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DISSOCIATIVE DISORDER. Loss of unitary sense of self as a single human being with a single basic personality Arises as a defense mechanism Contradictory representations of the self, which conflict with each other, are kept in separate compartments. Types: Dissociative Amnesia

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  • Types: single basic personality

    • Dissociative Amnesia

    • Dissociative Fugue

    • Dissociative Identity DO

    • Depersonalization DO


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Dissociative Amnesia single basic personality

  • Characterized by inability to remember information, usually related to stressful or traumatic event

  • Cannot be explained by ordinary forgetfulness, the ingestion of substances, or a general medical condition

  • Dissociative phenomena is limited to amnesia


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Epidemiology single basic personality

  • Women, young adults

  • Usually associated with stressful and traumatic events; domestic settings


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Etiology single basic personality

  • Learning is state dependent: memory of a traumatic event is laid down during an event, and the emotional state may be so extraordinary that it is hard for the affected person to remember information learned during that state

  • Psychoanalytic approach: defense mechanism, a way to deal with an emotional conflict or an external stressor


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Diagnosis single basic personality

  • Forgotten information is usually of a traumatic or stressful nature

  • Not due to a general medical condition or ingestion of a substance


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Clinical Features single basic personality

  • History: precipitating emotional trauma charged with painful emotions and psychological conflict

  • Onset: often abrupt

  • Depression and anxiety: common predisposing factors and seen in MSE

  • Amnesia may provide a primary or secondary gain


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  • Forms: single basic personality

    • Localized amnesia: most common; loss of memory for a short time (a few hours to a few days)

    • Generalized amnesia: loss of memory for a whole lifetime of experience

    • Selective amnesia: failure to recall some but not all the events that occurred during a short time


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Differential Diagnosis single basic personality

  • Medical history, PE, lab work-up, psych history, MSE

  • Dementia/delirium

  • Postconcussion amnesia

  • Epilepsy

  • Transient global amnesia

  • Other mental disorder


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Course and Prognosis single basic personality

  • Symptoms usually terminate abruptly and recovery is generally complete


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Treament single basic personality

  • Drug-assisted interviews to help patients recover their forgotten memories

  • Hypnosis: means to relax to recall what has been forgotten

  • Psychotherapy: to help patients incorporate the memories into their conscious state


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Dissociative Fugue single basic personality

  • Characterized by sudden and unexpected travel away from home or work, associated with an inability to recall the past and with confusion about a person’s personal identity or with adoption of a new identity

  • Old and new identities do not alternate


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Etiology single basic personality

  • Withdraw from emotionally painful experiences

  • Predisposed Dos: mood DO, PDs

  • Psychosocial factors: marital, financial, occupational, war-related stressors

  • Others: depression, suicide attempts, organic Dos, hx of substance abuse, head trauma


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Diagnosis and Clinical Features single basic personality

  • Confused about his or her identity or assume a new identity

  • Sudden onset

  • Wander in a purposeful way

  • Have complete amnesia for their past lives and associations

  • Generally unaware that they have forgotten anything


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Diagnostic Criteria: single basic personality

  • The predominant disturbance is sudden, unexpected travel away from home or one’s customary place of work, with inability to recall one’s past.

  • Confusion about personal identity or assumption of a new identity (partial or complete).


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C. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

D. The symptoms cause clinical significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


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Differential Diagnosis course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Dissociative amnesia

  • Dementia/delirium

  • Complex partial seizure

  • Malingering

  • Medications

  • Alcoholic blackout


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Course and Prognosis course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Brief, hours to days

  • Generally, recovery is spontaneous and rapid

  • Recurrences are possible


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Treatment course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Psychiatric interview, drug-assisted interview, hypnosis

  • TOC: expressive-supportive psychodynamic psychotherapy


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Dissociative Identity DO course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Multiple personality disorder

  • The most severe and chronic

  • Characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personalities within a single person


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Epidemiology course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Female:Male = 5-9:1

  • Maybe underreported in men

  • Most common in late adolescence and young adults

  • Mean age at diagnosis = 30 years

  • Frequently coexists with other mental Dos

  • Suicide attempts are common


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Etiology course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Four types of causative factors:

  • A traumatic life event

  • A vulnerability for the disorder to develop

  • Environmental factors

  • Absence of external support


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Diagnosis and Clinical Features course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Amnestic component

  • At least 2 distinct personality states

  • Not due to a general medical condition or substances

  • Host personality - depressed or anxious

  • Subordinate personality - childlike


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Diagnostic Criteria: course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • The presence of 2 or more distinct identities or personality states.

