Diagnosis usually involves talking about your symptoms and ruling out any medical condition that could cause the symptoms. Testing and diagnosis often include a referral to a mental health professional to make a diagnosis.
Diagnosis may include:
- Physical exam. Your health care professional examines you, talks about your symptoms and reviews your personal history. Certain tests may rule out physical conditions that can cause symptoms such as memory loss and feeling separate from reality. Examples include head injury, certain brain diseases, a severe lack of sleep, and drug or alcohol use.
- Mental health exam. Your mental health professional talks with you about your thoughts, feelings and behavior, and your symptoms. With your permission, information from family members or others may be helpful.
Dissociative disorders treatment may vary based on the type of disorder you have. Generally, treatment includes talk therapy and medicine.
Also called psychotherapy, talk therapy is the main treatment for dissociative disorders. This form of therapy involves talking about your disorder and related issues with a mental health professional. Look for a therapist with advanced training or experience in working with people who have had trauma.
Your therapist works with you to help you understand the cause of your condition. Your therapist also can help you develop new ways of coping with stressful situations. Over time, your therapist may help you talk more about the shocking, distressing or painful events you went through. Generally this happens after you have a trusting relationship with your therapist and the coping skills to safely have these conversations.
Although there are no medicines that specifically treat dissociative disorders, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicines or antipsychotic medicines. These may help with mental health symptoms that are part of dissociative disorders.
Preparing for your appointment
As a first step, your doctor or other health care professional may suggest that you have a health exam to rule out possible physical causes of your symptoms. In some cases, you may be referred right away to a mental health professional. You may want to take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember information.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect.
What you can do
Before your appointment, make a list of:
- Any symptoms you have, including any recent behavior that caused confusion or concern for you or your loved ones.
- Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes. Also note events from your past, including your childhood, that caused physical or emotional problems. If you can't recall some periods of your life, note the time frame and anything you can remember about the period leading up to your memory loss.
- Your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions you have. Include any medicines, vitamins, herbs or other supplements you're taking, and the doses.
- Questions to ask to make the most of your appointment.
Some questions to ask may include:
- What's likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes?
- How will you decide on my diagnosis?
- Is my condition likely short term or long term?
- What treatments do you recommend for my condition?
- How much can I expect my symptoms to improve with treatment?
- How will you monitor my progress?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have?
- What websites do you recommend?
Feel free to ask other questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your health care or mental health professional is likely to ask you several questions. For example:
- What symptoms concern you or your loved ones?
- When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?
- Are there periods of time in your life that you don't remember?
- Have you ever found yourself some distance away from your home or work, and not known how you got there?
- Do you ever feel as if you're outside of your body, seeing yourself?
- Do you feel as though there is more than one person, or maybe many people, living inside your head?
- What other symptoms or behaviors are causing you or your loved ones distress?
- How often do you feel anxious or depressed?
- Have your symptoms caused problems in your work or your personal relationships?
- Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
- Do you drink alcohol or use drugs?
- Do you now serve in the military? Have you served in the past?
- Have you ever been touched against your will?
- Were you physically abused or neglected as a child?
- Was anyone in your family abused during your childhood?
- Are you currently being treated for any other medical conditions, including mental health conditions?
Be ready to answer these questions to save time to talk about what's most important to you.
Aug. 31, 2023