Dissociative Disorders Treatment
Dissociative disorder treatment is often required when severe dissociative disorder symptoms, such as amnesia or alternate personalities, are present. Treatment for dissociative disorders may include hospitalization, psychotherapy and medication. But the good news is, the prognosis for those with a dissociative disorder is positive when expert treatment is obtained.
Hospitalization for Dissociative Disorder Treatment
Not all those with dissociative disorders require hospitalization, but for those who are a clear and present danger to themselves, show suicidal ideation, do not yet have a firm diagnosis or for whom medication effects must be evaluated, hospitalization can be helpful.
The benefits of hospitalization in dissociative disorder treatment include:
- Allowing a person to separate from everyday stimuli and any ongoing traumas or stressors that may be present
- Protecting people during a time in their lives when they may not know who they are or what is going on around them
- Keeping people from doing harm to themselves
Treatment for Dissociative Disorders
Psychotherapy is the most common treatment for all types of dissociative disorders. Psychotherapy, sometimes known as "talk" therapy, will allow people to be guided through the process of identifying their dissociative symptoms and developing coping skills that will reduce the perceived needs for dissociation, particularly during times of stress. It will also allow a person to more fully understand why dissociation is occurring in the first place (often times due to an early, possibly unremembered, trauma).
Hypnosis or a drug-facilitated interview may be used to augment the process of psychotherapy. This is done in the context of a consenting contract and guided by the therapist or with self-hypnosis techniques.
According to Medscape, hypnosis "has been viewed as a controlled form of dissociation; therefore, clinicians assume that the mental content and images that emerge are also controlled and that the patient can control the pace of the therapy."
While hypnosis may be helpful for some dissociative disorder treatment, it is not required to recover repressed memories or to reintegrate any newly-discovered memories.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) may also be useful during treatment for dissociative disorders. This therapy aims to reprocess past traumas in a safe way.
Medication for Dissociative Disorders
While there are no Food and Drug Administration approved medications for the treatment of dissociative disorders, medications may help relieve some of the symptoms while therapy takes place. There are three types of medication used in the treatment of dissociative disorders. Medication for dissociative disorders includes:
- Atypical antipsychotics (also known as neuroleptics) such as aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel) and ziprasidone (Geodon); generally taken at night due to the sedating side effects
- Newer-generation anticonvulsants (anti-seizure medication sometimes known as mood stabilizers) such as levetiracetam (Keppra) and lamotrigine (Lamictal); dosages are typically much lower than they would be for seizure disorders
- Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as escitalopram (Lexapro) and paroxetine (Paxil) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor); may reduce the anxiety and apprehension involved in dissociation
Last Updated: 16 October 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD