Dissociative disorders

Explains what dissociative disorders are, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

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What treatments can help?

This page has information on treatments which may be able to help if you have a dissociative disorder.

Can I recover from a dissociative disorder?

Yes - if you have the right diagnosis and treatment, there is a good chance you will recover. This might mean that you stop experiencing dissociative symptoms and any separate parts of your identity merge to become one sense of self.

Not everyone will stop experiencing dissociative symptoms completely but treatment can help you feel more in control of your life and your identity. Some people find that being able to dissociate is comforting and don't feel ready to stop dissociating completely.

Talking treatments

Talking treatments are the recommended treatment for dissociative disorders. Counselling or psychotherapy will help you explore traumatic events in your past, help you understand why you dissociate and develop alternative coping mechanisms. It can also help you manage your emotions and your relationships.

Slowly my other parts are telling me about their memories of my abuse and I am telling them about my life now and, bit by bit, we are piecing things together and working through it with the help of counselling.

Accessing therapy

Most talking treatments for dissociative disorders take several years, but unfortunately in most areas the NHS offers short or medium term therapy. This isn't usually effective in treating dissociative disorders.

You may need to be very persistent to get the right help from the NHS, or consider alternative ways to access treatment. An advocate may be able to help. See our pages on advocacy and making yourself heard for more information.

You might want to seek therapy outside the NHS:

Choosing a therapist

Not all therapists are familiar with dissociation or working with trauma. It may take time to find a therapist that feels right for you.

It's absolutely fine to meet with as many therapists as you need to find the one you want to work with. The therapist you choose should be:

  • accepting of your experience
  • willing to work with or learn to work with dissociation and trauma
  • be prepared to work with you long term

See our pages on talking treatments for more information on choosing a therapist.

I have learnt ways to control it and have began to be able to explore my feelings about my past without using dissociation to cope with it.

Medication

There are no drugs that are licensed to treat dissociation. Your doctor might offer you psychiatric medication to treat other symptoms or problems you might experience because of - or as well as - a dissociative disorder, such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal feelings, hearing voices and OCD.

These might include:

You will only be given medication for dissociative identity disorder (DID) if most of the different parts of your identity (or at least the dominant one) experiences the problem you want to treat.

Can eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) be used to treat dissociative disorders?

EMDR was created to help people process traumatic memories. But standard EMDR is not helpful for most people with dissociative disorders and the treatment should be adjusted to make it safe and effective. EMDR for dissociative disorders focuses on specific individual memories and usually for shorter time periods.

This helps make it less intense and prevents too many traumatic memories appearing too quickly (flooding). It should only be used when you are feeling reasonably stable and by professionals who are knowledgeable about treating dissociative disorders.

 


This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

 


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