What are dissociative disorders?
You may be diagnosed with a dissociative disorder if you experience dissociation regularly, and if these episodes of dissociation are severe enough to affect your everyday life.
You might experience dissociation and find it difficult to cope with even if you don’t have a dissociative disorder. For example it might be a symptom of another mental health problem. You can still seek help for this.
This section has information on different types of dissociative disorder:
Dissociative identity disorder (DID)
Dissociative identity disorder used to be called ‘multiple personality disorder’.
If you have dissociative identity disorder you will experience severe changes in your identity. Different aspects (states) of your identity may be in control of your behaviour and thoughts at different times. This can happen in various ways:
- Each of your identity states may have different patterns of thinking and relating to the world.
- Your identity states may come across as different ages and genders.
- You may feel you have one ‘main’ part of your identity that feels most like ‘you’ – some people call this a host identity.
- The different parts of your identity may have memories or experiences that conflict with each other.
- Some people refer to these different parts of your identity as alters or parts.
- You might not have control over when different parts of your identity take over.
- You may experience amnesia, which means you don’t remember what happens when another part of your identity is in control.
You can visit the Hong Kong Association Concerning Dissociative Disorders, (HKACDC) website for more information about DID.
“I have many separate, distinct and unique ‘parts’ of my personality. My ‘parts’ or ‘alters’ collectively add up to the total person that is me… They are each a letter, and I am a sentence.”
Do I have multiple personalities?
Dissociative identity disorder is still sometimes called multiple personality disorder (MPD). This is because many people experience the changes in parts of their identity as completely separate personalities in one body. In fact, the parts of your identity are all part of one personality but they are not joined up or working together as a whole.
Dissociative identity disorder is not a personality disorder. It is the result of a natural way of coping with sustained childhood trauma. Our page on the causes of dissociative disorders has more information.
Looking after yourself with dissociative identity disorder (DID) DID can make looking after yourself harder. You might find that different parts of your identity have different needs. You may need to use different techniques for coping and looking after yourself, depending on which part of your identity is in control. If something isn’t working for you, or doesn’t feel possible just now, you can try something else, or come back to it another time.
For more information about coping with a dissociative disorder, see our page on self-care.
Other dissociative disorders
There are a number of other dissociative disorders. The diagnosis you are given will depend on the symptoms you experience most and how these affect your life.
These are the main symptoms or characteristics of each disorder:
|If you have…||You will…|
|depersonalisation or derealisation disorder||experience regular depersonalisation or derealisation.|
|dissociative amnesia||be unable to remember important information about who you are, your life history or specific events.|
|dissociative amnesia with fugue||experience a state of mind where you forget everything about who you are (a fugue). In the fugue you may travel to a new location and act like a different person in a different life.|
|other specified dissociative disorder (OSDD)||have dissociative symptoms that don’t fit into any other diagnosis. The person making your diagnosis will explain why your symptoms don’t fit into any other diagnosis.|
|unspecified dissociative disorder (UDD)||have dissociative symptoms that don’t fit into any other diagnosis but the person making your diagnosis hasn’t explained why not or doesn’t have enough information to make a full diagnosis (for example in an emergency).|
Other mental health problems
Many people with dissociative disorders have other mental health problems too. These can include:
- borderline personality disorder
- anxiety and panic attacks
- suicidal feelings
- hearing voices
They may be related to dissociation or they could be a separate problem.