Dissociative disorders are characterized by disturbances in consciousness, memory, identity, and perception.
Three kinds of dissociative disorders are dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, and dissociative identity disorder.
The main feature of dissociative amnesia is an inability to remember important personal information, usually about something traumatic or painful. The memory loss is too extensive to be explained by normal forgetfulness.
People with dissociative fugue suddenly leave their homes and disappear unexpectedly. They do not remember their past and are confused about their identity. Sometimes, they may assume entirely new identities.
Dissociative identity disorder was formerly called “multiple personality disorder.” In this disorder, certain aspects of identity, consciousness, and memory are not integrated. People with dissociative identity disorder cannot remember important personal information and have two or more identities or personality states that control their behavior. Often, each of these identities has a separate name, personal history, set of characteristics, and self-image.
Many researchers believe that severe stress plays a role in the onset of dissociative disorders. However, they cannot explain why only a small minority of people who experience severe stress develop such disorders.