Trauma can trigger the development of a dissociative disorder as the mind attempts to cope with an event or circumstance that it finds overwhelming.
The term dissociation describes a psychological condition in which a person experiences a break with or detachment from reality. Dissociation occurs on a continuum. The detachment from reality can be as mild as daydreaming, or it can be much more severe; however, dissociation does not involve a complete loss of reality as in psychosis.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifies five types of dissociative disorders, which include the following:
Psychologists and psychiatrists have long recognized the connection between dissociative disorders and a history of abuse or trauma. A high percentage of those suffering from a dissociative disorder have experienced one or more forms of abuse during childhood or suffer from a trauma related condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is thought that a dissociative disorder is often a coping mechanism or adaptive response that results from the mind attempting to escape from a reality that it finds too difficult to cope with.
Although a dissociative disorder is often an adaptive response to stress or trauma, it is maladaptive because it generally results in a serious disruption of the person’s life and ability to function in a healthy and productive way.
Treatment is available for those who suffer from dissociative disorders, whether or not they are related to trauma. Treatment is also available for those suffering from trauma related conditions that do not result in a dissociative disorder. Psychological conditions such as dissociative disorders and PTSD can be very destructive, do not go away by themselves, and require professional treatment. If you would like help finding treatment for trauma and/or a dissociative disorder, call our toll-free helpline. Counselors are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have and help you find the treatment you need.