Isolation Versus Dissociative Disorders: How to tell the difference

A recent survey of 20,000 U.S. adults found that nearly half of people suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is a normal part of life and can often be related to very common transitions such as moving away from home or the in ability to have time for friends and family due to work obligations. Other factors can also contribute to feeling lonely such as low self esteem or ending a romantic relationship. Lack of sleep (which impacts over 60 million Americans) can make feelings of loneliness and isolation more intense.

But how do we know when it’s something more than isolation?

One experience that feels similar to isolation but clearly isn’t is that of a dissociative disorder.

What are Dissociative Disorders?

According to the National Association of Mental Health (NAMI):

Dissociative disorders are characterized by an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory. People from all age groups and racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience a dissociative disorder.

Its estimated that 2% of people experience dissociative disorders, with women being more likely than men to be diagnosed. Almost half of adults in the United States experience at least one depersonalization/derealization episode in their lives, with only 2% meeting the full criteria for chronic episodes.

Dissociative disorders differ from generalized anxiety, depression and loneliness due to their intense physical experience of being separate or “not real”. Dissociative disorders can increase and cause feelings of intense loneliness.

Do any of these symptoms seem familiar to you?

  • Significant memory loss of specific times, people and events

  • Out-of-body experiences, such as feeling as though you are watching a movie of yourself

  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide

  • A sense of detachment from your emotions, or emotional numbness

  • A lack of a sense of self-identity

-        From NAMI website

If you have any of the above symptoms you may be experiencing something more than isolation, anxiety/panic or depression.

Dissociative disorders (DIDs) include depersonalization (not feeling yourself or like a human), derealization (not feeling real or feeling like you are viewing life as a movie) and dissociative amnesia (inability to remember chunks of time).

The causes of DIDs can range from unknown to severe anxiety to a trauma response as well as physical health issues like Lyme disease & other chronic infections. Dissociative disorders can be treated. Often practitioners will use a combination of psychotherapy like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or Cognitive Therapy in conjunction with medications.

You can feel better despite having a dissociative experience. Call us today to learn more.