Common Conditions addressed at the CCT

Dissociative disorders involve problems with memory, identity, emotion, perception, behavior and sense of self. Dissociative symptoms can potentially disrupt every area of mental functioning.

Examples of dissociative symptoms include the experience of detachment or feeling as if one is outside one’s body, and loss of memory or amnesia. Dissociative disorders are frequently associated with previous experience of trauma.
There are three types of dissociative disorders:

Dissociative identity disorder

Dissociative identity disorder is associated with overwhelming experiences, traumatic events and/or abuse that occurred in childhood. Dissociative identity disorder was previously referred to as multiple personality disorder.

Symptoms of dissociative identity disorder include:

  • The existence of two or more distinct identities (or “personality states”). The distinct identities are accompanied by changes in behavior, memory and thinking. The signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual.
  • Ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events.
  • The symptoms cause significant distress or problems in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.
Treatment typically involves psychotherapy, and cognitive therapy in particular. Therapy may be intense and difficult as it involves remembering and coping with past traumatic experiences. There are no medications to directly treat the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder. However, medication may be helpful in treating related conditions or symptoms.

Depersonalization/ derealization disorder

Depersonalization/ derealization disorder involves significant ongoing or recurring experience of one or both conditions:

  • Depersonalization – experiences of unreality or detachment from one’s mind, self or body. People may feel as if they are outside their bodies and watching events happening to them.
  • Derealization – experiences of unreality or detachment from one’s surroundings. People may feel as if things and people in the world around them are not real.

During these altered experiences the person is aware of reality and that their experience is unusual. The experience is very distressful, even though the person may appear to be unreactive or lacking emotion.

Symptoms may begin in early childhood; the average age a person first experiences the disorder is 16. Less than 20 percent of people with depersonalization/derealization disorder first experience symptoms after age 20.

Dissociative amnesia

Dissociative amnesia involves not being able to recall information about oneself (not normal forgetting). This amnesia is usually related to a traumatic or stressful event and may be:
  • localized – unable to remember an event or period of time (most common type)
  • selective – unable to remember a specific aspect of an event or some events within a period of time
  • generalized – complete loss of identity and life history (rare)
Dissociative amnesia is associated with having experiences of childhood trauma, and particularly with experiences of emotional abuse and emotional neglect. People may not be aware of their memory loss or may have only limited awareness. And people may minimize the importance of memory loss about a particular event or time.
The presentation of dissociative symptoms is not uncommon in clinical settings such as OCCT, particularly when the client has suffered trauma. Cognitive therapists at OCCT are well equipped to help clients formulate a working conceptualization of the dissociative episode and to develop a range of coping skills to manage and overcome the experience.