma and Dissociation. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-trauma-can-lead-to-dissociative-disorders-2797534

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