Dissociative disorders

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Dissociative disorders are disorders primarily characterized by dissociation, which is a wide range of alterations to consciousness, experienced as mild detachment from the environment to extreme detachment from the self.


Dissociation is a response to stress. It is a symptom of PTSD and result of traumas.

Dissociative states can be produced by:

  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis
  • Intense emotional/physiological experiences (childbirth, drugs, etc.)
  • Drug ingestion
  • Religious experiences
  • Flow states - an autopilot of doing a typical repetitive job
  • Zoned out in front of the TV

Dissociation occurs on a continuum - normal, everyday vs. altered dissociative states vs. dissociative disorders

  • Split in your attention
  • May lack insight into dissociation if severe
  • Disorders involve major disruptions to functioning, are considered abnormalities or pathologies
  • Severity of dissociative experience is not the only consideration whether you have a dissociative disorder

If dissociation gets into way of life, it is either a dissociative disorder or a symptom of another disorder.

Dissociation is quite common - related to hypnotizability.

Examples of natural hypnosis include:

  • Blanking out during a conversation
  • Drove home on “autopilot”

Dissociation of this sort is normal from time to time, but may still be stress-related.

Dissociation itself is well-documented and not controversial, in contrast to the dissociative disorders, which are controversial.

Dissociative disorder list