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Chapter 7: Dissociative Disorders

Chapter Overview

In Chapter 7, we will discuss dissociative disorders, including their clinical presentation, diagnostic criteria, epidemiology, comorbidity, etiology, and treatment options. Our discussion will include depersonalization/derealization, dissociative amnesia, and dissociative identity disorder.  Be sure you refer Chapters 1-3 for explanations of key terms (Chapter 1), an overview of the various models to explain psychopathology (Chapter 2), and descriptions of the various therapies (Chapter 3).

Chapter Outline

  • 7.1 Depersonalization/derealization disorder
  • 7.2 Dissociative amnesia
  • 7.3 Dissociative identity disorder

Chapter Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the dissociative disorders and their symptoms.
  • Describe the epidemiology of dissociative disorders.
  • Indicate which disorders are commonly comorbid with dissociative disorders.
  • Describe the etiology of dissociative disorders.
  • Describe treatment options for dissociative disorders.

Chapter Introduction

Dissociative disorders are a group of disorders categorized by symptoms of disruption in consciousness, memory, identity, emotion, perception, motor control, or behavior (APA, 2013). These symptoms are likely to appear following a significant stressor or years of ongoing stress (i.e. abuse; Maldonadao & Spiegel, 2014).  Occasionally, one may experience temporary dissociative symptoms due to lack of sleep or ingestion of a substance, however, these would not qualify as a dissociative disorder due to the lack of impairment in functioning. Furthermore, individuals with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience dissociative symptoms, such as amnesia, flashbacks, depersonalization and/or derealization; however, because of the identifiable stressor (and lack of additional symptoms listed below), they meet diagnostic criteria for a stress disorder as opposed to a dissociative disorder.

There are 3 main types of dissociative disorders that will be described in the next three sections: Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder, Dissociative Amnesia, and Dissociative Identity Disorder.


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