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.
Talking therapies are the recommended treatment for dissociative disorders. Counselling or psychotherapy can help you to feel safer in yourself. A therapist can help you to explore and process traumatic events from the past, which can help you understand why you dissociate. They can also support you in developing new ways of managing your emotions and your relationships.
Slowly my other parts are telling me about their memories of my abuse and I'm telling them about my life now and, bit by bit, we're piecing things together and working through it with the help of counselling.
Most talking treatments for dissociative disorders take several years. Unfortunately, the NHS mostly offers short-term 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 may also want to seek therapy outside the NHS. You can search for therapists who specialise in dissociative disorders on the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) or British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) websites.
Some private therapists offer a 'sliding scale' of fees for those on a low income. If you're on a low income, it’s worth asking a therapist if they have low-cost places available.
Choosing a therapist
Not all therapists are familiar with dissociation. Some therapists may not have experience of working with trauma. So it may take time to find a therapist who 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
- Someone who makes you feel safe
I have learnt ways to control it and have begun to explore my feelings about my past without using dissociation to cope with it.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) was created to help people process traumatic memories. Standard EMDR is not helpful for most people with dissociative disorders. The treatment should be adjusted to make it safe and effective. EMDR for dissociative disorders focuses on specific memories for shorter time periods.
Working in this way helps to prevent too many traumatic memories appearing too quickly, which is sometimes known as flooding. This can make the experience feel less intense. EMDR should only be used when you're feeling reasonably stable and by professionals who know about treating dissociative disorders.
There are no drugs licensed to treat dissociation specifically. Your doctor might offer you psychiatric medication to treat other problems you may experience alongside dissociation. These problems may include depression, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal feelings, hearing voices and OCD.
These medications might include:
You'll only be offered medication for dissociative identity disorder (DID) if the dominant parts of your identity experience the problem you want to treat.
This information was published in January 2023. We will revise it in 2026.
References and bibliography available on request.
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