This article will offer education about dissociative disorders, including how to identify them through a test and explore treatment options.
Dissociative disorders can interfere with some aspects of daily life. Dissociative disorders are a category of mental health disorders characterized by disruptions or discontinuities in terms of your:
- Motor control
- Body representation
Without treatment for dissociative disorders, the symptoms can disrupt all areas of your psychological functioning. If you or someone close to you is worried about possible symptoms, you can take a dissociative disorder test to help.
Understanding Dissociative Disorders
There are three main types of dissociative disorders, each of which has similar prevalence throughout the US.
Depersonalization/derealization disorder is when an individual experiences persistent or recurrent experiences where they are:
- Detached from their self, their body, or mind
- Detached from their surroundings or their reality
Prevalence: Between 1-2% of adults struggle with depersonalization/derealization disorder.
Dissociative amnesia is when an individual is unable to recall their autobiographical information. These amnesia can be:
- Localized, where an individual does not remember information about a period of time or an event
- Selective, where an individual does not remember specific aspects of events
- Generalized, where an individual does not remember their identity or the history of their life
Some people with dissociative amnesia are aware that they have gaps in their memory or fragmented memory, particularly if the dissociation is the result of a traumatic event. However, most people who have a dissociative disorder are unaware of the gaps in their memory, or they make excuses for their fragmented memory.
Prevalence: 1.8% of Americans struggle with dissociative amnesia.
Dissociative identity disorder
Dissociative identity disorder is where an individual has:
- Two or more distinct personalities
- Recurrent episodes of dissociative amnesia
Those with dissociative identity disorder may also have symptoms like:
- Intrusions into the consciousness include:
- Have dissociated actions or speech
- Intrusive thoughts, emotions, or impulses
- Alterations to the sense of self
- Changes to attitude
- Changes to personal preferences
- Feeling as though actions or emotions are not their own
- Odd changes to perception
- Feeling detached, as though watching themselves from outside of their body
- Intermittent neurological symptoms
Prevalence: Around 1.5% of Americans suffer from dissociative identity disorder.
The Dissociative Disorder Test
Is there a dissociative disorders test?
There is no specific dissociative disorder test. However, there are tests that can be used to confirm a diagnosis, including a physical exam and a mental health exam.
The physical exam takes place with a healthcare professional who talks with you about your personal history and your health in order to rule out other physical conditions that could cause separations from reality or amnesia.
It’s important to complete a physical exam because this helps rule out things like:
- Brain diseases
- Head injury
- Severe sleep loss
- Substance abuse
Then, there’s the mental health exam, which takes place with a mental health professional specializing in dissociative disorders. During this assessment, you’ll talk about how you feel, how you think, what your behavior is, and what symptoms you experience. This serves a significant purpose, much the same as the physical exam because it helps to rule out other potential mental health disorders that might be responsible for some or all of your symptoms.
Both of these tests work hand in hand to determine whether any other explanation is out there and what specific symptoms you struggle with the most. This is very important because it paves the way for receiving the right treatment for dissociative disorders.
Early detection is important because it helps you build a trusting relationship with your therapist as part of your treatment plan and work through individual symptoms in the most effective way possible.
Treatment for Dissociative Disorders
Once you take a dissociative disorder test and have a diagnosis, it is time to consider treatment options. Treatment for dissociative disorders can involve two things:
- Non-medical approach
Medication for dissociative disorder
There is no specific medication for dissociative disorder. However, you might be prescribed other medications to help with some of the mental health symptoms you experience, including:
- Anti-anxiety medication
Treatment for dissociative disorders centers heavily around psychotherapy. Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the primary form of treatment, and it involves reframing your relationship with your disorder by:
- Reviewing individual causes or contributing factors
- Setting up long-term coping strategies to deal with things like stress
- Talking with a therapist about painful, distressing, or otherwise traumatic things that may have resulted in a dissociative disorder
Talk therapy can help you feel safer within yourself, explore things in your background that may lead to your dissociative symptoms, and learn how to better manage not only your emotions but also your relationships moving forward.
If your dissociative disorder relates to PTSD, one of the most common PTSD treatments is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is the most commonly used treatment by the World Health Organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs to help deal with trauma by changing the way the brain stores disruptive memories.
These traumatic memories don’t get processed correctly, which means they can continue to manifest and trigger you throughout everyday situations, but with EMDR therapy, you don’t have to talk directly about your experience. Instead, you can simply recall the events of your traumatic experience while a professional changes your eye movements by having you follow certain steps. This helps your brain to save those memories correctly.
Dissociative disorders come in a handful of varieties, each of which has traumatic impacts on your psychological and social well-being. With a dissociative disorders test, you can confirm whether or not you are struggling with this mental health condition and, from there, get the right medication or treatment to better manage symptoms. With help from professionals, you can change your relationship to the things that are currently interfering with your potential to live a happy and fulfilling life. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need, today.