Dissociative disorders encompass a spectrum of conditions characterized by a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity. This chapter provides a comprehensive overview of these disorders, ensuring that psychology residents are well-prepared for the In-service exam and ABPN Psychiatry Boards exam.

By the conclusion of this chapter, readers will have a robust understanding of the various dissociative disorders, their clinical presentations, differential diagnoses, and treatment options.

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Dissociative identity disorder

  • Characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states (alters) that recurrently take control of the individual’s behavior.
  • Patients experience sudden and dramatic shifts in their mood, personality, behavior, knowledge, or memory which are often triggered by stress or reminders of trauma.
  • Associated with memory gaps for everyday events, personal information, or traumatic experiences.
  • Usually linked to a history of childhood trauma or abuse and have concurrent post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Differential Diagnosis: Schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, seizure disorders, and malingering.
  • Treatment: Psychotherapy (e.g., trauma-focused therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy).
Table of Criteria for Diagnosing Dissociative Identity Disorder
Criteria for Diagnosing Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociative amnesia

  • Inability to recall important autobiographical information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is inconsistent with ordinary forgetting.
    • Example: A 30-year-old man is amnestic to child abuse he experienced when he was a child.
  • Subtypes: Localized (specific event), selective (some details), generalized (entire life), and systematized (specific category).
  • Treatment: Cognitive-behavioral therapy, and hypnotherapy.
  • The prognosis is generally good, with many individuals recovering their memory over time.
Table of Differential Diagnosis for Dissociative Amnesia
Differential Diagnosis for Dissociative Amnesia


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