The Impact of Depression on Dissociation

Dissociation Defined


To dissociate is to separate – that is what it means according to the dictionary. That is, dissociating is disconnecting from something or someone. In individuals with dissociative disorders, this is their forte. Because they are too hurt to recall the trauma that they have experienced, they separate themselves from the reality and from their own identity. This is a coping mechanism that will later lead to a distorted sense of identity and the feeling of not knowing oneself, or having different selves for that matter.

Unfortunately, studies have suggested that there are more and more people diagnosed with dissociative disorder, and many of them also have depressive symptoms. Depression can be mild or moderate, but sometimes it can be enough to have a significant impact on one’s dissociation symptoms. Depression can come in two forms – persistent depressive disorder also called dysthymia, and major depressive disorder.


How Depression Impacts Dissociation


Dissociative disorder is complicated in and of itself. It is the culprit that encourages you to turn away from yourself and it supports you in your inability to manage your problems, and depression further pushes you to believe that indeed you cannot handle yourself. It supports your negative thought that you are incapable of coping.

Thus, depression causes more dissociation. When dissociation worsens, one is unable to do their daily activities, lose sight of their tasks and become more depressed, creating a dissociation/depression cycle – and that is a hard pair to destroy.


When Depression and Dissociation Work Together

According to Deborah Haddock, author of The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook, “The habitual use of dissociation as a defense is based not only on perceived threats, but also on an individual’s perceived ability to cope. Consequently, as your stress level rises due to present circumstances or triggers related to past trauma, the key issue becomes whether you believe that you have the resources available that will allow you to cope.”

This is how DID and depression work together for the worst:

Depression says, “You missed your deadline again! How can you possibly explain this to your boss? But it’s okay. Your career hasn’t been running well so might as well not think about it.” Already feeling devastated, you hear dissociation whisper, “That’s fine. Who says you have work to worry about? There is no work. You’re not even here.”

As things go more out of hand, individuals with DID become more lost and their depression deepens, making life more difficult and daunting for them. That is the challenge that these two culprits can pose when they go hand in hand.


Misdiagnosed Dissociation

Because dissociative disorder most often co-exists with anxiety, depression, multiple disorders, and schizophrenia, people with DID are often diagnosed independently for having major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder or psychosis.

Thus, dissociative disorder was further classified into five, which can be distinguished according to their distinct presentation, the severity of symptoms and their duration. The five classifications are dissociative amnesia, depersonalization disorder, dissociative fugue, unspecified dissociative disorder, and dissociative disorder, formerly referred to as multiple personality disorder.

Any of these five types can be accompanied by other mental health conditions, which is why there is a need for meticulous assessment and diagnosis to confirm that it is in fact a dissociative disorder.


Always Opt for Treatment


Psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants, are the treatment of choice for DID with depression. It is essential that individuals with DID discuss prescription options with their physician and psychiatrist, so that they will be aware of the side effects and possible contraindications.

Therapy also plays an integral role in managing depression and DID in general. The therapists at BetterHelp are equipped with the knowledge and expertise in helping individuals with DID deal with their symptoms and finding strategies to cope with the challenges that they facing.