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.

Your stories

Dissociative disorder: losing myself and finding myself

James describes his experiences of living with dissociative disorder and how he managed to re-find himself.

Posted on 30/10/2014

Depersonalisation: My four months of terror

Callum talks about his experiences of depersonalisation and how confronting it helped him address his anxiety.

Posted on 12/09/2018

My Christmas with BPD

Kayleigh blogs on how her black-or-white thinking makes Christmas really difficult.

Kayleigh
Posted on 30/11/2016

What treatments can help?

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

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 therapy

Talking therapies 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 finding a therapist and getting the most from therapy for more information.

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.

EMDR and dissociative disorders

Eye movement desensitation and reprocessing (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 know about treating dissociative disorders.

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. These problems may include depression, anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal feelings, hearing voices and OCD.

These medications 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 part of your identity, experiences the problem you want to treat.


This information was published in March 2019. We will revise it in 2022.


Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z

Training

Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> Find out more

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today