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.

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

Creative wellbeing

Ella blogs about crafting as a coping strategy and the satisfaction of making something from scratch

Posted on 30/09/2015

How my befriender made the world of difference

Janice blogs on why she's supporting our Life Support campaign

Posted on 05/04/2016

How can I help myself cope?

This page offers some practical suggestions for looking after yourself.

Looking after yourself with dissociative identity disorder
DID can make looking after yourself harder. You might find that different parts of your identity have different needs. You may need to use different techniques for coping and looking after yourself depending on which part of your identity is in control.

Keep a journal

Keeping a journal can help you understand and remember different parts of your experience. It could:

  • include writing and artwork you do at different times and, if you have DID, in different identity states
  • help improve the connections and awareness between different parts of your identity by reading entries from them
  • help you remember more about what happened in the gaps in your memory.

Using a journal to express my inner turmoil helps me deal with it.

Try visualisation

Visualisation is a way of using your imagination to create internal scenes and environments that help you stay safe and contain difficult feelings and thoughts. For example:

  • you might find that imagining you are wearing protective clothing helps you feel more relaxed in stressful situations
  • it might help to imagine a place that feels safe to you (and your different identity states). When you feel anxious or threatened, you can imagine going to this place for peace and safety.

If you experience different identity states, you might be able to imagine a place where they can all meet together and talk. Your therapist might help you to do this too.

Try grounding techniques

Grounding techniques can keep you connected to the present and help you avoid feelings, memories, flashbacks or intrusive thoughts that you don't feel able to cope with yet. You could try:

  • breathing slowly
  • listening to sounds around you
  • walking barefoot
  • wrapping yourself in a blanket and feeling it around you
  • touching something or sniffing something with a strong smell

Focus on the sensations you are feeling right now. You might find it helpful to keep a box of things with different textures and smells (for example perfume, a blanket and some smooth stones) ready for when you need it.

First Person Plural have more tips for grounding and dealing with flashbacks on their website.

It’s strange because it took me a long time to realise I didn’t need to dissociate to keep myself safe.

Think about practical strategies

Dissociation can make day to day life difficult. Practical strategies could help you cope, such as:

  • wearing a watch with the time and date
  • keeping a list of friends and family and their contact details
  • writing notes to yourself in the house or on a whiteboard

Make a personal crisis plan

A personal crisis plan is a document you make when you are well. It explains what you would like to happen if you are not well enough to make decisions about your treatment or other aspects of your life. Sometimes it is called an 'advance statement'. We've got lots more information about making crisis plans here.

PODs produce DID Emergency Information cards which you can order for free from their website.

Talk to other people with similar experiences

  • Try peer support. Unfortunately, there are not many peer support groups specifically for people with complex dissociative disorders, but you can contact First Person Plural for more information, and see our pages on peer support.
  • Read other people's experiences. If you don't want to talk, you may still find it helpful to read about other people's experiences. This can give you new perspectives and help you give you ideas about new ways of dealing with dissociation. You can read others experiences on online forums or find some on PODs website.

Look after yourself

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. You might find it helpful to learn relaxation techniques. Our pages on coping with sleep problems and relaxation have more information.
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. Our pages on food and mood have more information.
  • Try and take some exercise. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. Our pages on physical activity have more information.

Depersonalisation, derealisation and dissociation are now only occasional features in my life. But when I am under a lot of stress or not sleeping properly, I find I dissociate more.

Dealing with stigma

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't understand much about dissociative disorders, and may hold misconceptions about you. This can be really upsetting, especially if the people who feel this way are family, friends or colleagues.

It's important to remember that you aren't alone and you don't have to put up with people treating you badly. Here are some options for you to think about:

  • Show people this information to help them understand more about dissociative disorders.
  • Talk to other people who have dissociative disorders by going to a support group - or setting one up for yourself.
  • Share your experience with others. Mind publishes blogs and video blogs (mental health selfies).
  • Know your rights. Our pages on legal rights provide more information.
  • Take action with Mind. See our campaigning page for details of the different ways you can get involved with helping us challenge stigma.

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

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