  • At least 2 of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person’s behavior.

  • Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

  • The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.


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Signs of Multiplicity: course of dissociative identity disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  • Reports of time distortions, lapses and discontinuities.

  • Being told of behavioral episodes by others that are not remembered by the patient.

  • Being recognized by others or called by another name by people whom the patient does not recognized.

  • Notable changes in the patient’s behavior reported by a reliable observer.


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  • Other personalities are elicited under hypnosis or during amobarbital interviews.

  • Use of the word “we” in the course of the interview.

  • Discovery of writings, drawings or other productions or objects among the patient’s personal belongings that are not recognized or cannot be accounted for.


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  • Headaches amobarbital interviews.

  • Hearing voices originating from within and not identified as separate.

  • History of severe emotional or physical trauma as a child.


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Differential Diagnosis amobarbital interviews.

  • Dissociative amnesia

  • Schizophrenia

  • Bipolar mood disorder

  • Borderline PD

  • Malingering

  • Complex partial seizure


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Course and Prognosis amobarbital interviews.

  • In children: trance-like symptoms, depressive sxs, amnestic periods, hallucinatory voices, disavowel of behaviors, changes in abilities, suicidal or self-injurious behaviors

  • 2 symptom patterns in female adolescents:

  • Chaotic life

  • Withdrawal and childlike behaviors


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  • The earlier onset, the worse prognosis amobarbital interviews.

  • Level of impairment: moderate to severe

  • Recovery is generally incomplete

  • Individual personalities may have their own separate mental disorders


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Treatment amobarbital interviews.

  • Insight-oriented psychotherapy

  • Hypnotherapy and drug-assisted interviewing


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Depersonalization DO amobarbital interviews.

  • Characterized by recurrent or persistent feelings of detachment from the body or mind.

  • Episodes are ego-dystonic


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Epidemiology amobarbital interviews.

  • Transient depersonalization: 70% of population

  • F (2X) > M

  • Rarely found in persons over 40 yo

  • Mean age of onset = 16 years


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Etiology amobarbital interviews.

  • Psychological: emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, sunbstances

  • Neurological: epilepsy, brain tumor, sensory deprivation

  • Systemic diseases: endocrine disorders of the thyroid and pancreas


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Diagnosis and Clinical Features amobarbital interviews.

  • Persistent episodes of depersonalization

  • Intact reality testing

  • Significant distress and impairment

  • Central characteristic: quality of unreality and estrangement

  • Usually with anxiety

  • Doubling phenomena

  • Reduplicative paramnesia or double orientation


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Differential Diagnosis amobarbital interviews.

  • Depressive disorder

  • Schizophrenia

  • Brain tumor

  • Seizure


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Course and Prognosis amobarbital interviews.

  • Often appear suddenly

  • Onset = 15-30 years

  • Tends to be chronic


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Treatment amobarbital interviews.

  • Treat the underlying cause


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Dissociative DO NOS amobarbital interviews.

  • Dissociative Trance DO: single or episodic alterations in consciousness that are limited to particular locations or cultures

    • E.g. highway hypnosis, automatic writing, crystal gazing, mediium


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2. Ganser’s syndrome: voluntary production of severe psychiatric symptoms

- may occur in schizophrenia,depressive DO, toxic states, paresis, ROH-use DO, factitious DO

- major predisposing factor: existence of severe PD


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3. Brainwashing: states of dissociation that occur in individuals who have been subjected to periods of prolonged and intense coercive persuasion (e.g. brainwashing, thought reform, or indoctrination while captive)