PTSD and Dissociative Disorders
What is PTSD?
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. There are many types of traumas that can range from mild to severe. Trauma can occur once or multiple times and you can experience more than one type of trauma. People who experience one or more traumatic events might experience behavioral, social, and emotional issues as a result. Experiencing trauma may or may not develop into a mental health condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Some examples of traumatic events that can cause PTSD are:
- Sexual assault or molestation
- Car accident
- Natural disasters
- Witnessing a violent crime
- Domestic violence
- Growing up in a dysfunctional or abusive home
It is quite common to experience symptoms including:
- Nightmares, night terrors, or difficulty sleeping
- Intrusive thoughts or images
- Intense distress with reminders of the trauma
- Hypervigilance and heightened startle response
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding feelings, memories, or reminders
- Feelings of isolation
- And many more
You may experience trauma and have difficulty coping in the short term, but you find that you get better over time.
However, sometimes symptoms do not improve, last for months or years, and interfere with your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Then you may have PTSD.
What are Dissociative Disorders?
Dissociation is a coping mechanism that separates traumatic memories from one’s consciousness, protecting the person from the pain or fear related to the trauma. The traumatic memories still exist but are stowed away deep within the mind. The memories may appear on their own or after something causes them to be triggered. Experiencing dissociation alone does not necessarily indicate having a disorder. To be considered a disorder, the dissociation must last for an extended period of time and interfere with day-to-day functioning.
Examples of Dissociative Disorders
This is the most common type of dissociative disorder and is characterized by not being able to recall information about events that occurred in the past. It is usually tied to a traumatic event.
This is characterized by an inability to recall one’s past, while also having confusion about personal identity or an assumption of a new identity. It can also include sudden unexpected travel away from home or place of work. For example, someone who experiences dissociative fugue might find themselves somewhere with no recollection of how they got there.
Dissociative Identity Disorder develops as a childhood coping mechanism. To escape pain and trauma in childhood, the mind splits feelings, personality traits, characteristics, and memories into separate compartments which then develop into unique personalities or identities. Each identity can have its own name and personal history. In order for Dissociative Identity Disorder to occur, a person must have two or more distinct identities or personalities that recurrently take control of the individual’s behavior. This disorder is also accompanied by an inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
A person might experience depersonalization, derealization, or both:
A person might experience feeling unreal, detached, or being an outside observer of their thoughts, feelings, sensations, body, or actions. They might feel a distorted sense of time or feel emotional and/or physical numbing.
A person might experience feelings of unreality or detachment with respect to surroundings. Individuals or objects are experienced as unreal, dreamlike, foggy, lifeless, or visually distorted.
How I Can Help You:
I am a certified EMDR practitioner. EMDR is an effective and powerful form of therapy that I use to treat PTSD and traumatic memories. You can expect a reduction in your anxiety, grief, thought distortions, phobias, and a variety of other symptoms.
EMDR is a very effective form of treatment, however, it is not for everyone. I will need to assess your specific issues to determine if EMDR is right for you. Other forms of therapy I utilize in working with PTSD and Dissociative Disorders include: