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Dissociation and dissociative disorders

Explains what dissociation and 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.

This page is for friends and family who want to support someone with dissociation or a dissociative disorder.

It can be hard to see someone you care about experiencing dissociation. But family and friends can really help. This page has some suggestions for ways you can support the person you care about, while also looking after your own wellbeing.

Try to be patient and understanding in daily life

  • If somebody you care about experiences dissociation, they may not always respond to you as you'd expect.
  • Ask them what would help. But be aware that they may not always know or be able to tell you.
  • If they want to tell you about their experience, try to listen with acceptance.
  • Touching and intimacy can be difficult for some people. It might help to ask them what's OK and talk about this together.

Having understanding family and friends helps me.

Think about how to deal with identity alteration

  • If they experience identity alteration you may have to communicate with different parts of their identity at different times.
  • You may need to develop different ways of managing when different parts of their identity are taking over. It may help to try and find some way of relating to each part of their identity.
  • Try to stay calm. It will help if you can be a safe and soothing presence, even if they're upset, angry or scared.

Help them to find the right support

You can:

  • Help them find an advocate and support them to meet with different therapists
  • Offer extra support and understanding before and after therapy sessions
  • Help them make a crisis plan if they think it would be helpful

There may be times when you can't offer them the support they need. Think about who's the best person to contact at these times. Have a look at our information on supporting someone to seek help.

Think about how you could help keep them safe

  • Your loved one may have triggers that bring on dissociative symptoms and flashbacks. Understanding their triggers means you can help them avoid them, or feel more prepared for dissociative symptoms when they occur.
  • You may want to offer them support with grounding activities. You could offer to help your loved one figure out what works best for them, and gently remind them to use the techniques they find helpful. 
  • If someone you love is hurting themselves or struggling with suicidal thoughts, it can feel really scary. See our pages on supporting someone who is suicidal, and on supporting someone who's self-harming for more information.
  • There might be times where your loved one needs extra help to stay safe. Talk to them about what situations they might need extra support with, and what you can do to help.


Look after yourself

It's important to make sure you look after yourself, too.

This information was published in January 2023. We will revise it in 2026.  

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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