Dissociation is defined as the breaking away from one’s normal state of consciousness. The ability to disassociate or pull away from reality is in everyone and is a way of adapting to an extreme state of stress, such as rape, torture, or other abuse. Children seem to be able to do this quite readily when they experience trauma, molestation, or serious neglect; dissociation serves them as a way of removing themselves from situations they can neither control not tolerate. Other states of consciousness, such as meditation, prayer, daydreaming, hypnosis, and being “touched by the Holy Spirit” at a religious meeting, may even be classified as dissociative. Real Dissociative Disorders, however, occur rarely, regardless of how many times characters with “multiple personalities” (Dissociative Identity Disorder) are portrayed in movies and on television. According to the DSM-IV, the chief feature of a dissociative disorder is “. . . a disturbance or alteration in the normal integrative functions of consciousness, identity, or memory.”
The subtypes of Dissociative Disorder are as follows:
Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder)
Dissociative Disorder not otherwise specified (NOS)
All of these disorders are extremely serious and should be treated by very experienced therapists. An integrated approach of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy is recommended.