Dissociation: Causes, Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Treatment


Dissociation is caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Trauma: Dissociation is a common response to trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or war. Trauma can overwhelm the mind’s ability to cope, so dissociation can be a way to protect oneself from the pain and emotional distress of the trauma.
  • Mental health conditions: Dissociation is also a symptom of a number of mental health conditions, including DID, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder.
  • Substance abuse: Dissociation can also be caused by substance abuse, such as alcohol and drug use.
  • Medical conditions: Dissociation can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy and brain tumors.


Symptoms of dissociation can vary depending on the type of dissociation and the underlying cause. However, some common symptoms include:

  • Feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings
  • Feeling like you are watching yourself from outside your body
  • Having difficulty remembering things
  • Having difficulty controlling your thoughts or emotions
  • Feeling like you are in a dream or a trance
  • Feeling like you are not real
  • Having multiple personalities or identities


A mental health professional can diagnose dissociation by conducting a physical exam and interviewing the person about their symptoms. The mental health professional may also order tests to rule out any underlying medical conditions.


Treatment for dissociation depends on the underlying cause. If dissociation is caused by trauma, the person may benefit from therapy such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If dissociation is caused by a mental health condition, the person may benefit from medication and therapy.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about dissociation:

  • Dissociation is a real and serious condition. It is important to seek professional help if you are experiencing dissociation.
  • Dissociation is not your fault. You cannot control whether or not you dissociate.
  • There is help available. With treatment, you can learn to manage your dissociation and live a full and productive life.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be experiencing dissociation, please reach out to a mental health professional for help.