Dissociative disorders are a range of conditions that can cause physical and psychological problems.

Although some dissociative disorder are very short-lived, perhaps following a traumatic life event, and resolve on their own over a matter of weeks or months, others can last much longer.



Dissociation is a way the mind copes with too much stress.

People who dissociate may feel disconnected from themselves and the world around them. Someone with a dissociative disorder may also have problems with movement, sensation, seizures or periods of memory loss.

They may also feel uncertain about who they are and have many different identities.



There are 3 main types of dissociative disorders.

  • dissociative disorders of movement or sensation
  • dissociative amnesia
  •  dissociative identity disorder

Dissociative disorders of movement and sensation include convulsions (seizures, paralysis and a loss of sensation. There does not appear to be a physical cause, but it seems to be the result of a communication problem within the brain.

Someone with dissociative amnesia will have periods where they cannot remember information about themselves or events in their past life.

They may also forget a learned talent or skill, like the ability the complete Rainbow Road without falling off the edge!

These gaps in memory are much more severe than normal forgetfulness and are not the result of an underlying medical condition.

Dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personality disorder as you may have heard it refer to, is an unusual disorder.

Someone diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder may feel uncertain about their identity and who they are. They may feel like a stranger to themselves, feel like there are different people within you and refer to themselves as “we”.

The causes of dissociative disorders are poorly understood. They may be related to a previous traumatic experience, or a tendency to develop more physical than psychological symptoms when stressed or distressed.



If a GP thinks you have a dissociative disorder, they’ll refer you to a mental health specialist for a full assessment.

They may also contact a medical specialist, such as a specialist in conditions affecting the nervous system, to make sure you’re examined to make the correct diagnosis.

Talking therapies are often recommended for dissociative disorders, and although there’s no specific medicine to treat dissociation, medicines like antidepressants may be prescribed to treat associated conditions like depression, anxiety and panic attacks.